More than a third of Scottish nurseries 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 Scotland and the UK.NDNA Scotland logo

The survey which received responses from more than 2570 nurseries across the UK, showed that 35% of nurseries in Scotland were able to remain open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children compared to the UK average of 50%. The average open nursery is caring for about 10% of their usual numbers of children.

Across the UK, 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. 

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.

“On average in Scotland, only 36% of their income comes from funded places, but this figure varies widely from nursery to nursery. Many nurseries rely completely on parental fees which have been decimated by the current crisis. We know that some private nurseries are not in partnership with local authorities to offer funded places or have not been taking part in the phasing-in of the expansion of funded hours to 1140 hours per child per year.

“NDNA is lobbying all three governments hard for more support for all 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 – 


  • 143 nurseries answered the survey representing 18 local authorities
  • 35% said they were open, 65% said they were closed 
  • 41% of nurseries are asking parents for 50% of fees; 27% are asking for 25% or less; 11% are asking for 51% – 75% and 4% are asking for more
  • Fewer than 450 children compared with their usual numbers of 4252
  • The average nursery in Scotland receives 36% of its income through government funding

UK wide:

  • 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