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Nursery COVID News January 2022



Nurseries Have To Shutdown - Hit by Increasing Covid Cases


The government exempts under 5s from testing and self-isolation even with cases increasing as the latest Covid variant - Omicron hits the UK.


Nurseries are being forced to shut their doors as Covid-19 infections rise in childcare settings in the UK but many are angry that children aged under five who are close contacts of a positive Covid case no longer need to take a test or self-isolate, according to new government guidance and reported by Angeline Albert in daynurseries.co.uk.


While parents worry a rapidly rising number of Covid cases in childcare settings will leave them to care for children while trying to follow the government’s work from home advice, nurseries are shocked that new guidance no longer requires under-fives who are close contacts of a positive Covid case to self-isolate or even take a test.


An update to guidance from the Department for Education following the emergence of the Omicron variant (14 December), states: ‘Children under 5 years are exempt from self-isolation and do not need to take part in daily testing of close contacts.’


Previous guidance stated families with children under five were 'advised to take a PCR test' if a member of their household tested positive for a non-Omicron variant of Covid-19. Under fives were also included in the rule which stated all household contacts must isolate if they were confirmed as a close contact of a positive or suspected case of Omicron.


The lack of safety measures in place for under-fives is in contrast to guidance issued for children aged five-to 18-years-old who are required to take daily lateral flow tests for seven days instead of self-isolating.


Nursery manager: 30% of children off sick


Hannah Jennings, nursery manager at Tops Newport was nominated for an NMT award by her staff at the early years setting based at the Isle of Wight College. Ms Jennings has been honoured with the title 'Nursery Manager of the Year'.


Hannah Jennings, which usually sees 170 children at the setting, told daynurseries.co.uk: "We’ve had quite of few cases of Covid here. We’ve had about 30 per cent of our children off sick."


Referring to the guidance, she said: “It is a concern more because children are getting Covid more now. The children don’t have to isolate but it puts our staff at risk when the children don’t. Staff are taking Covid tests. Staff must still isolate and it can then affect the childcare ratios in nurseries.


“Luckily, we haven’t had to close. We’ve stayed open for the pandemic for the NHS and other key workers. I think for me it’s about getting the word out about how important the early years are.”


Parent: 'We were turned away at 8.15'


Meanwhile, a nursery in Cumbria is one of many childcare settings which have already been shut down due to a Covid outbreak caused by increasing levels of infections in childcare settings.


South Walney Infant and Nursery School shut its doors on 14 December and will remain closed until January. The setting closed at 3.15pm on Tuesday 14 December and is scheduled to re-open on 5 January.


Cumbria County Council said in a statement: ‘School has moved to remote learning for the final two days due to an outbreak of COVID 19. Public health and IPC have agreed these measures.’


Ofsted data has revealed a steep increase in the number of nurseries reporting cases of Covid-19, with 2,707 confirmed cases in the week commencing 22 November.


Many parents fear the government's actions will leave them struggling to care for young children while trying to work from home. John Potts took to Twitter to post: ‘There are lots of parental stresses and strains but few strikes fear into the soul like those three words: Nursery COVID closure’.


One mum, commenting on the closure of another nursery, tweeted: ‘Our nursery opens at 7:30 but we were turned away at 8:15 due to a positive staff test.


‘Is there not a company policy that staff should test no later than 6am so parents can be warned as early as possible about closures? And why is there not enough bank staff?‘


Mum Rachel Fisher tweeted: ‘The littlest member of the Fisher household has brought covid home from nursery. You wouldn’t know there was anything wrong with her (thankfully). Mummy on the other hand has not got off so lightly.’


Nursery leader: ‘Utterly reckless' policy 'beggars belief’


Nursery leaders have expressed their anger at the new guidance.


Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, which represents nurseries, said: “Early years settings are one of the very few places where social distancing is simply impossible.


“It beggars belief, therefore, that there could ever be any suggestion of simply removing the requirement for children aged under five who have been confirmed as close contacts of positive Covid cases to self-isolate without putting in place any alternative mitigation measures.


"Those working in the sector already feel that their safety, and that of their loved ones, is not valued by the government. We hope that this is a case of poorly written guidance, rather than utterly reckless policy-making, and urge the government to provide clarity to the early years' sector on this as a matter of priority.”





Nurseries Able To Claim Back Covid Sick Pay Costs But Are Not Entitled To Business Rates Relief


As increasing numbers of nursery staff are testing positive to Covid the government have announced that they are reintroducing the ‘Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS)’ for small and medium-sized early years settings to be able to reclaim sick pay costs.


