We are now in the first week of early years settings opening in England. Many nurseries have opened their doors to children they haven’t seen since the middle of March. While we will await to see how the re-opening progresses, the other devolved nations are looking from a distance and making their own moves.
The Welsh Government’s Education Minister Kirsty Williams has announced that schools in Wales will start to return from 29 June. In her announcement she said that guidance would be issued next week to support childcare providers to accept more children at the same time as schools.
Williams also announced a range of plans to get to this stage which include a staggered start, break and lunchtimes and smaller class sizes that is expected to mean only a third of children will be present at school at any one time.
Furthermore, summer holiday will be delayed by one week and will start on 27 July with an extra week added to the Autumn half term holiday.
National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) Chief Executive, Purnima Tanuku OBE said:
‘We welcome the Minister’s announcement today which gives nurseries across Wales time to put plans in place and find out from their parents how many children they are likely to care for from 29 June.
‘However, we have very real concerns about how childcare providers are going to be able to make ends meet. They will have increased costs to pay in order to ensure the safety of their children and staff while at the same time expecting fewer children to be back in their settings. In England where nurseries reopened this week, the occupancy level is only a third of their usual numbers.
‘Keeping children within small groups means that nurseries will still need high staffing levels so most of the workforce will need to be taken out of current furlough arrangements.
‘Nurseries rely on parental fees which is likely to be much lower than normal. Providers will be looking at their plans for the coming weeks but don’t know what the funding arrangements will be after mid-June.
‘Many nurseries in Wales have been operating for emergency childcare throughout the crisis to ensure critical workers can continue to do their vital jobs. Nurseries now need urgent financial support to remain sustainable and be able to offer high quality early education and childcare. Childcare providers will need access to transformation and recovery funding to support the changes that will need to be made to how they operate at a time of lower demand and reduced income.’