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Childcare staffing crisis could hit sector hard when furlough ends

The NDNA and the Education Policy Institute (EPI) have published new research that reveals a significant proportion of early years settings are relying on the Government’s furlough scheme.

This has raised concerns that once the scheme ends a staffing crisis will occur, leaving many out of jobs.

The Covid-19 pandemic and the early years workforce: Staffing decisions in an uncertain environment draws upon a survey of 445 early education and care providers in England, Scotland and Wales, active between 4th-26th August.

While the month of August showed some hope of a slow down, the number of cases and deaths have increased and further restrictions imposed. This will continue to have a detrimental affect on the early years sector, causing mass disruption to providers.

Researchers have found that 4% of staff in surveyed settings have been made redundant and 7% of staff voluntarily terminated their contract, with 30% of settings reporting ‘finding alternative employment during furlough’ as the reason for termination. Indeed, settings report employing 9% fewer staff in August than in March.

The least qualified and least experienced staff have borne the brunt of the impacts of total or partial closure of settings: they are more likely to be furloughed, made redundant or to have left for other work.

The findings suggest that early years settings value experience more than qualifications, with 48% reporting that they take qualification levels into account when making furloughing decisions, compared to 68% of settings taking experience into account.

Key findings

Early years settings have furloughed 71% of their staff since March

Staff most likely to be furloughed were those who held lower levels of qualifications:

  • 79% of staff with no qualifications had been furloughed
  • 79% of staff with level 2 qualifications had been furloughed
  • 74% of staff with level 3 had been furloughed
  • 59% of staff with level 6 qualifications had been furloughed

4% of early years staff have been made redundant

Staff with higher levels of qualifications were least likely to be made redundant:

  • 6% of apprentices were made redundant
  • 5% of staff with no qualifications were made redundant
  • 2% of staff with level 4/5 qualifications were made redundant
  • 1% of staff with level 6 qualifications were made redundant

Early years settings were more likely to furlough staff if they had higher redundancy rates

  • Settings that had made a greater-than-average proportion of staff redundant since March also expected to furlough a greater proportion (26%) of their staff in the following three months than settings that had made a lower than average proportion of staff redundant (16%).

Commenting on the new findings, Dr Sara Bonetti, director of Early Years at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:

‘This report highlights the striking scale of furloughing and redundancies made by early years settings from March to August of this year. In spite of most settings reopening from June, 1 in 5 staff remain on part or full time furlough, suggesting that come the end of the scheme in October, we can expect even more redundancies than we have seen to date.

‘Early years settings are facing highly uncertain operating conditions. They are expected to make staffing decisions for the coming months, despite it being difficult to predict demand for their services. This is particularly alarming, given the existing, widely publicised recruitment crisis ongoing in the childcare sector.’

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive officer at the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said:

‘Prior to the pandemic the childcare sector was already facing serious workforce challenges but Covid-19 risks pushing this into a full-blown crisis. This is a time of great uncertainty for early years providers, staff and families. Childcare must be at the centre of any economic recovery as people look to return to work.

‘That’s why we’re committed to tracking the impact of the pandemic on early years and the workforce as it unfolds. This is just the first part of a year-long study but already the findings are proving important and I want to thank all the providers who took part in this survey.

‘High quality early education is crucial to giving every child the best possible start in life. Having a well-qualified, secure and motivated workforce is central to this quality of care and education. Only by having the latest data can we understand what the sector needs to ensure childcare places are available when families need them.

‘The findings so far point to a lot of uncertainty, especially with the end of the furlough scheme in sight. We’ll continue to work with the sector and governments to ensure the challenges are understood and addressed.’

The full report, The Covid-19 pandemic and the early years workforce: Staffing decisions in an uncertain environment, can be accessed here:

The Big Spooky Sleep Out & The Big Sleep In!

Babyopathy is joining The Oak Rooms Spa in Halstead, Essex in hosting an event on Hallowe’en to raise awareness for two very important, if not very different causes.

