Alliance criticises lack of clarity for early years as education bubbles are scrapped
By Rachel Lawler
The Alliance has criticised the government over the lack of clarity for early years providers as the government provides an update on the rules for the education sector as the country moves towards the next stage of the government's Covid-19 roadmap.
Speaking in Parliament, education secretary Gavin Williamson said that the 'bubble' system used in schools and early years settings would come to an end on 19 July. He also said that the need for staggered start times and face masks would also end before September 2021.
Self-isolation for close contacts
The update comes shortly after the health secretary Sajid Javid said that children under 18 would no longer need to self-isolate unless they tested positive for Covid-19 from 16 August.
The government has also said that early years providers and schools will no longer need to carry out routine contact tracing from 16 August.
Instead, Williamson said that children who have been in close contact with a positive case "will be contacted by NHS Test and Trace" and asked to take a PCR test - it is not yet clear how this will apply to children in the early years.
Focus on schools
Commenting, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Alliance, commented: "We know that many early years providers have struggled to cope with the impact of repeated bubble closures due to self-isolation rules over recent months, and so steps taken to ease this pressure are welcome.
"That said, the safety and wellbeing of the early years workforce and the children in their care must always be a priority – and once again, the education secretary’s focus on schools and colleges has meant that the guidance for the early years sector is severely lacking.
"While testing for pupils is already a regular part of secondary school and college life, this is not the case for children in early years settings, and with young children often presenting no or atypical symptoms, many in the sector will feel understandably nervous about these proposed changes.
"With many younger early years staff yet to be fully vaccinated, and cases in early years settings rising once again, it is vital that any steps to ease restrictions on providers are balanced with measures to ensure that early years environments remain as safe as possible.
"We all want to return to normal as soon as possible, and to stop what has felt like endless disruption to the delivery of vital childcare and early education services, but those working on the frontline need to feel confident this is being done safely. Unlike schools, many early years providers operate across the summer holidays – as such, we urge the government to provide greater clarity for our sector on how these changes will work in practice as soon as possible."