Roadmap out of lockdown: what it means for young children and families

In February 2021, the government published a summary of plans to gradually ease Covid-19 restrictions in England over the spring and summer.

The so-called roadmap out of lockdown consists four main steps, each spaced at least five weeks apart so that there is time for the government to assess and analysis the impact of the previous step. The dates for Step Two onwards are subject to change, depending on the latest data on hospitalisation and death rates, the vaccine rollout, pressure on the NHS and the impact of any new variants.

Below is a summary of the key changes that are likely to impact children – and in particular, the under-fives – and families in England.


8 March:

  • Schools: Pupils and students in all schools (and further education settings) will return to face to-face education.
  • Wraparound care: Wraparound childcare (including childminders) can offer care for school-aged children where this care is needed to support parents or carers to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical care or attend a support group. Vulnerable children can attend these settings regardless of circumstance.
  • Outdoor meeting rules: People will be allowed to leave home for recreation as well as exercise outdoors - with their own household, support or childcare bubble, or with one person from another household.This means that you can mean now meet up for e.g. a picnic or outdoor coffee with one other adult from a different household, though social distancing and other safe behaviours should still be followed. Children under the age of five do not count towards this ‘outdoor meeting’ limit.

29 March:

  • Activities for children:
    • Parent and child / baby and toddler groups can take place outdoors with a limit of 15 attendees (children under five years of age do not count towards the attendee limit.)
    • All children will be able to access any outdoor childcare and supervised activities. However, indoor childcare or supervised activities will still be limited to where parents or carers need support to work, seek work, attend education, seek medical attention or attend a support group.
    • Formally organised outdoor sports – for adults and under 18s - can restart and will not be subject to wider gatherings limits.
  • Outdoor meeting rules: People will be able to meet outside, including in private gardens, either:
    • in groups up to a maximum of six people (the Rule of 6), or
    • with one other household, including where the total number of people totals more than six.

People from different households will still need to socially distance from each other. Unlike the ‘one other adult’ meeting rule, children aged under five are counted in Rule of 6.

STEP TWO (12 April at the earliest)

  • Activities for children:
    • Parent and child / baby and toddler groups of up to 15 people (not counting children aged under five years old) can restart indoors.
    • All children will be able to attend any indoor children’s activity, including sport, regardless of circumstance.
  • Wider recreational activities:
    • The majority of outdoor settings and attractions can also reopen, including outdoor hospitality, zoos, theme parks, drive-in cinemas and drive-in performances events. The rules on social contact outdoors will apply in these settings.
    • Public buildings such as libraries and community centres will reopen.
  • Outdoor meetings rules: Outdoor gatherings must still be limited to six people or two households as in Step 1, and no indoor mixing will be allowed unless otherwise exempt.
  • Stays away from home: Overnight stays away from home in this country will be permitted and self-contained accommodation (those that do not require shared use of bathing, entry/exit, catering or sleeping facilities) can also reopen, though these must only be used by members of the same household.

STEP THREE (17 May at the earliest)

  • Wider recreational activities:
    • Remaining outdoor entertainment, such as outdoor theatres and cinemas can open.
    • Indoor entertainment, such as museums, cinemas and children’s play areas, can also open.
  • Social distancing: As soon as possible, and no later than Step 3, the Government will update its advice on social distancing between friends and family, including hugging. Until then, the government advises that people should continue to keep their distance from anyone not in their household or support bubble, and keep up habits such as regular hand washing and letting in fresh air.
  • Gathering limits:
    • Outdoors: The Government will lift most legal restrictions on meeting others outdoors, but gatherings of more than 30 people outdoors will remain illegal.
    • Indoors: people will be able to meet socially indoors in a group of six, or with one other household, though it may be possible to go further than this at Step 3 depending on the data. People will be asked to follow guidance on how to meet safely, for example by minimising the size of gatherings and meeting outdoors where possible.

STEP FOUR (21 June at the earliest)

The government will remove all legal limits on social contact, publishing accompanying guidance on how best to reduce the risk of transmission and protect ourselves and loved ones.


Read next:

Childcare bubbles - what are the rules?


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