Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:
"The government continues to defend the decision to keep the early years sector open by stressing that parents rely on childcare settings, but of course, the same is true of schools. As such, while many early years providers do want to deliver this vital support to families, this argument alone is not enough to justify the decision to keep them open while instructing all schools to close.
"Ministers may argue that early years settings are 'low-risk' environments but to date, no clear evidence has been published to back up these claims - especially in relation to the new, more transmissible strain of Covid. Those working in the early years have a right to know exactly how much risk they are being exposed to.
"If nurseries, pre-schools and childminders are to remain open, then providers need the practical protections - such as mass testing, priority vaccinations and access to PPE - that will enable them to do so. Equally important is adequate financial support from the government to ensure that they are able to remain sustainable at a time of hugely diminished demand.
"If the early years is truly as important as the education secretary now claims it to be, this surely isn't too much to ask."