Alliance responds to news that nurseries and childminders will remain open during new lockdown

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

"Many early years practitioners were already incredibly worried about continuing to work during this period. It is unacceptable that yet another government announcement has been made without reference to any scientific evidence explaining how those working in the early years are expected to be able to keep themselves and their loved ones safe at a time when those in schools are being told that it is simply to dangerous to go to work.

"We know that with many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders already struggling to remain afloat, any decision to close early years settings would have a huge financial impact on the sector. However, in the middle of a global pandemic that is causing hundreds to lose their lives on a daily basis, we also recognise the need to prioritise the lives and safety of practitioners, children, families and wider communities - and so far, it is not clear to what extent regard for the safety of the early years workforce has been outweighed by the government's desire to ensure that at least some parents are able to continue to work.

"The government is putting a huge responsibility on the shoulders of a sector they have, to date, provided with shamefully little support. If early years providers are expected to continue operating, it is vital that government takes the steps to enable them to do so as safely as soon as possible: that means priority access to Covid-19 vaccinations, and the establishment of a comprehensive mass asymptomatic testing regime in early years settings as a matter of urgency.

"Adequate financial support - both for those providers who are reliant on 'free childcare' funding and those reliant on private parental fees - also remains critical, especially given that early years settings are likely to see an even greater fall in the demand for childcare places as a result of the heightened restrictions announced today.

"Now is the time for the government to do what it has failed to do throughout this pandemic and make early education and childcare a priority."