The Government’s exit strategy document published yesterday sets out three different stages for the UK to emerge from the coronavirus lockdown.
As part of Stage 1, the children of key workers and those who are vulnerable can go back to school at once.
There has also been clarification that 'paid childcare', for example nannies, can restart work from Wednesday (13 May).
In Step Two, effective on Monday 1 June, children will be able to return to early years settings (including childminders) and in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6, in smaller sizes. The aim is to ensure that the youngest children, and those preparing for the transition to secondary school, have maximum time with their teachers.
- Schools and early years settings demand clarity on plans to re-open for more children
- Restrictions on providers access to Job Protection Scheme must be lifted
With demand for childcare likely to be lower than usual at first, the guidance states – ‘ existing space requirements and staff to child ratios for these age groups should allow for small group working. Where the physical layout of a setting does not allow small groups of children to be kept at a safe distance apart, we expect practitioners to exercise judgement in ensuring the highest standards of safety are maintained.
‘In some cases, it may be necessary for providers to introduce a temporary cap on numbers to ensure that safety is prioritised. From 1 June 2020, childminders can look after children of all ages, in line with usual limits on the number of children they can care for.’
Purnima Tanuku , chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: ‘I have reiterated the need for early years settings to be supported both practically and financially – especially as demand for places is expected to be lower to begin with. Both providers and parents will need to feel confident in re-opening so the safety of nursery children and staff must be paramount in any plans to ease lockdown conditions.
‘We understand that the Chancellor is also due to make a further announcement on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme imminently and it remains crucial that this scheme works for early years providers if they are to remain sustainable.’
At the Early Years Alliance, chief executive Neil Leitch corroborated: ‘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.’