Half of UK nurseries able to remain open for critical workers 

New research from National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has revealed the stark reality of how the Covid-19 outbreak has impacted on nurseries across the UK. NDNA logo

The survey which received responses from 2570 nurseries in England, Scotland and Wales, showed that half of nurseries are managing to remain open to children of critical workers and vulnerable children.

These nurseries which would usually be educating and caring for almost 140,000 children are now looking after 16,236 children, which is about 12% in total. 

70% of nurseries are not charging parents any fees for children who are unable to take up their place over the coming weeks. 17.5% are having to charge parents or ask for voluntary contributions of up to 25% so they can pay their overheads. In a very challenging environment with nurseries struggling to remain viable, some nurseries are asking parents to pay more than half (1.5%) and 1.9% are having to ask parents for the full amount to be sure that they could reopen in the future.

NDNA Chief Executive, Purnima Tanuku OBE said: “Our new research illustrates how difficult life is for our nurseries in the UK as they try to help the national response to Covid-19.

“Different UK governments have pledged to maintain support through the usual funding for childcare places but our survey shows that this only makes up 38% of their regular income on average. It does vary widely from nursery to nursery with some relying completely on parental fees. All nurseries still have fixed overheads even with a fraction of their usual income.

“NDNA is lobbying all three governments hard for more support for these nurseries without which many critical workers on the frontline such as NHS staff would not be able to carry out their essential work.

“Even with putting some staff on the Job Retention Scheme, many will struggle to keep their nursery businesses afloat. The government support does not cover the running costs of those who are staying open and won’t cover all fixed costs for those who close. We know of nurseries that are running at a loss of hundreds of pounds per day to stay open for families who need them. But they won’t be able to sustain this for long.

“Employers are facing cash flow issues now but we know funds like the Job Retention Scheme won’t be accessible until the end of April at the earliest. This is why some nurseries are having to approach parents to help keep them in business.

“It’s time the government acknowledged this and put their backing behind nurseries to make sure they are in a position to fully re-open when the country gets back to business as usual. Nurseries need to be able to access more support from government such as the £10,000 small business grant and the £25,000 retail business grant.”

Our main survey findings – 

  • 1309 separate responses representing 2570 nurseries
  • 50% of those who responded said they were currently open 
  • These nurseries currently look after 16,236  children, which is 12% of those they usually care for
  • Nurseries in the UK on average receive only 38% of their income from government funding, however 70% have said they are not charging parents for children’s places which they are unable to take up
  • 17.5% are charging parents up to 25% of their normal fees; 9% are asking for 26 – 50% 
  • 1.5% said they were charging parents between 51 and 75% and 1.9% were charging more than that
  • The responses came across nearly all local authority areas in England, Wales and Scotland


Reasons nurseries might approach parents for contributions – 


  • Funded childcare payments only covering a fraction of their costs 
  • Cash flow issues caused by delay in government support schemes
  • Fixed costs such as rent, mortgages and utilities
  • Lack of insurance coverage for Covid-19