In December, when I wrote my notes in preparation for my New Year blog, they were optimistic, with a focus on next steps for a national conversation to shape our shared understanding about modern childhood and a general recognition that children are not just our future to invest in but much more importantly they are also our present – our bundles of joy and possibility.
Instead, the conversation is on hold as we navigate a new lockdown that has locked Early Years settings out by declaring we are essential and must remain open. I quote a statement from the DfE:
This has now been translated by Matt Hancock as nurseries needing to stay open or otherwise, they will go bust.
This isn’t quite true. Some nurseries are worried about their sustainability because the complexities of the Job Retention Scheme mean that they cannot just close their doors and furlough staff; nor does the Chancellor’s support packages include nurseries. Had the Government sorted out funding and allowed local authorities to guarantee funding as per last year and not simply on current head count, providing a little more support to mitigate increased costs with a declining fee income, many settings may never have reached such a parlous state. So, for Matt Hancock to simply say nurseries are open because they need the business is disingenuous to say the least.
However, everyone was baffled that nurseries were open and schools were closed as no one had received an explanation as to the safety reasons for making such a suggestion. Eventually we were given a statement which said:
So if we are to deliver an essential service and maintain a level of safety, they we need to be treated like other keyworkers. Not just paid lip service but with action that would reassure the staff who are delivering the service that is helping parents stay at work; speedy access to vaccination. One of our many previous Childcare Ministers, Nadhim Zahawi is now Minister in charge of the vaccine roll-out. This ambitious Minister is saying the risk of cross infection among small children means there is no reason to push us higher up the vaccine list. This is contradicted this morning in The Times by another Sage colleague. Certainly, while we fortunately are not seeing many Early Years staff seriously ill, we know the rate of cross infection is high, so access to the vaccine would help us manage this and keep open safely.
Many in the sector, feel we are treated with disdain and disregard. Talk is cheap and if the Government seriously wants to support children, their parents and the Early Years they need to demonstrate thus by allowing us access to vaccines while we remain open and the rest of the country is in lockdown.