Ministers slammed for vague nursery reopening plans

The Early Years Alliance has criticised the government for failing to give clear details on how nurseries, childminders and pre-schools can reopen as the lockdown eases.

Prime minister Boris Johnson outlined the next stage of the government’s coronavirus strategy last night (10 May), in which he said primary pupils could go back into schools, in stages, from June 1, provided certain criteria are met.

Mr Johnson said the re-opening of schools with begin with reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

Further details of the reopening plans are expected to be published later today.

The chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, Neil Leitch said it was ‘incredibly disappointed and frustrated’ that, while yesterday’s announcement offered some clarity on plans to reopen schools, there was no mention of the early years sector.

‘Nurseries, childminders and pre-schools need a clear plan of action on how they are going to be supported, both practically and financially, to re-open as lockdown eases, but as it stands, it is unclear how – or even if – they are included in the government’s proposals,’ said Mr Leitch.

‘It is vital that the early years isn’t simply tacked onto the end of whatever plans government is making for schools. The early years is a unique sector with unique needs, and providers are going to face significant changes to the way they operate on a day-to-day basis, especially given the age of the children they care for. 

‘As such, government needs to be clear how it expects childcare providers to operate during this transition period, and crucially, what financial support it plans to provide,’ he added.

A survey published last week by the Early Years Alliance found that almost three quarters (74%) of childcare providers do not think that the government has provided enough support for the early years sector during the current coronavirus crisis.

UPDATE: Following the publication of today’s roadmap by the government,  Neil Leitch of the Early Years Alliance issued this update:

‘While the roadmap states that the government expects some children to be able to return to early years settings from 1 June – and for childminders, from as early as this week – the sector urgently needs more detail on exactly how this is expected to work in practice.

‘Early years providers are going to face significant changes to the way they operate on a day-to-day basis, including a likely reduction in the demand for childcare places as some parents opt to keep their children home rather than returning to their settings. As such, government urgently needs to outline what steps it is planning to take to ensure that providers are able to remain financially sustainable during this period, as well as how it will ensure that both practitioners and the families they care for can best be kept safe.
‘While we understand the government’s desire to outline its plans sooner rather than later, publishing the vague outline of a strategy before any detailed guidance is available for childcare providers is unhelpful and liable to create concern and confusion for a sector already under substantial pressure.’

Photo Credit – FeeLoona (Pixabay)

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