DfE reveals reasoning behind its decision to keep nurseries open

The Department for Education has shared with NDNA its rationale behind keeping nurseries open to all children but closing schools to most pupils.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA met with Childcare Minister Vicky Ford today to discuss the situation that nurseries are now in and what support the Government could offer them.Department for Education logo

She said: “This morning I met with the Minister Vicky Ford alongside other early years organisations to discuss last night’s announcement. I was clear with the Minister that there is a lot of anxiety and concern in the sector and the Government needs to reassure parents and providers about the scientific evidence behind last night’s decision. 

“I also reinforced the message that unless the Government addresses the issue of funding support to nurseries through this lockdown, alongside testing and vaccination priorities for staff in the sector, nurseries will struggle to provide places and we could be looking at more settings closing their doors.” 

The DfE has shared the following information about the rationale behind the announcement that all children can continue to attend nurseries and childcare settings:

  • The reason schools have been restricted is not that they are unsafe but because additional measures are needed to contain the spread of the virus. The wider restrictions in place as part of the national lockdown to contain the spread of the virus in the community enable us to continue prioritising keeping nurseries and childminders open, supporting parents and delivering the crucial care and education needed for our youngest children.
  • Early years settings remain low risk environments for children and staff. 0-5 year olds continue to have the lowest confirmed rates of coronavirus of all age groups, and there is no evidence that the new variant of coronavirus disproportionately affects young children. Evidence shows that pre-school children are less susceptible to infection and are not playing a driving role in transmission. There is no evidence the new strain of the virus causes more serious illness in either children or adults and there continues to be strong evidence that children are much less susceptible to severe clinical disease than older people. 
  • PHE advice remains that the risk of transmission and infection is low if early years settings follow the system of controls, which reduce risks and create inherently safer environments.
  • Early years settings have been open to all children since 1 June and there is no evidence that the early years sector has contributed to a rise in virus cases within the community. Early evidence from SAGE showed that early years provision had a smaller relative impact on transmission rate than primary schools, which in turn had a smaller relative impact than secondary schools. 
  • Early years childcare providers were one of the first sectors to have restrictions lifted last summer, in recognition of the key role they play in society. Childminders and nursery staff across the country have worked hard to keep settings open through the pandemic so that young children can be educated, and parents can work. The earliest years are the most crucial point of child development and attending early education lays the foundation for lifelong learning and supports children’s social and emotional development. We continue to prioritise keeping early years settings open in full because of the clear benefits to children’s education and wellbeing and to support working parents. Caring for the youngest age group is not something that can be done remotely.

NDNA is calling for additional financial support for nurseries who are staying open but with reduced numbers of children and asking for the Government to prioritise testing and vaccines for early years staff.

See all NDNA coronavirus support for nurseries here