Alliance responds as Covid-19 reports for early years settings double during one week in January

The Early Years Alliance has responded to government data released today, which showed the number of reports to Ofsted of one or more Covid-19 cases in early years settings between 18 and 24 January 2021. Reports of cases rose from 1,267 for the week commencing 4 January to 2,357 during the following week. A further 2,279 reports were received in the week commencing 18 January.

The full dataset is available here: Reported coronavirus (COVID-19) notifications by registered early years and childcare settings - GOV.UK (publishing.service.gov.uk)

Commenting, Neil Leitch, Early Years Alliance chief executive, said:

"These shocking figures show the deeply worrying situation many early years providers in England are currently facing. Despite instructing nurseries, pre-schools and childminders to remain open to all families during lockdown, the government is still yet to offer providers any clear evidence around the risk of transmission in early years settings. 

Given that reports of Covid cases doubled in a single week in January, it’s no surprise many early years staff do not trust the government’s claims that they are perfectly safe working in a close-contact environment, when most people are being advised to stay at home.

The fact that these figures have been released shortly after the government announced plans to expand the roll out lateral flow testing in many workplaces, while still refusing to send these vital tests to early years settings, is even more appalling.

If early years practitioners are not protected – through both direct access to asymptomatic testing and priority vaccinations - we will see more and more outbreaks in settings, leading to more and more closures: it is as simple as that.

The government continues to claim that the early years sector is open because of the vital service that settings provide to children and families, but this rhetoric has yet to be backed up by any meaningful action."