As a director of The Oak Rooms Spa, Angela Spencer, who is also Director of Babyopathy, wanted to raise awareness for two causes both close to her heart, being homeless and having to go through pregnancy & possibly birth alone.

Angela had taken part in a Big Sleep Out before and wanted to host one for her local homeless charity. Of course, the pandemic has put a stop to that, prompting Angela to get creative.

The Big Spooky Sleep Out (at home)

To raise awareness for the homeless, Angela is planning ‘The Big Spooky Sleep Out’ (at home).

Commenting, she said:

‘In such a materialistic world we forget the very basic privilege is to have a roof over our head, a place to call home and after selling my business in 2018 I was able to buy my own home after living in rented accommodation for almost 10 years. I forgot what a privilege it is to wake up every morning in my own bed and go to sleep at night safe and without worry. Many do not have that privilege. The Covid-19 lockdown saw most of those that were homeless placed in temporary accommodation such as hotels that were now unused, but that has ended. Hotel owners want their businesses back and so it is back to the streets for most.

‘One heart-warming story for me is that a young man who found himself homeless in Halstead at the beginning of lockdown and placed in a hotel wanted to give back to the town he now called home. We initially supported him with some food donations to the hotel (they had been placed there with no provisions) and then later supported his own fundraising efforts in exchange for helping us in our gardens and I am delighted to say he has now been able to find more permanent accommodation.’

Here are the steps for taking part

  1. Sign-up to ‘Sleep-out’ (at home in your garden) for Hallowe’en. To be officially classed as taking part there is a £5 registration fee to download the Sleep Out Spooky Pack which will include some fun ideas for your spooky night and print-ables for you and your children to decorate and display in your windows to show your support and also details of how to fundraise.
  2. If you are local to The Oak Rooms you can also take part in our Pumpkin Patch Trail! We want to create a trail of lit (and of course decorated) pumpkins around our gardens to ‘shine a light’ on the issue of homelessness and so are offering an ‘Evening Spa for 2’ to the ‘Best Decorated Pumpkin’ to light our path – just drop off your pumpkin whilst out on your ‘daily exercise’ to enter – don’t forget to attach a label with your name, telephone number and age on it as there will also be a prize for the best decorated children’s pumpkin! You can also pick up a parcel of wrapped sweets to be able to hide around your garden for a little at home ‘Trick or Treating’ too!
  3. Donate a care package. If sleeping out or decorating for Hallowe’en isn’t your thing but you still want to take part, you can. We will be taking donations of Care Boxes too – to find out what to put in them please visit our website.


Now, what about the Big Sleep in?

The pandemic has had a significantly negative impact on pregnant women. Many faced isolation and for some, the prospect of facing labour and birth alone is terrifying.

Angela said: ‘No-one talks about stress because we have accepted it as an every-day part of life but doctors and the NHS will tell you it is a modern day menace and that’s without being pregnant. Pregnancy puts added stress on our body, our emotions and our lives as many worry about impending motherhood, working, financial implications, their relationship and so on, and all that on top of our every-day stress! Yet no-one talks to mums about this. Many studies have been carried out and proven the links of maternal stress when pregnant on increased risks to the pregnancy itself, increased risks of miscarriage and premature birth and also on the developing baby and in particular their mental health wellbeing and future development. Again, why is no-one telling mums this? It doesn’t have to be this way.’

Babyopathy, the programme developed over Angela’s decades of working in the childcare industry and with pregnant mums, is revolutionary in its approach to pregnancy, birth and baby & child development. It highlights the importance of both mum and baby’s sensory and energy journeys whilst pregnant and our in-built connection to nature that has also been forgotten.

Therefore this is challenging all Mums-to-Be to a sponsored ‘Sleep In’, to have a morning of lazing in bed with your feet up (an important daily feature of the Routine in the Womb campaign), take part in a Facebook Live meditation and take some time to make some all-important ‘conscious sensory connections’ with their baby in the womb:

To take part:

  1. To officially take part in the Big Sleep In there is a £5 registration fee and all those that enter will be given the chance to win a complete set of Angela’s Babyopathy Pregnancy & Birth Essential Oils and a signed copy of her book.
  2. Of course, as always if you want to raise more funds and help raise awareness that Mums-to-Be shouldn’t be made to go through pregnancy & birth alone then our ‘Pregnancy Pack’ will help you to do that too! The link to our Just Giving Page is

Early years organisations respond to the Chancellor’s ‘winter plan’

This morning, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak announced his ‘winter plan’ to support businesses over the coming months.

