Joint letter from the Leader & Deputy Leader on Early Years settings
Dear Secretary of State,
We are writing to you with grave concerns about the impact of the most recent Coronavirus guidance for Early Years settings and nurseries given our shared ambition to ensure children and families continue to be supported as effectively as possible in these very challenging times.
There are three areas where we are keen to see clarity from your Department and where officers in Haringey would be happy to work with you on the detail.
The first is in policy. At the moment, the guidance from your Department states that early years settings should remain open for all young children. As recently as today, however, the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty has stated on national media that the reason nursery schools are open is to allow people who need to go to work or need to do particular activities to do so.
This highlights a tension in the rationale for early years settings being open which needs to be resolved urgently - we need to see clarity from you and the Department so that settings are clear for which children they are open and why. We would like to see a clear and realistic policy with a focus on settings being open only for vulnerable and critical worker children.
The second is in the area of funding. It is currently the case that settings that have to close, or see vastly smaller numbers of children in attendance due to parental choice, or that elect to deliver to reduced numbers of children, for example focusing on vulnerable or critical worker children, will experience a reduction in funding as they will not be providing nursery places.
This anticipated reduction in funding places early years settings in a precarious financial position which for many will be devastating. We are dismayed that the Department, unlike in previous phases of the pandemic, appears to have chosen not to protect the early years sector, a decision which we see as short sighted given the need to nurture and grow the economy in future months. Many nurseries have seen this as a threat to their very survival.
The third is the long-term viability of the early years sector. Already, many settings are struggling to adjust to changes in demand and funding, to manage the operational requirements of responding safely to the pandemic; and to support their workforce and the families which rely on them. It is undoubtedly the case that any future economic recovery will be built on a stable and capable early years sector which can assure effective early years education and childcare for the nation. Ensuring that funding is available to the sector now will help to build the capability for the future.
Our straightforward suggestion is for funding for this term to reflect the funding in place for the sector in the Spring term 2020 - that is, for settings to experience a continuation of the approach to protecting the sector seen in the last Autumn Term. At a time when cases and deaths, sadly, are at an all-time high this request is reasonable - allowing the sector both to cater for those who remain in need of childcare as a priority and to build for the future demands of an improving economy.
Our early years practitioners and nursery staff have worked extremely hard throughout the pandemic to provide education and stability for children and support for their family including the most vulnerable. We in turn must now support them.
We look forward to your response.
Cllr Joseph Ejiofor,
Leader of the Council.
Cllr Kaushika Amin,
Deputy Leader of the Council and Cabinet Member for Children, Education & Families.
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