NMT News: 22nd May 2020

Top stories for nurseries and early years organisations.


Headlines at a glance


Managing the risk while re-opening the sectorReady to open? Key points to get thereEarly Years Alliance criticises lack of government supportChildcare market report points to a resilient sector for the futureChristie & Co: Covid-19 – Guidance for Early Years Settings



Managing the risk while re-opening the sector

Many providers are extremely keen and ready to get their settings back up and running. However, it’s crucial to carefully manage and mitigate the risks while slowly easing out of lockdown.
Following on from several commentaries and reports over the weekend, including the survey and report from the Children’s Commission for England, NDNA’s Chief Executive Purnima Tanuku OBE said that there was no such thing as zero risk.

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, asked the Government and teaching unions to work together constructively to get children back into education.

Longfield pointed to the overwhelming evidence that showed children particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds were at risk if they were not being supported to learn. The pandemic will also potentially widen this gap, putting more children at risk in the long term.

NDNA’s chief executive Purnima Tanuku OBE, said:
‘There have been several commentaries and reports over the weekend both questioning and defending the wisdom of sending children back to nursery and school, including a report from the Children’s Commissioner for England.

‘Following our meeting with scientific advisors on Friday, whose evidence is now published, we know there is no such thing as a zero risk scenario but it’s about minimising any risk and taking control of managing that risk.

‘Lots of nurseries are already doing sterling work looking after around 76,000 vulnerable children and critical workers children since the lockdown – they are clear about how best to manage those risks in their own particular settings. According to the Children’s Commissioner’s own survey, three out of 57 hospital nurseries reported a confirmed case but none reported transmission within a nursery.

‘We hope this will give confidence to parents. Nurseries and their practitioners will have to make their own judgements on whether or not to reopen and parents will also have to make that decision having discussed any concerns with their child’s nursery.

‘NDNA will continue to support nurseries with comprehensive guidance and advice on safe working, updating policies and procedures and carrying out appropriate risk assessments. We have urged the Government to make sure nurseries are financially supported and are able to access the necessary amount of PPE they need.

‘The sector, parents and the Government should all work together to do the best for our children’s health and education.’

NDNA has created a hub of ‘Get back on track’ resources to support you in reopening your nursery.


Ready to open? Key points to get there

With the announcement that schools could re-open in phases from 1 June, many early years providers are planning ahead to meet the date fully prepared.

The Covid-19 Response Group has been working tirelessly since the closures to give the sector the relevant information and guidance needed to cover all areas of concerns.

The group put together a list of its key talking points and information:

  • Like schoolteacher colleagues, a number of Early Years sector employers have had reservations about opening their settings to all children and staff, where there may be a risk of Covid-19 transmission.
  • Many of us are parents and are torn to make the right decision. Schools and nurseries are all wanting to ‘do the right thing’ and have been incredible already at finding solutions to operate during the crisis.
  • Our teams have been providing care to keyworkers children for past 2 months. On May 16th, the Children’s Commissioner quoted a survey of 62 nurseries attached to NHS trusts, that have been open throughout the crisis and of the 57 managers surveyed, they found:
    • there was an average operational capacity of 46%.
    • 3 cases of Covid-19 in children, with no transmission in nursery; and
    • half of the managers said staff had reported cases, but again, found no transmission in nursery.
  • A short survey of providers within the Covid-19 response group found: –
    • we have collectively cared for 3,339 children each day
    • there have been just 3 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in children
    • there have been just 2 confirmed cases in adults (employees)
    • that none of these have been traced to transmission in the nursery
  • We need to better understand the risk: Professor Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University, indicates that only 2 out of 10 million pre-school age children have died from Covid-19 to date.


On balance we believe it is in society’s best interests to slowly open up the education and childcare sectors.

  • We need to support the children in our care; many vulnerable and disadvantaged children will benefit from being back in nursery.
  • Parents cannot get back to work without good childcare. We therefore need to open to support our families.
  • In April, the Covid-19 response group developed a set of ‘Safe Operating Procedures’, using our collective experience, knowledge, and practise, with an emphasis on creating sound Risk Assessments and rigorous control measures, including but not limited to:
    • Practical realistic solutions to social distancing measures.
    • Managing logistics of parent/children and employer in/out.
    • Reducing access to the nursery facilities.
    • Safe use of nursery resources.
    • Frequent thorough handwashing and good hygiene routines; and
    • Enhanced cleaning and sanitising measures.
    • Management of suspected case of Covid-19.


Early Years Alliance criticises lack of government support

As early years providers move towards re-opening, the Early Years Alliance has called out the Government for failing to financially support the sector.

The Government has not helped cover the additional costs of operating during the Covid-19 outbreak, despite pledging between £25,000 and £75,000 to schools.

In a letter sent to education secretary Gavin Williamson and children and families minister Vicky Ford, the Early Years Alliance has called for the government to end the unfair treatment of early years providers, arguing that financial support for the steps childcare providers need to take to keep their settings safe – such as additional cleaning and the purchase of PPE – is likely to be “critical” at a time when one in four providers fear closure in the next 12 months.

On 7 April, the DfE published guidance that stated that schools could apply for additional financial support to help with the “exceptional costs associated with Coronavirus for the period of March to July”. This included increased premises related costs and additional cleaning costs.


Commenting, Neil Leitch chief executive of the Alliance, said: 

‘We know that many providers are still reviewing whether or not they will be able to open on 1 June – but for those that intend to do so, the government must commit to providing the funding needed to meet the additional costs of operating during this period, just as they have already done for schools. 

