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Early years included in plans to reduce number of critical workers having to self isolate

The government has outlined new guidance for earl years settings and schools as restrictions ease further.

Settings will no longer be required to contact parents and carers about positive cases in their classroom groups. NHS Test and Trace will notify positive and close contact cases, although in some circumstances the app will get in contact for more details or information on other contacts.

Early years staff and teachers will no longer be required to wear a mask, although this is still being recommended to use while in ‘enclosed and crowded spaces’,

The updated government guidance stated:

“Close contacts will now be identified via NHS Test and Trace and education settings will no longer be expected to undertake contact tracing.

“As with positive cases in any other setting, NHS Test and Trace will work with the positive case to identify close contacts. Contacts from a setting will only be traced by NHS Test and Trace where the positive case specifically identifies the individual as being a close contact. This is likely to be a small number of individuals who would be most at risk of contracting COVID-19 due to the nature of the close contact. You may be contacted in exceptional cases to help with identifying close contacts, as currently happens in managing other infectious diseases.”

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief exec of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said:

“Nurseries and their staff are a vital part of our national infrastructure and were included in the critical workers list at the beginning of the pandemic. They are crucial to our educational and economic recovery.

“Therefore they must be included in any plans to reduce self-isolation in order to support young children in their development and enable their parents to work.

“Our research showed that over the winter months, three quarters of nurseries had to close at least one room at least once during that time because of positive Covid cases. Numbers of cases are soaring again which will result in more nurseries having to close rooms not just for positive cases but for a lack of early years practitioners because so many are having to isolate themselves.”

 

Summer frustration as costs rise and availability limited

With summer holidays approaching more families across the UK are feeling the pressure of increasing childcare costs.

Coram Family and Childcare’s 16th annual survey published today finds that there has been a 5% rise in costs since the survey was last carried out in 2019. The average place at a holiday club now costs £145 per week – more than double what parents pay for an after school club during term time.

Alongside this financial strain, parents may also struggle to find the childcare they need, with only 33% of English local authorities reporting enough holiday childcare available for parents in their area who work full time. The report also reveals that a third (33%) of all local authorities in the UK have reported a decrease in the number of holiday childcare places available, potentially as a result of the pressures on the sector from Covid-19. This raises significant concerns about whether there will be enough childcare places if demand rises back to pre-pandemic levels in the coming months and echoes recent research by the TUC which found nearly two-thirds of working mothers do not have enough childcare for the school summer holidays.

The survey demonstrates considerable regional variation across the UK. This ‘postcode lottery’ means that parents in the South West are paying up to 19% more for holiday places than parents in the North West. The report also highlights extreme shortages in holiday childcare for disabled children, with only 16% of local authorities in England reporting that they have enough. Other notable gaps in England include holiday childcare for older children aged 12-14 and children living in rural areas with only 13% and 12% of local authorities respectively reporting they have enough childcare availability.

Megan Jarvie, head of Coram Family and Childcare, said:

“As the country plans to rebuild from the pandemic, it is vital that children and young people are placed at the centre of this recovery. Holiday childcare will be crucial for giving children a safe and fun space to catch-up on lost learning and connect with peers – but this year more than ever parents are likely to struggle to find the childcare they need to be able to keep working and for their children to have fun and stay safe.

“Rising costs and falling availability means that they are facing a double squeeze as they search for childcare they can afford that meets their needs. Without action to make sure there is affordable out of school childcare for every child who needs it, we are at risk of seeing parents – and mothers in particular – struggle to keep working.”

The Holiday Childcare Survey 2021 sets out actions that the Scottish, Welsh and UK governments can take:

  • Include out of school childcare within pandemic recovery planning, given its vital role around helping children to catch up on lost learning and supporting parents to work
  • As part of the evaluation of the Holiday Activities and Food programme, consider the role that this funding could have to improve access to affordable, high quality childcare and feed this learning into future funding
  • Move to upfront payments for the childcare element of Universal Credit so that it offers comparable support to families claiming Tax Free Childcare. This will mean that parents can get the support they need to be able to pay the higher childcare costs during school holidays
  • Make sure there is enough year-round childcare for every working family that needs it, including school age children. Governments should prioritise the groups that currently face the biggest shortages: children in rural areas, 12 to 14 year olds and disabled children.

 

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief exec of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said:

“Learning and social opportunities for children over the long summer holidays are so important especially after the last 18 months when they have suffered periods of isolation and limited contact with other children.

“So this is a particular concern that there are fewer places available to children this summer which also means working parents will have difficulties. This is also bad news for economic recovery.

