I know that early years settings and other childcare providers have been put under extreme pressure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and I understand that, following the announcement of a new national lockdown, many childcare providers are concerned about the safety of staying open.
Scientific advice has consistently shown that education workers are at no greater risk of contracting coronavirus compared to other key workers and other professions, and the Government has also been advised that younger children are less likely than their counterparts in primary and secondary schools to spread the virus. The work already done to implement protective measures in early years settings, such as reducing ‘pinch points’ and keeping settings well-ventilated, has also helped create a safer working environment for staff.
As you will know, early years settings provide vital care and education for children at a crucial time in their development. The Government is determined to keep educational settings open where possible, and while the current spread of the virus has sadly made this impossible for primary and secondary schools, the reduced risk of younger children spreading the virus, combined with the importance of early years education, mean that keeping early years settings open is a particular priority for the Government.
Attendance at early years settings has, however, been lower than usual levels, and this has caused issues in the sector. I am pleased, therefore, that the Government has indicated that it will be looking at different approaches for supporting and funding the early years sector this year.