The nursery in Colliers Wood, which is owned and operated by two local mothers, has been providing vital childcare for the children of NHS staff – notably those who work at the nearby St George’s Hospital in Tooting – along with other key workers, and vulnerable children, since the lockdown began.
Funky Owls says it has welcomed children from eight other settings which have closed and would otherwise have nowhere else to go, forcing key workers to remain at home to look after their children.
One parent currently takes two busses, with a 15 minute walk in-between, just to reach the nursery.
Meanwhile mum to Seth, aged four, said: ‘We are so grateful the setting has remained open. As parents of a child with autism, we were really concerned we wouldn't be able to support our son's learning at home. We have seen a huge improvement in his language and social skills because of the specialised support he's received from Funky Owls. As he doesn't really understand what is happening, or the importance of social distancing, we have largely been at home so it's good for him to get out and see his nursery practitioners who are so wonderful and caring.’
The nursery’s founder and directo, Zuzanna Czochralska-Szczygiel, said: ‘Mostly we are just incredibly proud of our team. They have been working so hard, in very strange times, and have been completely committed to the nursery, risking themselves and their own families by coming to work each day. They are an important cog in the wheel of recovering from COVID-19; without their hard work, other Key Workers simply wouldn’t be able to go to work. They have been particularly fantastic in ensuring the children get their daily exercise while social distancing, taking care to ensure they are respecting all the rules that have rightly been put in place.’
Her colleague, director, Emily Blakemore, added: ‘Whilst we are grateful we are in a position to remain open and viable, we do fear for our colleagues in the childcare sector. There are reports that 10,000 providers could have folded or gone out of business by the end of lockdown, and we know a survey by childcare.co.uk found 50 per cent of childminders, daycare centres and nurseries have said they are unlikely to be open after lockdown ends.
‘We have joined the National Day Nursery Association in petitioning our local MP to urge the Government to reconsider recent decision making with regards to business support for nurseries; the majority of provisions put in place for small business do not apply to nurseries and is contributing to the bleak outlook.’