The Early Years Alliance has highlighted and responded to an inaccurate statement made by Dougal Hargreaves, deputy chief scientific adviser, Department for Education, during today’s Education Committee evidence session.
In answer to a question by Labour MP Fleur Anderson on why early years providers had not been included in the DfE’s lateral flow testing plans, Mr Hargreaves responded that:
‘My understanding is that the plan is that the early years workforce and the primary workforce will all be included in the twice weekly testing programme.’
However, guidance published by the Department for Education confirms that the regular lateral flow testing programme will only be extended to maintained nursery schools and primary school nursery classes, not PVI settings. It states that:
‘Staff in other early years settings, including childminders, can be tested through community testing programmes.’
Despite putting themselves at risk, nurseries and childcare settings have been told to stay open and warned that if they don’t they will not receive the funding towards their children’s funded 15 hours or the funding for the most disadvantaged two year olds – putting thousands of nursery places in jeopardy by the Spring. To safeguard the health of staff, the Government must vaccinate all nursery and childcare workers as part of the 13.2 million ‘priority’ people – along with immediate access to free testing.
Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:
‘It is incredibly frustrating to see a representative of the Department for Education incorrectly state that all early years providers have been included in the government’s lateral flow testing plans during an important evidence session, when this simply isn’t the case.
‘Guidance released by the DfE yesterday clearly states that only maintained nursery schools and primary school nursery classes will have access to these tests. Private and voluntary nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are still expected to access tests at community testing centres, despite the fact this often will require travelling long distances during working hours.
‘There is absolutely no justification for this decision. All early years providers have been asked to remain open to all families, and so all providers should have equal access to the tests that will help them to do so safely.’