‘Infection prevention is rightly a key consideration for providers planning for the reopening of their setting, which in practice will mean additional cleaning, the purchasing of PPE, the replacement of some equipment and resources, and the additional staff time required to carry out this work – all of which will come at no insignificant cost to providers. 

‘It beggars belief, therefore, that while the government has already ensured that extra support has been made available to schools to help meet these costs, no equivalent financial commitment has been made for the many thousands of nurseries, pre-schools and childminders operating around the country. 

‘Early years providers are already facing significant financial difficulties as a result of inadequate government support during this period. The government must act urgently to address this disparity and ensure that no provider is financially disadvantaged for trying to ensure that their setting is as safe as possible for their staff, families and the children in their care.’


Childcare market report points to a resilient sector for the future

LaingBuisson’s 16th report details the market outlook of the childcare sector. Although written before the outbreak of Covid-19, the report highlights areas of support needed for the early years market.

The report was authored by Cairneagle Associates and led by the head of childcare practice, Arun Kanwar. Further support on the report was given by Ina Todorova, Pierce Hickey and Sean Cornell.

Arun leads Cairneagle’s childcare practice. Prior to joining Cairneagle, Arun was head of UK Acquisitions at Bright Horizons.

The report looks at private, voluntary and independent group-based (PVI) registered settings that are open for business throughout the year.

In addition, for the first time the report also covers school-based providers that deliver full-day services.

Despite the impact of Covid-19, the childcare market remains a resilient one where both private equity and larger international corporates are increasingly active.

The report highlights that over the last two decades the UK day nursery sector has continued to grow in real market value at c.7% p.a. and has proven to be an attractive place for investors, driven by:

  • Favourable socioeconomic trends (including maternal workforce participation and age of parents giving birth) and financial backing from the government (in particular funded hours for over-threes) – which together have contributed to enrolment growth at levels greater than underlying demographic trends.
  • A higher degree of recessionary resilience than many other sectors (because spend is increasingly ‘nondiscretionary’), demonstrated through sustained real market value growth during the 2008 downturn.
  • High fragmentation, with a wide range of business types and sizes offered for sale.


Each nation in the UK supports free hours for nursery aged children. In England, In September 2017, the free early education entitlement for three and four-year old children of 15 hours per week was extended to 30 hours per week (subject to certain eligibility criteria).

In 2019, the DfE estimates that some 328,000 children aged three to four benefitted from the extended 30 hours entitlement, an uplift of 11% from the year before.

LaingBuisson points to the fact that the 30 hours funding has proven to be one of the most imperative issues in the sector.

Funding for the early years sector has faced criticism for years as the Government continually ignores the sector’s crucial need for additional funding.


Arun Kanwar, partner at Cairneagle stated:

‘In a way the timing of the report being completed then was very helpful, as it highlights that once we get through these exceptionally challenging times, nurseries are one of the most fundamentally resilient and investible sectors in the UK – over the last 20 years they have moved from being ‘discretionary’ to increasingly social infrastructure to both help parents to stay in the workplace and to give children the best start in life. In fact, the funded offer to help parents to get back to work will need to be a key tool in the government’s strategy to get the country back to work once the lockdown lifts.

‘The Covid-19 crisis – not covered in our report – will no doubt have some lasting impact on the sector including potentially more funding austerity and a difficult employment market for parents. There are always some ‘silver linings’ in that there is increasing recognition of what our incredible sector does in helping parents working in essential sectors to support the country, and that operators of all shapes and sizes are removing their barriers and co-operating much more closely for the greater good.’


Key findings

  • 14,750 settings, providing a total capacity of 872,500 places for children from birth to four.
  • 254,300 care staff employees.
  • £6.7 billion 2018/19 market value.
  • 609,948 full-time equivalent childcare places taken up in full daycare settings.
  • 378,800 children in a 30 hours place.
  • For-profit operators £5,500 million.
  • 52% of childcare employees are NWQ 3 qualified.
  • Not-for-profit operators £1,200m
  • £900m Voluntary
  • £300m School-based
  • Market growth 6.2 per cent


Christie & Co: Covid-19 – Guidance for Early Years Settings

Christie & Co continue to work with a number of buyers and sellers during the Covid-19 pandemic. Although the sector is under immense strain, there is still opportunity for growth.

While we await a more clear timetable post June 1, Christie & Co remind the sector of the guidance out there to support them.

‘At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic a wide range of Early Years organisations came together in an unprecedented way to support and share guidance, expertise and practice, in order to ensure a continuation of the very high standards of Early Years Care and Education, being delivered.

‘This Early Years Covid-19 Response Group includes the major sector representative groups alongside national, regional and smaller local multi-site providers. As a combined group of 70 major providers, amid lobbying and other activities, the group have collated guidance on COVID-19 site operating procedures for early years settings.

‘These guidelines are intended to assist early years providers in implementing precautionary measures to reduce the spread of the COVID-19 disease in childcare settings. This information has been created with the intention of sharing so that providers may start to consider and build on some of the guidelines to form Site Operating Procedures (SOP), suitable to their situation. The guidelines are based Guidance published to date, 6th May 2020, as published by Public Health England and Department for Education for educational settings and their key workers. The COVID-19: Operational Procedures – Guidance for Early Years Settings is available here.

‘Areas as detail herein, provide content for consideration associated to children, welfare, visitors, hygiene, health and safety. In addition, the guidance provides areas for consideration in relation to premises, including the legionnaires checks. Specifically, on this matter employers, or those in control of premises have a duty to understand and manage legionella risks. Further information is available here.

Amidst this uncertain and challenging time, it is clear that many operators are now looking ahead to getting back to business safely and securely.

Date published: May 21, 2020