Government asks providers to open to all children on 1 June
By Rachel Lawler
The government is asking early years providers, including childminders, to begin "welcoming back all children" from 1 June 2020 onwards, according to new guidance from the Department for Education (DfE).
The new guidelines also state that it is "no longer necessary" for parents of children eligible to attend settings to keep them at home wherever possible. They also reiterate that vulnerable children are expected and encouraged to attend "where it is appropriate for them to do so".
As per the Prime Minister's speech at the weekend, the guidelines also state that the changes are dependent on "further progress" in the efforts against coronavirus but ask providers to make plans based on the current guidance, ahead of confirmation that the government's "five key tests" are met.
The guidelines state that initial demand for places is likely to be lower than usual at first so existing space requires and child:adult ratios should allow for "small group working".
It also suggests that providers may need to introduce a "temporary cap" on child numbers at first.
The DfE guidelines say: "We want to get all children and young people back into education as soon as the scientific advice allows because it is the best place for them to learn and we know how important it is for their mental wellbeing to have social interactions with their peers, carers and teachers."
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "We welcome further clarity on the government's plans to potentially reopen childcare settings in England, which will allow providers to plan and prepare to welcome families back into their settings where they are able to.
"That said, it's clear that any proposals to do so must ensure that nurseries, pre-schools and childminders feel able to keep themselves and the families they care for safe. As such, if providers are to potentially open their doors from 1 June, they must be supported to do so as safely as possible - especially given the ages of the children they care for - while also retaining the freedom to use their professional judgement on how their individual setting can best operate in practice.
"With many parents still wary about the prospect of their children return to childcare, it's very likely that many nurseries, pre-schools and childminders will see a significant fall in the demand for places, and in turn income, at least in the short term. It's vital, therefore, that the government also commits to providing whatever financial support is needed to ensure early years providers can remain viable during this period.
"With one in four childcare providers fearing closure in the next year, how the government handles the next few weeks and months will be absolutely critical to determining whether or not the sector is able to survive in the long term."