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Prime Minister fails to mention early years in "reopening" plans

By Rachel Lawlergirl at pre-school

The Prime Minister failed to mention the early years sector in a televised address to the nation on Sunday, setting out his plans for the next phase of the coronavirus lockdown period in England.

While he did not mention childcare or the early years, Boris Johnson set out conditional plans for reopening schools on 1 June 2020, at the earliest.

He said: "We believe we may be in a position to begin the phased reopening of shops and to get primary pupils back into schools, in stages, beginning with Reception, Year 1 and Year 6."

The Prime Minister also said that the government "will not hesitate to put on the brakes" with these plans, should the country see any further outbreaks of the virus.

A clear plan of action is needed

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "We are incredibly disappointed and frustrated that, while today’s announcement offered some clarity on plans to reopen schools, there was no mention of the early years sector.  

"Nurseries, childminders and pre-schools need a clear plan of action on how they are going to be supported, both practically and financially, to re-open as lockdown eases, but as it stands, it is unclear how – or even if – they are included in the government’s proposals. 

“It is vital that the early years isn’t simply tacked onto the end of whatever plans government is making for schools. The early years is a unique sector with unique needs, and providers are going to face significant changes to the way they operate on a day-to-day basis, especially given the age of the children they care for.  

"As such, government needs to be clear how it expects childcare providers to operate during this transition period, and crucially, what financial support it plans to provide.  

“Given the Alliance’s recent survey found that one in four childcare providers felt they wouldn’t survive the year, the government simply cannot afford to drag its feet on this. The Prime Minister has said that the UK 'can be stronger and better than ever before' - but without a functioning, sustainable childcare sector, this simply won’t be possible.” 

Update - added Monday, 11 May 2020

Shortly after the Prime Minister's speech, the Department for Education tweeted: "As confirmed by the Prime Minister this evening, we are asking education and childcare settings to prepare to open for more children from 1 June. We will publish further guidance setting out more information for early years, schools and colleges tomorrow."

Useful links

Alliance slams U-turn on furlough scheme

Business Advice page: FAQs for providers

Blog: Quick Q and A: Job Retention Scheme and early years entitlement funding 

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