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Michael Gove says early years providers remain open to "support key workers"

By Rachel Lawlermichael gove nurseries

Cabinet minister Michael Gove told viewers on BBC Breakfast yesterday morning that that early years providers were being kept open to provide childcare for key workers, despite the fact that nurseries and childminders are being asked to stay open to all children.

Gove said: "We believe that it’s important to continue to provide childcare and the judgement that we’ve made is that by making sure that childcare can still be provided, we can ensure that some of the people whose work is so vital to getting us out of this lockdown: doctors, nurses and others, can continue to do their work."

A 'political' decision?
BBC Breakfast also included an interview with Professor Calum Semple, a virologist and SAGE member, who when asked if he could explain why early years settings are remaining open, said "No, I can't" and that the decision to do so may be "political" as "it's not a scientific one".

When asked if he could explain why early years providers were being asked to remain open to all children, Semple said: "No I can’t. The reality is that under these circumstances, every opportunity to remove social mixing and work mixing of human beings is vitally important. So if a political decision has been made here to keep nurseries open in order to keep essential staff at work, then that could be tempered by restricting the nursery capacities to those essential workers.

"But if we’ve gone to the point of closing the universities, secondary schools and primary schools on the ground of public health, then I would be looking to close all other non-essential activities. And it may be that a political decision has been made here that nurseries are essential but it’s not a scientific one."

Provider concerns
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "It beggars belief that the government still isn't able to answer one critical question: if it is too dangerous for schools to remain open, how can it be safe for early years providers to do so?

"During an interview this morning, Michael Gove argued that childcare was needed to enable key workers to continue to work - but nurseries and childminders have been asked to stay open to all children, not just those of critical workers. How can it be that a senior minister doesn't even understand what the government is actually asking early years providers to do?

"Many of those working in the early years feel terrified and abandoned by the government. They are being asked to remain on the frontline during the most worrying period of a global pandemic with no PPE, no testing and no access to vaccinations.

"Add to this the fact that the government is providing minimal financial support to help providers get through this incredibly difficult period and it's hard to think of many other sectors that have been asked to do so much while being been treated with such disdain.

"The early years cannot be treated as an afterthought. We need protection, we need financial support and we need the appalling treatment of our sector to end once and for all."