The Job Support Scheme will help employees on part-time hours as a consequence of Covid-19 disruption to businesses and the economy, replacing the furlough scheme at the end of October.

The Government and businesses together will continue to top up wages of workers who have not been able to return to the workplace full time. It will see workers get three quarters of their normal salaries for six months. The announcement comes after MPs and business organisations voiced concerns about mass job losses after furlough ends.

Nearly three million workers are currently on partial or full furlough leave, according to official figures. The Job Retention Scheme ends on 31 October.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said:
‘The government will directly support the wages of people in work, giving businesses who face depressed demand the option of keeping employees in a job on shorter hours, rather than making them redundant.’

Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: 

‘While we welcome the news that the government will be continuing to provide financial support to protect jobs once the Job Retention Scheme ends, it remains unclear how exactly this latest announcement will benefit the early years sector – and in particular, providers who currently receive early entitlement funding.

‘With many providers still feeling the impact of the last-minute government U-turn on the furlough scheme, it is absolutely vital that the Department for Education provides clarity on exactly how nurseries, pre-schools and childminders employing assistants are able to access this scheme now, and not weeks down the line.

‘With so many in the sector struggling to remain afloat as a result of low parental demand for places, the increased costs of operating safely during a pandemic, constant staff shortages as a result of a lack of testing availability, and of course, inadequate government funding rates, the next few months are going to be incredibly difficult for many providers.

‘As such, it is vital that the government steps up its support for the sector and ensures that providers can operate sustainably, both now and in the long term.’

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: ‘From our research with the childcare sector we know that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on providers and the workforce. We have continuously lobbied for more ongoing support and it is good news for everyone that employment schemes will continue beyond the end of the current furlough plans.

‘Given the announcements this week on further measures to control the virus and support businesses, we must see the Department for Education continue support to providers until the situation improves.  Given the impact that other funding decisions had on early years providers’ eligibility to the furlough scheme both providers and local authorities need clear guidance well before the scheme opens.

‘While loans are not ideal for providers who are worried about their sustainability, extending access and providing more time to repay them will provide more re-assurance to childcare businesses. We need to see the Chancellor go further and turn the business rates holiday for early education settings into a permanent exemption.

‘Childcare remains a vital part of any plans for economic recovery so providers experiencing lower demand and increased operating costs need support from the Government to remain viable. This will ensure that childcare places are available when parents need to work, enhance their skills or retrain. A plan for jobs needs a plan for childcare.’


Rt Hon. Andrea Leadsom MP visits the Bright Horizons nursery

The Rt. Hon Andrea Leadsom, Member of Parliament for South Northamptonshire today visited the Bright Horizons Wooldale Early Care and Education Centre.

During her visit she was shown how the nursery garden is used to develop play and learning. Outdoor learning is incredibly important for a child’s development and during difficult times it is a great source of education and exploration.

Of course during the visit, strict Covid-19 guidelines were followed and Mrs Leadsom was welcomed outside the centre on her visit by several Bright Horizons representatives: Ros Marshall, managing director, UK; Caroline Wright, director of Early Childhood; and Pinder Chauhan, client relations manager at Bright Horizons and County Councillor for the Sixfields Division, Northamptonshire County Council.

Mrs Leadsom has recently been appointed as the Government’s Early Years Health Adviser for review of early years services to ensure that every baby has the best possible start in life. Now, with restrictions tightening, the Government must continue to support the sector which in turn supports working parents and carers.

