Government confirms home testing rollout for PVI nurseries and pre-schools
By Rachel Lawler
The government has confirmed that asymptomatic home testing kits will be made available to private, voluntary and independent (PVI) nurseries and pre-schools in England from 22 March.
The tests are to be used by setting staff twice a week at home.
However, the Department for Education (DfE) has yet to confirm details of any planned rollout of home testing kits for registered childminders, who as it stands have been advised to continue using community testing centres.
The Alliance is in urgent discussions with the DfE on ensuring that the whole sector has access to these vital tests.
Commenting on the announcement, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: "After months of sector lobbying, today's announcement will come as welcome, though long overdue, news for private and voluntary nurseries and pre-schools - though many will be understandably frustrated that they will have to wait a full month for this change to come into effect.
"It is completely unacceptable, however, that there is still no information on when - or even if - home testing kits will be available to registered childminders in England.
“Like their nursery and pre-school colleagues, childminders have continued to provide vital care and education in close-contact environments during the most worrying period of the pandemic. Given that childminders care for young children in their own homes, and the direct risk this places not just on them but also on members of their households, there is no excuse for excluding them from this latest rollout.
"As the number of Covid reports from early years settings continues to rise, it's clear that the whole sector, without exception, must have access to home testing kits as soon as possible. As an emergency interim measure, we at the Alliance have asked government to work with us to develop a system allowing home tests for childminders to be distributed safely via local group settings.
"At every stage of this crisis, PVI early years providers have had to fight to get the support they need to continue operating as safely as possible. It is incredibly disappointing that what should been a positive announcement for the sector has been undermined by more unequal treatment of hard-working early years professionals.
"What's more, we know that asymptomatic testing is just one important step in protecting the early years workforce. Priority access to vaccinations remains crucial to safeguarding everyone working as a childminder or in a nursery or pre-school. We therefore continue to call on government and the JCVI to ensure all those who work in the early years get this vital protection as part of Phase 2 of the vaccination delivery plan.”