The vast majority of early years settings saw closures during the winter lockdown
The impact of closures on staff
Commenting on the new report, Josh Cottell, author and Senior Researcher at the Education Policy Institute (EPI) said:
“This research shows that the furlough scheme has been of crucial importance to the early years sector over the winter period. We find that up to a third of staff in nurseries, pre-schools and other settings were furloughed, reflecting the huge drop in demand for early years places over lockdown, which in turn has led to closures and the financial problems for settings.
“While the government’s wage scheme has temporarily kept many early years settings afloat, others may struggle to make it through this period of volatility. The concern now is that as society begins to open again and families resume early years education, the sector may be unable to cope with a sudden rise in demand for places.
“The government should provide additional support to the early years sector in the coming weeks and months, to help providers navigate this period of great uncertainty.”
NDNA’s Chief Executive Purnima Tanuku OBE said:
“It’s clear from the results of this research that this has been one of the most challenging period for nurseries in all three nations. Settings dealing with Covid-19 cases have had to close rooms or even whole nurseries as a result of positive cases, staff absences and low occupancy. We have seen almost three quarters of respondents partially or fully close their nurseries and many having to do this multiple times between November and February.
“The impact of Covid cases has meant that more staff have been furloughed than providers had previously expected. To remain open and support families and children through difficult national lockdowns, childcare settings have faced additional costs like enhanced cleaning and having extra staff available to keep children in smaller groups. We have welcomed approaches by the Scottish Government that has made grants available to settings operating in lockdown conditions.
“As cases start to fall it is vital that governments see the impact on the early years sector and provide financial support to providers and invest in the early years workforce who have been on the front line. With more children returning to settings, providers need to be able to recruit and retain qualified staff.
"Looking ahead to the challenges children will face, it is clear early years professionals will need access to training that helps them support children who have faced disruption and traumatic experiences. Any post-Covid educational recovery must support children's early years as they are the most important for a child's life chances."
See the full report here