News | Published April 03 2020

EXCLUSIVE Leading nurseries share Covid-19 concerns

Schools, sixth forms and other day educational services all closed their doors indefinitely on March 20, 2020, with universities and other similar academic institutions advised to take similar measures.

But one educational level which has not been discussed in the media to nearly the same extent is early years education -- including nurseries and childcare settings.

The Covid-19 guidance for childcare settings -- as per the GOV.UK website -- is that providers can remain open if they are working with vulnerable children and children of "critical workers".

Initially, there were concerns from across the sector about what constituted a child being "vulnerable" -- and which parents were designated "critical workers" -- but guidance has since clarified that and services have responded in kind.

Nonetheless, the majority of nurseries and childcare settings have still been asked to close their doors indefinitely. 

Director of Hartlepool-based provider Footprints Learning for Life Nursery, Sharon Birch, has explained that many of the difficulties caused by these closures are different to schools, as most childcare settings are operated as businesses.

Birch said the financial support from the government was not comprehensive enough, and did not help businesses like hers.

"The 80 per cent wage cover under the Job Retention Scheme covers my staff, but I have other overheads in addition to wages and I've got no idea how I will afford those.

"We don't pay business rates, and we are not eligible for the £10,000 grant. We also do not pay VAT, so the deferral does not help us.

"I am trying to secure a loan under the CBILS, but I have no idea how much I will need, or for how long, and realistically if it will be affordable. In addition, I personally am neither self-employed or salaried, so how am I supposed to pay myself?"

Emma Comer, Director of Tall Trees Kindergarten in Frome, shares Birch's concerns and has experienced other problems of her own.

"I'm positive about furloughing staff," She said. "It seems like the only option.

"And there is business out there for key workers' children, but it's just not financially viable for one or two a day.

"I did take out insurance, which I hoped would protect the business when this happened, but I'm having a problem with the small print at the minute."

You can read Footprints' and Tall Trees Kindergarten's best practice Parliamentary Review articles here and here, respectively.

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The Parliamentary Review

April 03 2020

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