“Many holiday places are provided by nurseries and other childcare businesses who have struggled through the pandemic with very little support from the Government. We know from our own research that many nurseries have had to close rooms due to positive cases and have lost income. They are also finding it very hard to find enough members of staff as people leave the profession, are self-isolating or caring for their own children who are isolating.

“The government must take notice of repeated pieces of evidence that shows how tough it is for nurseries to operate and support them sufficiently – otherwise children’s wellbeing and personal development, especially those with special needs, will suffer another blow.”

 

NDNA launches nursery sustainability study

National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) has released three surveys – one each for nursery providers in England, Scotland and Wales – ahead of the Comprehensive Spending Review in England and budget planning in Wales and Scotland.

With the Covid-19 pandemic still affecting nursery costs and the numbers of children in settings, the surveys aim to pinpoint the latest challenges for nurseries. This crucial information will be used to inform policy recommendations to each Government to ensure funding supports the delivery of high quality early education for children.

Each survey will look at the specific government funded schemes in the relevant country such as rates received and if this is adequate to cover costs. With reported changes to working patterns they will also look at the percentage of total hours that are government funded compared to parent paid hours and if this has changed.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief exec of NDNA, said: “We are constantly working with members and the whole sector to give the strongest voice for everyone working in early years. With the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review and new Programmes for Government in Scotland and Wales it’s vital we have the facts and figures to make the case for investing in our youngest children.

“Early education and childcare are vital parts of our national infrastructure, with the high quality places nurseries provide helping to give children the best start in life. It is vital that these early years settings are sustainable so that parents are able to return to work or can retrain as well.

“A huge thank you to all our members who have taken the time to fill in this important piece of research for us. It will enable us to put together a strong body of evidence to the Governments in all three nations. Millions of children’s futures will be affected by the decisions policy makers will be making and we want to draw on providers’ experiences to make sure they get it right for children, families and the sector.

“Please take a look at what information you will need to hand before starting the survey and thank you so much for helping us be your voice.”

With the business rates holiday coming to an end and a government review in progress, the England survey will look at the situation regarding business rates relief, increase in staffing budgets, access to business support grants and follow up to NDNA’s research on early years underspends.

In Wales the questions will also investigate occupancy levels, details of new local provision and the positive impact of business rates relief.

With the 1140 hours scheme being fully rolled out from August 2021, the Scotland survey will look at nurseries’ involvement so far and local authority plans for the future. It will also look at additional grants to support with the costs of Covid-19 and the pandemic’s impact on occupancy levels.

Complete the surveys below:

England – https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/nursery-finances-england

Scotland – https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/nursery-sustainability-scotland

Wales – https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/nursery-sustainability-wales

Everyone who completes the survey will be entered into a prize draw to win a £50 TTS voucher or one of two £25 Consortium vouchers. The deadline for the England survey is Monday 2 August. The Scotland and Wales surveys will close on Monday 23 August.

 

Normanhurst Day Nursery sold to Clarence House Day Nurseries

Specialist business property adviser, Christie & Co, has announced the sale of Normanhurst Day Nursery in Northampton to expanding local group, Clarence House Day Nurseries.

Established in 1962, Normanhurst Day Nursery is one of the longest running childcare settings in its region. The setting has an operating capacity of up to 45 children aged three months to eight years, and offers a homely, caring environment within spacious rooms and excellent access to both private and public outdoor space. The setting operates from an attractive Victorian townhouse property which has been thoughtfully converted and recently been refurbished and modernised. It sits in a densely residential area of Northampton which overlooks a large public park, and benefits from free on street parking and excellent transport links.

The business’s previous owner, ABC Nurseries, purchased the site through Christie & Co in 2005 and decided, after over 15 years of ownership, to sell the site.

Normanhurst Day Nursery has been purchased by Clarence House Day Nurseries, taking the company’s portfolio to a total of 10 settings across Cambridgeshire, Northamptonshire, and Lincolnshire.

Speaking on behalf of the company, operations manager, Sarah Lee commented:

“We are pleased to welcome Normanhurst Nursery to our team and look forward to supporting Chelsey and her team in continuing to deliver high-quality provision.”

David Eaves, director at Christie & Co, who handled the sale, added:

“We ran a short and highly confidential sale process and received multiple offers at the asking price within just three weeks of Normanhurst coming to market. The demand for high-quality childcare businesses across the East Midlands is extremely high at present and so it came as no surprise that Normanhurst garnered significant market interest.

“It was a pleasure to work with Neil in achieving his desired outcome and I wish the new owners at Clarence House all the very best in building on the fantastic reputation Normanhurst has as it embarks on a new chapter in its long history.”

