We're all in tiers

Childcare guidelines for the COVID alert system

Today the government's new three-tier system comes into place and, for those of us with kids at primary school, our first thoughts turn to restrictions on childcare and education. That's why we have read through the latest guidelines and summarised everything that parents of young children need to know.

In general

When it comes to limits on the number of people allowed at legal gatherings, exceptions are already in place for registered childcare, education, and supervised activities for children. This includes wraparound care, such as after-school clubs and children’s playgroups.

This means that, whatever tier your area falls into, you can still use childcare facilities, including childminders and nannies.

If a decision is made to restrict education or childcare at any point, it will be done on a case-by-case basis. This decision will take into account local circumstances including information about the transmission of COVID-19.

When working to contain the virus, childcare and education actually has its own tiering system within the government’s containment framework. You can read it in detail here but, to summarise, primary schools and childcare facilities will only close to non priority groups in the most severe circumstances (tier 4).

Variations for the alert-system tiers

There are some restrictions on how you may manage your childcare by region. This will affect you if you rely on informal (unpaid and unregistered) childcare as all registered childcare is covered in the group above.


Family and friends can continue to provide informal childcare as long as groups from different households are not more than six people. You should still keep your distance from those outside your household, unless they are part of your support bubble.

High and Very High

The following people can provide childcare support in private homes and gardens:

  • registered childcare providers, including nannies
  • people in your support bubble
  • people in your childcare bubble

A childcare bubble is where someone in one household provides informal childcare to a child aged 13 or under in another household. For any given childcare bubble, this must always be between the same two households.

Friends or family who do not live with you and are not part of a support or childcare bubble must not visit your home - even if this is to help with childcare.

You can find out more about the local COVID alert levels and their restrictions on the government's website.