Covid cases in nurseries at all time reported high

During the week commencing 22 November, 2,707 settings reported to Ofsted that they had had one or more Covid-19 cases at their setting, up from 1,960 the previous week – an increase of 38%, on top of a similar increase the previous week.

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

‘It is extremely worrying to see such a sharp rise in reports of Covid-19 cases in settings during just one week of reporting. This is likely to create huge fear and anxiety for the early years workforce, who cannot socially distance from either the children in their care or their colleagues, and for setting owners and managers who once again face a loss of income and rising staffing shortages.

‘Early years educators have put themselves at risk throughout the pandemic to ensure young children get the care and education they need, and that parents can continue to go out to work. With early years settings clearly at risk, the government must now, as a priority, look to put in place additional measures to protect early years staff and their families, including reviewing the rules that allow young children living with someone who is Covid-positive to continue attending their early years setting, regardless of which variant they happen to have.

‘With Covid rates unlikely to fall for some time now, it is also vital that early years providers get the financial support they need to ensure they can remain afloat during what is likely to be an incredibly difficult period. As such, we urge the government to commit to basing funding for the early years entitlements on pre-pandemic, rather than current, levels of attendance.

‘A strong early years infrastructure is key to a functioning economy and society. Government must, therefore, do all it can to protect our critical sector as we enter this latest phase of the Covid pandemic.’

Jonathan Broadbery, NDNA’s director of policy and communication, said:

‘The numbers of Covid-19 notifications in early years settings have increased dramatically in recent weeks, reflecting the community transmission that is being reported. Nurseries are doing all they can to keep children and staff safe but these are now the highest rates we have seen since reporting began in September 2020.

‘These cases have a massively disruptive influence on children’s experiences in early education settings when they have already missed out on so many experiences. We are hearing about many more cases with staff becoming ill and children having to stay away, resulting in more lost learning.

‘It is clear that the early years sector is still being badly affected by the pandemic. Closures and absences don’t just mean disruption for children and families but also lost income for providers.

‘In the Budget the Chancellor announced he would be making additional money available for the hospitality and leisure sectors to support with the impact of Covid-19. They were given extended business rates discounts but nurseries will have to pay this unfair tax in full from April, giving each setting an average burden of £12,600 to pay.

‘The government must continue to support our vital early years sector to help them remain sustainable at a time when they are so important in supporting children, families and the economy.’

Date published: December 15, 2021