As increasing numbers of Covid-19 cases mean more nursery workers will need to take time off work, the government is reintroducing the Statutory Sick Pay Rebate Scheme (SSPRS) to refund small and medium-sized early years settings reported by Jill Rennie in daynurseries.co.uk.


Employers will be able to claim the costs for Covid related absences from 21 December 2021 onwards.


While the Early Years Alliance and the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) welcomed the news, they are concerned that Chancellor Rishi Sunak’s introduction of a new grant scheme to support businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors has not included the early years sector and are calling on the government to support the providers “financially and practically… if we are to come out from this pandemic.”


Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “We are concerned to see yet again, early years providers are falling through large holes in government support schemes on offer to both the education sector, and to businesses.


“Not only are these latest grants focussed on leisure, retail, hospitality and culture, but the government has also declined to include pre-schools and nurseries in the extended business rates holiday.


“If we are to come out of this pandemic, and indeed this winter wave, with our fantastic early years sector still intact, providers must be properly supported – financially and practically, and as both businesses and essential education settings – to ensure they can continue to deliver the early education and care that children need and families rely on.”


The government say the rise of the Omicron variant means some businesses are likely to struggle over the coming weeks. Therefore, the government is providing one-off grants of up to £6,000 per premises for businesses in the hospitality and leisure sectors in England.


Around 200,000 businesses will be eligible for business grants which will be administered by local authorities and will be available in the coming weeks.


Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of NDNA, said: “Today’s announcement is important for thousands of businesses badly impacted by rising numbers of Covid-19 cases – but this money must also support early years providers who are also really struggling.


“Recent data shows cases affecting nurseries are at their highest levels since reporting began. This affects both staffing numbers and children able to attend – which in turn hits income for nurseries and other providers.


“Now is the wrong time to remove business rates relief, which will add average costs of £12,600, for nurseries across England who are still reeling from the impact of the pandemic. Early years providers need more support to remain sustainable, not less.”


You can find out more about the government's support package here:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/covid-19-economic-support-package


Nursery Age Children Living In Pandemic Struggling With Social Skills


Nurseries settings are reporting that children who have lived through the pandemic lockdowns are now struggling with a range of social skills which are learned and practised in their early years.


Nurseries say two and three-year-old children are struggling with social skills like sharing and taking turns, as the pandemic has meant some had never experienced sharing before, however, early years settings are described as "making a difference".Reported by Angeline Albert in daynurseries.co.uk.


Credit: AlohaHawaii/ Shutterstock

Education watchdog Ofsted has revealed children of this age have struggled more than this age group had pre-pandemic, according to its inspections of 77 early years providers between 1-19 November.


Two-year-olds who have spent almost 80 per cent of their life in the Covid pandemic and those aged 18 months who have lived their whole life in it are displaying different characteristics to those who started attending early years settings before the pandemic.


'More wary, shyer, quieter' children


Lockdowns and reduced availability of parent and toddler groups resulted in these children having a lack of interaction (beyond their own close family). Inspectors also found that the language and communication skills of children born in the pandemic were not as strong as those that nurseries had cared for in the past.


With limited social interaction at home during the pandemic, children struggled to settle with unfamiliar people, were warier, shyer, quieter, and some were overwhelmed in larger groups.


However, findings published in Ofsted’s report ‘Education recovery in early years providers: autumn 2021’ also revealed children soon grew in confidence in nurseries and became more comfortable. Ofsted reports that this ‘suggests that there is no long-term negative impact on children’s ability to settle into childcare’.


Nurseries focus on language and physical development


Many early years providers prioritised communication, language and physical development as a key part of learning, as a result of the pandemic ‘as this is where they had identified that children have been affected the most’.


For example, one provider re-introduced group snack-time, where staff encouraged children to listen to each other and take turns in conversation. Another provider extended its opening hours so that staff could spend more time with children and address gaps in learning.


Nurseries also focused on children’s physical development. They did not feel children were now behind in their fine motor skills and more early years settings concentrated on developing children’s gross motor skills. This was often outside, as they knew some children did not have access to outdoor space during lockdowns.


Nurseries encouraged children to grow in confidence by using a variety of play equipment such as larger slides, more climbing equipment, bikes etc. They also went on local walks, used Forest School provision and organised ‘structured sports’ such as cricket, rounders, football and mini athletics.


Despite pandemic, nurseries are 'making a difference'


Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “Since the evidence was gathered for this report in autumn, we have seen the numbers of cases shoot up rapidly in the community and that is now seriously impacting nurseries.


