Following the news schools and colleges would be closing from January 6th to help stem the spread of Covid-19, my colleague, the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson MP, confirmed in the House of Commons earlier this week that during this lockdown, early years settings will remain open nationally to all, providing vital early education and childcare. I spoke to Mr Williamson last evening and he is meeting and further engaging with the sector over the coming days. I recognise this is a really concerning time for parents and providers as we tackle this ongoing pandemic.
I also have spoken to the Minister for Children, Vicky Ford MP, over the last couple of days to get some further clarity about why these early years settings, like nurseries, are being kept open. She explained to me that parents of younger children needed support when it came to caring for children who, in those early years between 0-4, need regular supervision and care – which is incredibly difficult for working parents to provide, regardless of whether they are now working from home or not.
The Minister went on to emphasise the scientific evidence showed that whilst schools had become a vector for the transmission of the new, infectious Covid-19 variant, this has not been the case in early years settings. Generally, a child’s risk of becoming seriously ill from the virus is tiny and far less than adult’s - younger children have had the lowest admission rates to hospital compared to all other age groups.
In SAGE minutes from 22 December, the government’s scientific advisers say the "closure of secondary schools [is] likely to have a greater effect than closure of primary schools". The full link to these minutes can be read here https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sage-74-minutes-coronavirus-covid-19-response-22-december-2020
Nurseries, schools and other educational sites have done so much over the course of this terrible pandemic to support our children, families and communities and I can't thank them enough. I completely understand why some feel early years settings should be closed alongside schools and colleges, but I hope the reasons above have explained why this is the right thing to do. With the vaccine rollout well underway and now accelerating, we can look forward to the not-too-distant future and defeating this virus.
To see my thoughts on the closure of schools and colleges, please visit https://www.mimsdavies.org.uk/news/schools-and-exams-update