Normanhurst Day Nursery was sold off an asking price of £535,000.

Edinburgh start-up secures funding to launch chain of outdoor nurseries

An Edinburgh start-up social enterprise has secured £725,000 to launch a chain of outdoor nurseries in Scotland.

Willow Den – a trading subsidiary of Inspiring Scotland – will offer Early Learning Childcare in exclusively outdoor settings for children in Scotland aged 3 to 5 years old. The enterprise will launch its first site in partnership with Spartans Community Football Academy in August with capacity for up to 24 children per day.

The funding package includes £225,000 loan funding from Social Investment Scotland matched by a £225,000 grant from the SIS Growth Challenge, with the remainder comprising patient capital from Willow Den’s founder, Inspiring Scotland, and a pool of private investors.

Willow Den plans to operate across Scotland, including in deprived communities, with ambitions to expand from one nursery this year to eight by 2026, delivering services for up to 200 children and creating 30 new jobs.

The announcement of new nursery places provides a boost to the sector following a difficult year. Research showed that only 50% of nurseries were sure they would re-open after lockdown with one in seven expecting to stay closed. Those capacity issues are further exacerbated by an increase in funded hours of Early Learning and Childcare for 3–4 year-olds.

Although outdoor settings are proven to improve health and educational attainment, growth to date has been slow. There are thirty-one outdoor settings in Scotland compared to two and a half thousand nurseries in total (1.2%).

Willow Den is led by chief exec Deborah Grant who was appointed in late 2020. With 25 years’ experience working in childcare and social enterprise, Deborah is a recognised expert on Early Learning and Childcare, and specifically outdoor learning. Prior to her current role, Deborah was performance advisor for Inspiring Scotland’s Thrive Outdoors program, supporting organisations to develop outdoor learning programs.

Chris Jamieson, head of investments at SIS, said: “Willow Den is launching into an attractive market, with an increase in funded nursery places and a current lack of capacity. This is an exciting opportunity for SIS to support a high growth and high social impact enterprise. Willow Den addresses a range of social needs, the most important being access to good quality nursery education. We believe the enterprise has a genuine opportunity to scale quickly and grow into a national chain, supporting children, families and communities as well as creating new jobs. We’re looking forward to working with Deborah and the team as they pursue their ambitious plans for growth.”

Deborah Grant, chief exec of Willow Den, said: “I’m delighted to be leading Willow Den through an exciting launch period, with a clear aim of creating more opportunities for children to spend quality time outdoors.

“With funded childcare hours doubling from August, and Covid-19 continuing to impact children’s health and wellbeing, there is growing demand for increased access to outdoor nurseries across Scotland. Our aim is to help to meet this demand and support the wider outdoor learning movement to gain traction by increasing the number of outdoor early learning and childcare nurseries across the country.”

Celia Tennant, chief exec of Inspiring Scotland, said: “Our work over the past decade has highlighted the impact of high-quality outdoor play as an essential catalyst for healthy childhood development and a fundamental part of growing up in Scotland.

“However, our experience also uncovered a gap in the availability and provision of high-quality outdoor nurseries in Scotland. Combining our sector experience and entrepreneurial approach, we took the bold decision to create a sustainable business model to address this at scale. We are delighted that Social Investment Scotland are on board to help us and Willow Den achieve our ambition that every child in Scotland has the opportunity to play and learn in the outdoors.”

Recently closed nursery sold through Christie & Co

Business property adviser, Christie & Co, has announced the sale of a spacious vacant former day nursery premises in Tameside, Greater Manchester.

Previously trading as a well-established 53 place nursery, this impressive semi-detached, four-storey Victorian property has been converted and renovated to include six playrooms, three children’s bathrooms and a fully fitted commercial kitchen. It boasts two impressive separate, secure outdoor learning environments and benefits from a private car park with on street parking also available. The site is positioned in a densely populated area on an attractive street in the heart of Dukinfield in Tameside, Greater Manchester.


The nursery was previously owned by Mr Michael and Mrs Lisa Jones who decided to close the business late last summer during the first lockdown. After 20 years of working in and owning the nursery, Lisa felt that she was ready for a new chapter.

Birch Lawn has been purchased by first-time buyer, Mr Nigel Lenegan, who plans to re-launch a nursery business from the premises at some point in the future.

Sofia Beck, associate director at Christie & Co, who handled the sale, comments, “This property attracted a high level of interest from both existing nursery operators and first-time buyers. As the listing was non-confidential, we were able to widen the reach to a larger pool of interested parties. The volume of activity we received highlights the buoyancy of the day nursery market and the emphasis on necessity for early years provision is as strong as it’s been. Vacant commercial premises which have been or could be converted to day nursery use are highly sought after and can often attract a premium price.”

