education

Nurseries to remain open in third national lockdown for England


Will nurseries remain open during the lockdown? (Picture: PA)

Nurseries are to remain open in the third national lockdown for England despite schools closing, Boris Johnson announced this evening.

Primary schools, secondary schools and colleges are to move to remote learning for most children, but the prime minister said this would not be the case for young children.

Early years providers had earlier previously called for more clarity, saying that government statements had focused on primary and secondary schools with little attention for their sector.

Neil Leitch, chairman of the organisation, wrote to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson yesterday saying: ‘At a time when there are such serious concerns about the new strain of Covid-19 in particular areas of the country, it is completely unacceptable that to date, there has been zero reference to the early year sector, other than confirmation that providers are expected to remain open in areas where their primary colleagues have been advised that it is not safe to do so.

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‘If the Department for Education is to advise early years providers to continue to provide care while instructing other education providers to close, it simply must provide a clear and unequivocal scientific basis for doing so. So far, this has not happened. If this evidence doesn’t not exist, then the government cannot and must not put the safety of providers at risk and instead must provide the substantial financial support that settings need to restrict their operations as is necessary to keep themselves and the children in their care safe.

‘From the very beginning of the pandemic, the early years sector has been, to put it frankly, at the very bottom of the pile of Department for Education priorities.’

Some nurseries have taken the decision to close anyway, despite being told they could stay open.

Islington Council wrote a joint letter to parents along with a local state nursery saying that they had conducted a risk assessment and decided they could only stay open to vulnerable children and those of key workers at least until January 8.

They said: ‘Our number one priority is the health and safety of children, their families and our staff and we have therefore undertaken risk assessments in order to determine whether there is sufficient staffing to continue.’

Mandu Reid, Leader of the Women’s Equality Party, said: ‘The government’s mishandling of this crisis means we now have no option but to close schools to save lives. But this last minute decision has put huge pressure on working parents, and now we are learning that nurseries too are having to close because nursery staff are caring for their own children who cannot go to school.

‘This is forcing many parents, especially mothers and single parents, to breaking point.’

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