With the Government doing a U-turn and closing all schools across England, nursery workers and early years providers have voiced their anger and anxiety over early years being left out of from any mention on the vaccine.
Now on the frontlines alone again, the sector is calling on the Government to vaccinate all essential nursery and childcare workers as soon as possible to avoid drops in occupancy and more staff shortages.
Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi has defended keeping nurseries open while the Unison union has called for nurseries to close to all but vulnerable children and those of key workers. Along with nursery chiefs it also called for staff to be made a priority for vaccination.
Asked about concerns from staff about keeping early years education open, Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: ‘It’s the right thing to do.
He said that at nurseries with the very youngest children ‘there is very little risk’ and that ‘the nursery sector has taken tremendous care in making sure the premises are Covid-safe.’
However, there has been no mention of additional financial support or promise of a fast vaccine rollout for early years workers.
CEO of London Early Years Foundation (LEYF), June O’Sullivan is urging the Government to vaccinate all nursery and childcare workers as part of the 13.2 million ‘priority’ people and give a valid explanation as to why the early years is not being prioritised after society’s most vulnerable groups and NHS workers have been given the jab.
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.
Commenting, June stated:
‘Now that nurseries can stay open during the new lockdown, 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, currently available to other essential workers.
‘So far, ministers have failed to give any valid explanation as to why the early years is not being prioritised after society’s most vulnerable groups and NHS workers have been given the jab.
‘What’s more, funding from local authorities for the most vulnerable children could be under threat if nurseries are forced to close because staff are off sick with the virus or needing to self-isolate; or if parents are too nervous to bring their children to nursery. We saw this during the first lockdown when some of the children living in our most deprived communities kept children indoors for weeks and needed to be coaxed into bringing their children back to nursery. This is deeply concerning as thousands of nursery places will be in jeopardy by the Spring – and thousands of valuable early years learning lost.
‘Nurseries are the lifeline in keeping people in work and the economy afloat which is why this essential service must be fully supported by the Government.’