Caroline Wright, director of Early Childhood at Bright Horizons, commented:

‘We were delighted to welcome Mrs Leadsom to our Wooldale nursery and discuss with her the work we do and initiatives we have in place to support early years development. We know how important these years are for preparing children for their life-long journey into learning and the world. Providing the right start for children is critically important. Building confidence and resilience and nurturing their curiosity in the world around them so that they’re inspired to learn and explore every day of their lives is a key focus for us. We’re pleased that the Government is recognising the important role that early years play in setting children up for a happy, fulfilling future.’

Mrs Leadsom commented: ‘It was fantastic to see this Bright Horizons nursery and learn more about the work they do and the children they care for. They are providing vital support and education for some of the youngest in our society, and their Bright Beginnings curriculum has an important focus on the emotional wellbeing of children in their first five years. The discussions I have had during my visit will be helpful for the Early Years Review I am chairing.’



The Professional Nursery Kitchen snaps up SALSA accreditation

The Professional Nursery Kitchen (TPNK) has passed their SALSA (safe and local supplier approval) accreditation on their first attempt.

TPNK supplies freshly prepared and healthy food to nurseries across the UK and can now boast the credentials to match the quality service as the team passed with flying colours.

This accreditation recognises that TPNK are able to demonstrate that they operate to a high standard of food safety throughout their business, ensuring full traceability and confidence to you the customer, and the reassurance that you are buying from a reputable Supplier.

‘SALSA was developed specifically for buyers and smaller food producers who need to demonstrate that they operate to standards that are recognised and accepted across the industry and exceed the minimum standards expected by enforcement authorities.’ –

 What is SALSA & The SALSA Standard?

The SALSA standard was written by experienced food safety experts to reflect both the legal requirements of producers and the enhanced expectations of ‘best practice’ of professional food buyers. Approval certification is only granted to suppliers who are able to demonstrate to a SALSA auditor that they are able to produce safe and legal food and are committed to continually meeting the requirements of the SALSA standard

Why is this so important when it comes to food safety?

‘Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food in ways that prevent foodborne illness. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potentially severe health hazards. In this way food safety often overlaps with food defence to prevent harm to consumers. The tracks within this line of thought are safety between industry and the market and then between the market and the consumer. In considering industry to market practices, food safety considerations include the origins of food including the practices relating to food labelling, food hygiene, food additives and pesticide residues, as well as policies on biotechnology and food and guidelines for the management of governmental import and export inspection and certification systems for foods. In considering market to consumer practices, the usual thought is that food ought to be safe in the market and the concern is safe delivery and preparation of the food for the consumer.’

Stepping Out of Shoe Poverty

Sal’s Shoes, a not-for-profit charitable organisation, has kindly donated 24 pairs of new children’s shoes to Angel Pre School (LEYF) in South Westminster as shoe poverty continues to affect many families living across London.

With further restrictions now in place, potentially for six months, parents are quite rightly concerned about the financial landscape and access to childcare. It is especially frightening for those that are among the 14.5 million people who are living in poverty. The UK is now in one of the worst recession’s in decades and all areas of child ppoverty are on the rise.

One area of poverty that is often overlooked is shoe poverty. Good quality shoes for children can be too expensive for many families living in poverty. Shoe poverty severly impacts a child’s self confidence as they can very quickly identity that they don’t have the same quality as their peers.

During the summer, manager at the nursery, Christel Brown noticed that some of the children were wearing winter boots. This prompted her to reach to show companies across Twitter with a request for donations for LEYF’s vulnerable children.

Christel Brown, nursery manager at Angel Pre-School in South Westminster (LEYF) said:

‘We are so grateful for the shoe donation from Sal’s Shoes which has made many children from disadvantaged backgrounds extremely happy. I recently had a parent explaining that she wants her child to return back to nursery but needed to wait for her benefits to arrive so that she could buy some clothes for her daughter to wear. This highlights the extend of the issue and why we must all do our bit for children most in need.’

June O’Sullivan, CEO of London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) added:

‘We know from the latest report by The Food Foundation that the UK’s poorest households struggle to afford to meet the Government’s recommended guidelines on a healthy diet, so you can imagine many families have very little money left over for other essentials such as new clothing and shoes. It’s absurd to think that shoe poverty is a reality in one of the world’s richest countries and that we have to rely on the generosity of brilliant charities such as Sal’s Shoes for vital help.’

