A snap poll by National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) shows that the average nursery has a third fewer children than normal and figures published by the Department for Education suggest this could be closer to half across all early years settings.
According to the findings, 58% of nurseries are not confident they will survive until Easter on the current funding arrangements. However the Government’s plans from the start of January mean councils will only pay nurseries for children who attend.
Since Easter 2020, the Department for Education has paid all early years providers funding for all children who should be in nursery. But despite occupancy rates still being very low, the DfE has decided to only fund places based on one-shot census data taken in the current lockdown period.
The survey reveals that 23% of families are not sending their children to nurseries, which are still allowed to open fully to all children, due to concerns about the virus.
Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of NDNA, said:
‘Since the announcement that schools would be closing to all but vulnerable and key worker children, almost 99% of nurseries have decided to remain open.
‘Those who have closed tell us the main reasons are high numbers of staff absences which prevent them from opening safely or concerns about local case rates.
‘Our quick poll shows that 56% of nurseries want more information to reassure parents and employees that staying open is the right decision.
‘Nurseries have now been put in an impossible position due to a number of Government policies. Firstly, if they close they get no funding for two, three and four-year-old places which make up about half of an average nursery’s income.
‘If they continue to remain open, they are now only funded for the children who attend – the average nursery has a third fewer children compared with this time last year.
‘Nursery businesses have also had much less support than schools – for example, schools have had support with PPE costs, cleaning, staff absences and access to testing kits – none of which has been made available for PVI providers who have been operating throughout the pandemic.
‘And as community transmission of the virus increases, more staff are having to self-isolate, leaving settings struggling to meet staff/child ratios.
‘Early years settings are the only educational establishments that are open to all and must be prioritised. They need testing kits, given priority for vaccinations and urgent financial support to prevent mass closures across the country.’
A total of 605 nurseries in England responded to NDNA’s short survey over the last five days.