Nurseries being put in intolerable position

Nurseries and childcare providers are being put in an intolerable position by the Government as some schools are told to close but early years settings advised to stay open.Gavin Williamson

As cases rise particularly in the south east and London, nurseries have been told to continue as normal. Education Minister Gavin Williamson revealed his contingency plans for schools in areas which are severely affected by rising cases of Covid

However EY entitlement funding will only now be paid on actual number of children in nursery rather than at pre-Covid levels, which has been how they have been funded since Easter 2020. During the first, complete lockdown of early years settings we saw attendance figures as low as 4% of usual numbers and only 32% of providers able to remain open. A similar lockdown without financial support would lead to wide scale closures with nurseries unable to re-open.

NDNA needs urgent reassurance and support from the Government in terms of the safety of children and early years staff and they must be funded so they can remain sustainable and operate safely. We are also asking for early years staff to be prioritised for vaccinations as they can’t socially distance from their children.

NDNA’s Chief Executive Purnima Tanuku OBE said: “Nurseries and childcare providers are being put into an intolerable position by the Government – being told it is safe to open while some schools are being advised to close. This is causing real fear for staff, parents and providers. It is shocking that early years are being ignored again in this debate despite the fact that the sector has worked like a fourth emergency service throughout. 

“Early years provision is vital for children’s development as well as working families but the Government must engage with the sector and provide firm assurance on the safety of children and early years staff. Nurseries have worked tirelessly to put in place safety measures to minimise the spread of the virus and make their settings as safe as possible for staff and children at their own cost.

“The Government must prioritise vaccinations for early years staff. Everyone knows it is impossible to socially distance from a toddler or a baby. Staff are being asked to work on the frontline, giving love, care and learning opportunities to our youngest children, they must be a high priority for receiving the vaccine.

“We cannot have a situation like last spring where nurseries were asked to care for only key worker and vulnerable children. Last April only 32% of settings were open caring for just 4% of their usual numbers of children. This would lead to disastrous consequences for the sustainability of the sector. If the Government is to go back to this scenario they must provide the financial support the sector needs to avoid mass closures. 

“Time and again the Department for Education has failed to understand the childcare sector and support PVI providers, on funding, testing and additional costs. Without clear support they risk failing the sector again and we will see settings close, children suffer and vital staff lost.”

NDNA will be meeting with senior DfE officials later today and with SAGE advisers on Wednesday (6 January 2021).

See all our coronavirus guidance for nurseries