LEYF is still appealing for more new shoe donations. Please contact for more information.


Better communications with hard to reach parents and access to technology essential

With another lockdown looming, clear communication will be essential  to support parents and early years workers.

According to the findings of a survey of more than 200 early years practitioners and teachers carried out by Tapestry, 95% of early years practitioners and reception teachers feel better communication with hard to reach parents and carers is needed to support future lockdowns and partial closures over the coming months.

As schools and settings open to more children and grapple with possible outbreaks, four fifths of respondents felt families still need better access to technology and more support to help their child with learning at home.

However, 83% of early years practitioners and reception teachers reported that they would engage with parents differently following lockdown and are more confident to approach parents and carers to discuss their child’s learning and wellbeing. While another lockdown would be detrimental, the early years sector is fully prepared to meet the challenges.

Having been on the front line from the beginning, early years practitioners understand now how best to communicate with parents while social distancing and restrictions emerge,

Rebecca Swindells, owner and co-manager of Blue Door Nursery, Seaford, said:

‘I’m not surprised that early years practitioners feel confident about talking to parents and carers. We have, as a sector, always understood the value of excellent parent partnerships. We know that children do best when they are surrounded by adults that know them and understand their needs. However, with partial closures a very real possibility in the upcoming months we need to be sure that all our communication lines are strong. If we can’t chat face to face then using technology enables us to support children when they are away from nursery as well as enabling families to show us what they are doing at home.’

Furthermore, 87% of respondents feel schools and settings will make greater use of technology to stay in touch with parents and carers where classes or bubbles need to be quarantined, or there is a local lockdown. However, almost three quarters (70%) of respondents believe staff need more training in remote learning to support children.

Dr Helen Edwards, co-founder of Tapestry and former early years practitioner said:

‘Practitioners and teachers have had to get to grips with lots of new technology in the past few months and I’m not surprised that they need more training. Supporting remote learning requires new skills and expertise, the technology is the enabler, but it’s staff that make it effective.’

Following lockdown, the survey also showed that early years practitioners and teachers were more likely to use technology to support their teaching.  Their top three uses were:

  1. Communication with parents and carers (93%)
  2. Sharing resources and activities (91%)
  3. Supporting children with remote learning (83%)

Respondents also felt that outdoor learning would be become even more important with 93% agreeing it was something they hoped would increase.


apetito launches new pasta range

apetito, has launched its newest dishes in the Culinary Inspirations series – offering its nurseries’ customers a new and improved pasta range of meals to choose from.

Working with an authentic pasta supplier, apetito’s new pasta range includes favourite classics such as Tuna Pasta Bake, Cauliflower & Broccoli Pasta and Macaroni Cheese, giving a true taste of Italy.

Developed by apetito’s in house chefs and dietitians, the new range has been created using traditional recipes and looks set to be a popular addition to apetito’s range of over 200 main meals, sides and desserts.

Bringing maximum flavour to the dishes, the sauces have been redeveloped and enhanced whilst also achieving early years nutritional guidelines – and as with all apetito meals, dishes are cooked easily from frozen by nurseries’ own teams.

Simon Myatt, nurseries divisional manager said:

‘We know pasta is a much-loved dish by little ones, and our new and improved range will give our nursery customers a greater choice of dishes and flavours.

‘At apetito we pride ourselves on delivering food which offers nurseries a simple, safe, and flexible catering solution while also delivering on taste and choice, with options available to suit a variety of dietary, cultural and taste preferences.

‘Through our Culinary Inspirations initiative, we are offering great new choice and adding further value into nursery mealtimes, with further new dishes still to come.’

For nursery owners and managers who would like to enjoy an apetito food sample tasting session, or discuss how apetito can support their business, please open the pop up on the site and register your details on


Willowbrook Nursery acquired

Willowbrook Nursery in Hatfield, Hertfordshire has been acquired with the support of Redwoods Dowling Kerr to Pascal Cumberbatch.

