Spare a thought for nurseries – their work doesn’t stop over Christmas

Nursery owners and managers will not be able to relax over the first half of the Christmas holiday in case they have to engage with public health officials, says National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA). NDNA logo

While other sectors can breathe a sigh of relief come Christmas Eve, nursery bosses in England, Scotland and Wales must remain vigilant until potentially New Year’s Eve. Some nurseries are open throughout the Christmas period, including those near hospitals, to support key workers.

Nurseries stay open until Christmas Eve, so it is possible that one of their staff members or children could develop symptoms two days later. Nursery leaders will have to contact parents or staff members if there is a confirmed case in their nursery and know how to alert Test and Trace/Test and Protect/Test, Trace, Protect in different nations.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA, said: “While everyone else is on holiday relaxing after the toughest year, spare a thought for nurseries.

“Nurseries have dealt with being told to close, then reopen for key worker children and vulnerable children. When they reopened fully they struggled with low attendance and reduced income to cover higher operating costs as a result of Covid. They have supported the development and wellbeing of our youngest children throughout this pandemic and enabled parents to continue working.

“And now on Christmas Eve, managers and owners will have to take work home with them in case they are contacted by a parent or staff member who develops symptoms in the two days after leaving nursery. They are also having to keep track of guidance which is changing by the hour making it extremely difficult for them to manage.

“When they desperately need a break to relax with their families, they will have to be on standby. It seems very unfair that they are having to do this but there is unfortunately no alternative.

“NDNA is helping all we can with template letters to send to parents and staff and a Christmas checklist on our website so nurseries can plan ahead and make sure they have all the information they need with them.”

The vast majority of childcare places are delivered by private, voluntary and independent nurseries which have to remain afloat as businesses. A report out this week by Coram Family and Childcare showed that 58% of local authorities in England anticipated childcare provider closures as a result of the way they will be funded in the spring term.

Since Easter, nurseries have been funded on the numbers of children they SHOULD have in their nursery rather than actual numbers. This has allowed them to stay sustainable as they were unable to benefit from other grants and could only part benefit from the furlough scheme.

However, even though the average nursery attendance was at 61% on 10 December, the Government has decided to fund them on actual numbers of children attending rather than January 2020 figures.

This means for many they will be unable to continue as viable businesses.

Purnima added: “But this is just another example of nurseries having to go the extra mile. Well done to all early years staff for their fantastic work which they continue to do. The Government has to wake up and recognise this and support nurseries urgently to remain sustainable.”