This vacant day nursery was sold at an undisclosed price.

Try Time set to tackle #HalfaMillionMiles challenge

Try Time Kids’ Rugby is set to team up with Bright Horizons later this month in a bid to reach the goal of half a million miles in support of the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.

On Saturday 17th July, Try Time Kids’ Rugby has pledged to track the distance covered by its participants, including both children and coaches, during planned activities to go towards Bright Horizons’ #HalfaMillionMiles health and wellbeing challenge. On the day, Try Time coaches will ask parents to put a pedometer on their child which will track their distance as they take part in their rugby-themed physical activities.

Jane Gomez and Danielle Dyer, co-founders of Try Time Kids Rugby: 

“We are really excited to contribute to this great cause and clock up some milage for the Bright Horizons Foundation this weekend.”

“We are passionate about getting children active outdoors and importantly keeping the fun factor high, and the Half A Million Miles campaign really resonated with us.  We have planned new warm ups, games and activities for our members on Saturday 17th July that will increase the distance of our normal sessions.  Kids and Coaches will be taking part across our 13 clubs and we hope we can really make a difference for Half A Million Miles.”

The #HalfaMillionMiles challenge was launched in April, with individuals from across the Bright Horizons family pledging to reach their own distances to add to the total in any way they so wish. All money raised through the initiative is going towards supporting the Bright Horizons Foundation for Children.

The Foundation has more than 80 Bright Spaces throughout the UK, which provide warm, safe, enriching play environments for vulnerable children affected by abuse, domestic violence, parental imprisonment, and ill-health.

Denise Priest, director of employer and strategic partnerships at Bright Horizons, said:

“Half A Million Miles was launched to celebrate the importance of exercise, which has been emphasised since the start of the pandemic. Playing sport and keeping fit has played a significant role for families in helping to maintain their physical and mental wellbeing, so we would like to say a special thank you to Try Time Kids’ Rugby for supporting our challenge.”

A recent report by Sport England on ‘Children’s Experience of Physical Activity in Lockdown’ show that parents are valuing the time they are spending on activity with their children, believing that sports and fitness are bringing families together: 53% of parents were doing more physical activity with their children than they did prior to lockdown and 61% felt that playing sport and keeping fit was helping maintain their family’s physical and mental well-being.

So far, the #HalfaMillionMiles challenge has raised more than £7,000 for the Foundation. Please visit www.brighthorizons.co.uk/pledge if you would like to take part in the challenge or www.brighthorizons.co.uk/halfamillionmiles if you would like to donate. Stay posted on our social media channels for updates via the hashtag #HalfaMillionMiles.

Bright Horizons staff attend Downing Street reception

Bright Horizons staff members attended a reception at 10 Downing Street yesterday, following an invitation from Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The rose garden reception was organised by the Prime Minister to say thank-you to nursery workers for their continued efforts throughout the Covid-19 pandemic.

Colette Irons, nursery manager at Blackheath Day Nursery and Preschool, and Emyr Griffiths, third in charge at Timperley Day Nursery and Preschool, attended on behalf of Bright Horizons.

Colette, whose Blackheath nursery remained open throughout the first lockdown last year as a HUB nursery, said she was excited and humbled after receiving the invitation.

“It was an honour to represent everyone at Blackheath Day Nursery and Preschool, as well as Bright Horizons, that have worked so hard over the past 16 months,” said Colette. “Throughout this pandemic, we couldn’t have achieved everything we have as nurseries without passionate staff dedicated to what they do.”

Ros Marshall, managing director at Bright Horizons, commented: “We are delighted that the Government is celebrating our staff who have worked throughout the pandemic to make a difference in the lives of children and families every day. The recognition from Government of our colleagues is richly deserved, and we look forward to further support for the Early Years sector, as we continue to play our part in helping young children to bridge the gap caused by the pandemic.”

National Food Strategy calls on the government to commit to a ‘better food system for a healthier nation’

The National Food Strategy Part 2 has called on the government to act on further recommendations to build a healthier society.

Food entrepreneur Henry Dimbleby’s landmark report, sets out a wide range of measures that aim to improve nutrition and diet across the UK, while also creating a more sustainable farming system.

Cheap and highly processed food is taking a significant toll on our bodies and long-term health. 80% of processed food sold in the UK is unhealthy. Furthermore, because there is a bigger market for unhealthy food, companies invest more into developing and marketing it.

The report details 14 recommendations that need urgent attention and action. Covid-19 has highlighted the problems and the lack of support aimed at children living in the most deprived areas. The National Food Strategy also states that children living in those areas are less likely to be eating healthier, home cooked meals:

“Poverty causes high levels of stress, sleeplessness and cognitive overload. Numerous studies have shown how scarcity of money, food or time affects cognitive processes, in effect narrowing mental “bandwidth”. This can result in people making decisions that go against their long-term interests. People from the poorest households are much less likely to adopt healthy behaviours – such as planning and cooking meals from scratch – because all their energy is taken up with coping in the short term.

“Whatever the government’s other “levelling up” priorities may be, there is a particular urgency to the problem of helping low income families eat well.”

Recommendation number 4

This recommendation calls on the government to extend eligibility for free school meals. Only 20% of children in the poorest socio-economic class who would have to pay for school meals do so.

The government should:

  • Raise the household earnings threshold for free school meals (FSMs) from £7,400 to £20,000
  • Extend eligibility to children who are undocumented or have No Recourse to Public Funds (NPRF)
  • Enrol eligible children for free school meals automatically.

Following these recommendations, the number of children accessing free school meals would increase by 1.1 million, at a cost of £555m per year.

June O’Sullivan, chief exec of the London Early Years Foundation (LEYF) said:

“With children aged 4-6 in the most deprived households twice as likely to have obesity compared to those in the least deprived households, never has there been a more pertinent time for food education to be central to the national curriculum – and this must include the Early Years.

“Whilst initiatives such as the LEYF Chef Academy and professional qualification help bridge this gap, more robust measures must be introduced at Government level to support the diets of those living in the most deprived neighbourhoods. It’s absolutely scandalous that in 2021, children are coming to nursery hungry and parents are having to access the daily food banks which we now provide as an essential necessity.”

The Centre for Social Justice and the Fabian Society release new manifesto

The new report puts forward a number of recommendations to support young children as we ease out of lockdown.

The initiatives include a significant shake up in parental leave rights and major support for the youngest children and their parents as part of the government’s ‘levelling up’ response post-Covid-19.

The Early Years Commission was co-chaired by Labour’s Sharon Hodgson MP and former Conservative minister for children and families, Edward Timpson CBE MP, and set up to explore how to improve services for children from conception to age five.

The report read:

“Despite improvements among some children, too many continue to fall behind in their first few years, particularly those living in poverty. Many are not ready to learn by the age of five and struggle with their health and wellbeing, leading to damaging long-term consequences. This reality obstructs our country’s path to a more prosperous future. We will never truly level up if we don’t recognise this. There are steps we can take now to help those children, even though they and we may not realise the benefits for decades.”

Three core priorities are to:

• Make young children society’s top priority, by working to end child poverty and deliver public service innovation focused on their needs regardless of circumstance.

• Support parents to make their homes a nurturing, safe environment where a baby takes their first steps into a healthy, long, and happy life. We can do so by giving parents time away from work, the financial stability to focus on their child, and the community and professional support they need to have strong and healthy relationships.

• Put our children at the heart of their community and public services, which we can do by investing in early education – as well as children’s centres and family hubs that provide integrated support to all children, but especially those in greatest need.

Purnima Tanuku OBE, chief exec of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) said: “Evidence has repeatedly shown that children’s early education and development are absolutely crucial to their long term educational outcomes and their life chances as a result. The Early Years Commission’s report and manifesto underlines how important it is to us as a society to get early years right for children, parents and communities.

“The fact that only 1% of the public believe the Government is investing enough in our children’s earliest years is a damning indictment of the current offers. It is clear that underfunding is undermining the efforts of nurseries to deliver the best quality early education and care to children and families.

“The public backs better investment in our young children so the Government should be focusing its education recovery efforts in early years where we know it can have the greatest impact. We back the Commission’s recommendations to address underfunding in early years to make sure providers are sustainable and children are truly at the heart of the policy.”

Commenting Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief exec, said:

“We know that the first five years of a child’s life are absolutely critical to their long-term life chances – and yet, for years now, the early years sector has been at the bottom of the pile of government priorities.

“With both early years providers and parents of young children all too often completely overlooked during the pandemic, the findings of this survey sadly come as no surprise.

“The Commission is absolutely right to advocate for greater parity of spending between the early years and primary education, which currently sees substantially greater investment in the UK, and for far greater pre- and post-natal support for new parents.

“We urge the government to take this opportunity to completely rethink its approach to the early years, and to ensure that those caring for and educating children in their most important years are given the support they need and deserve.”