The day nursery was first established in the mid 1970’s and Charalambia (Bambi) Nicolas has strived to ensure Willowbrook Nursery maintains its high standard for childcare in Hatfield.

Situated in peaceful civil parish of North Mymms, this semi-rural nursery is ideally located to attract families from the surrounding towns and villages, as well as parent from further afield commuting into London, thanks to the quick access granted to the A1.

A single storey detached property, the setting is perfect for accommodating adaptable and engaging childcare. The nursery has 3 principle classrooms, all of which offer a bright and welcoming environment for the children to explore their curiosity and engage with a variety of activities. The rooms can offer a free flow of movement when required but is frequently divided into separate areas for the corresponding age groups, all equipped with a vast array of learning resources and toys.

Now looking to retire, Bambi decided it was time to put the nursery onto the market. Pascal, a first-time buyer with a background in primary education, was attracted to the setting due to its wonderful location and reputation, and after acquiring the setting plans to extend the nurseries opening hours and implement additional facilities.

Pascal stated:

‘I have had the most amazing experience with Redwoods. I only ever looked at starting from scratch but Sarah made me realise so many positives to taking over and this nursery was the most perfect match for me. I would highly recommended Redwoods and of course Sarah in particular. My experience was smooth and full of positives. You have such an amazing range of nurseries for sale but the experience with Sarah is what made it possible. Especially through COVID we kept going, stayed positive and knew that it was all meant to be. I am so thankful that I found your company.’

Lead negotiator Sarah Ellison commented:

‘It has been a privilege to work with Bambi and her buyer Pascal. Bambi came to Redwoods to sell her much-loved day nursery after running it successfully for 15 years, it was a big decision to sell and we wanted to find her the right buyer to continue her great work. Pascal a first-time buyer who has a passion for childcare and the drive to have her own business, approached us to help in the search for the perfect opportunity. Both seller and buyer hit it off and we were able to achieve a successful completion in just over 4 weeks once the sale started. I would like to wish them both all the best and many more years of success in the childcare sector.’

14% of UK families with children experiencing food insecurity

The Food Foundation has joined the Child Food Poverty Task Force formed by Marcus Rashford which is calling on the Government to implement 3 National Food Strategy policy recommendations to support our most vulnerable children.

Recent data reveals that 14% of adults living with children reported experiencing moderate or severe food insecurity in the last 6 months. Four million people including 2.3 million children live in these households. After the Government’s U-turn on school meals, the task force has committed to extending help and support to families across the UK.

The data also revealed:

  • 12% of adults living with children reported skipping meals because they could not afford or access food in the last 6 months.
  • 4% of adults living with children reported having gone for a whole day without eating in the last 6 months.
  • 10% of parents/guardians, affecting an estimated 1.9million children, reported that food insecurity had affected their children in a variety of ways in the last 6 months forcing them to rely on only a few kinds of low cost food to feed their children (6%) and provide unbalanced meals (5%), and to resort to smaller portions (1%) or skipping meals entirely (2%).

Furthermore, the Food Foundation’s Covid-19 tracker shows that, despite people returning to work and children to school, food insecurity remains extremely high for families. This is a problem that will have life long consequences for children. A lack of good nutrition and accessibility to healthy foods will ultimately contribute to the increasing obesity problems in the UK

Despite the free school meals and some vouchers, a large number of children are still left in a precarious situation when it comes to securing the necessary healthy diet for them to grow, develop and participate actively in school and society.

Footballer, Marcus Rashford’s Task Force is asking Government to allocate sufficient budget to implementing 3 policy recommendations included in the National Food Strategy:

  • Expand eligibility for the Free School Meal scheme to include every child (up to the age of 16) from a household where the parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit (or equivalent benefits). Under this recommendation an estimated additional 1.5 million 7-16 year olds would benefit from Free School Meals.
  • Extend the Holiday Activity and Food Programme to all areas in England, so that summer holiday support is available to all children in receipt of Free School Meals.
  • Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week and expand the scheme to every pregnant woman and to all households with children under 4 where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefits.