Commenting on Department for Education guidance on the Early Years census for 2021, published today, Dr Mary Bousted, joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:
“The clarification to the census guidance is a limited and confusing response to a worsening crisis. Its offer of top-up funding does not guarantee the necessary level of financial support. As the Institute of Fiscal Studies has demonstrated, it will result in significantly reduced levels of funding across the whole sector. (1)
“Those who work in Early Years are desperately aware of the dangers to the health of staff, families and the wider community of Covid-19 transmission in Early Years settings.
“They have been deterred from responding to these risks by the DfE’s threat to withdraw funding from settings which, for safety reasons, need to reduce the numbers of children and staff on site.
“The Government continues to insist that ‘early years provision should remain open to all children to attend their expected hours’. It needs to wake up to reality. The weekly number of Covid-19 outbreaks in nursery schools has more than doubled in the last week from 16 to 34. (2) Case rates among teachers and support staff have soared.
“The Government’s current policies are a threat to life and to the financial future of Early Years education.
“The Government must treat the sector in the same way that it treats primary and secondary schools, with settings open for vulnerable children and the children of key workers, and funding restored to pre-pandemic levels.
“Today’s announcement does nothing to alleviate our members’ fears about their long-term financial viability, and nor does it address their concerns over health and safety.”