“This report from a small sample of inspections in November highlights the challenges still being experienced by our young children and the providers who are supporting their development and learning.


“Despite the pandemic conditions, nurseries are carrying out innovative and dedicated work and really making a difference for our children.”


Much early years provision has been open since June 2020, including during the national lockdown at the start of 2021. Attendance at nurseries was described as good by Ofsted for Autumn 2021 but the watchdog also revealed that nurseries had highlighted that the challenges of working in a pandemic had affected staff’s well-being. Some felt the increased emotional support that children needed had particularly caused strain on early years staff.


Ofsted has currently halted all nursery inspections due to the threat posed by the Omicron variant and the rising number of Covid cases in nurseries.


The chief executive of the NDNA has called for early years settings to be “at the centre of educational recovery spending”.


“Unfortunately, we are heading into another difficult time of uncertainty during which the wellbeing of children and early years staff is paramount. We welcome the fact that inspections have been paused, but when they resume it’s important that inspectors take the huge challenges settings are facing into account and evaluate settings fairly.”




Nursery Age Children Living In Pandemic Have Lost Their Physical Confidence


Ofsted has reported that nursery age children who have lived through the pandemic lockdowns are now showing the impact of it in their early year’s social, mental and physical development milestones.


Nearly 'every child felt the impact' of the coronavirus pandemic due to lockdowns, restrictions and lack of socialisation, with some children developing ‘physical and mental health problems,’ according to the latest annual Ofsted report. Article written by Jill Rennie in daynurseries.co.uk.


Nearly half of the childcare providers interviewed by Ofsted found children’s personal, social and emotional development had fallen behind.


Inspectors also found a disparity in children’s physical development. Some children were able to access outdoor space but nurseries revealed that many children who had less access to outdoor space had lost their physical confidence.


'For example, some were more hesitant about jumping off play equipment. As such, many providers took to using outdoor areas more frequently, promoting physical skills and stimulating more imaginative play during this period,' said the report.


Launching the Ofsted annual report for 2020-21, Chief Inspector, Amanda Spielman, said: “The education and social care sectors have been under tremendous strain since the pandemic began and their staff have worked tirelessly in children’s interests.


“Their efforts deserve the highest praise. But the challenges of Covid-19 were so great that nearly every child has felt the impact of the resulting restrictions.”


She added: "Many of the youngest children had their development and progress hampered, with some even regressing. Given the vital importance to children of a good start in life and the learning potential of the youngest children, this must not be overlooked."


Ofsted found most early years providers adapted their daily routines to give more time to emotional well-being, health and self-care, with many spending time teaching children about personal hygiene and independent self-care. Some adapted their curriculum in response to changes in children’s needs, refocusing the curriculum on areas in which children had fallen behind, for example, mathematics and communication.


Childcare providers reported that some children were angry, some had shorter attention spans and were more difficult to engage, and some were less inquisitive. However, behaviour improved during the autumn term and most children were able to adapt to a learning pattern and more easily engage with activities.


It wasn't just the children who were affected by the pandemic. Early years staff were more stressed and felt their work was more difficult than before the pandemic, according to Ofsted.


'Early years educators went out of their way to support children and keep them safe during the pandemic'


Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “This Ofsted report rightly acknowledges the key role that early years settings and their workforce have played in supporting our youngest children.


“We are hearing from early years providers how they have worked with children who have displayed challenging behaviours at nursery. Their wellbeing and support with their language skills and personal, social and emotional development have been critical.”


Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: "As the report says, early years educators went out of their way to support children and keep them safe during the pandemic – crucially, the government must now repay that hard work and care with proper support for this sector, to ensure it can continue to deliver the early education that every child needs and deserves, more now than ever before."


'It is vital inspectors recognise the challenges nurseries still face'


The report highlights that 97 per cent of all early years providers were judged either good or outstanding at their most recent inspection. There are around 71,000 early years and childcare providers registered with Ofsted. Of these, around 55,700 are registered on the Early Years Register and provide care and education for children aged between birth and five years old.


However, the education watchdog also shows a net decrease of around 4,360 providers between 1 September 2020 and 31 August 2021 highlighting how “challenging this period has been” seeing the largest drop in the number of providers in six years.


The report shows providers operated with fewer children on roll during the autumn term. Providers in the most deprived areas, as well as those in London and the West Midlands, reported the lowest take-up of places.


Providers were concerned about the financial implications for their businesses as they face a longer-term fall in demand. Almost half of providers said they had financial difficulties and faced absorbing additional costs alongside reduced income.


Concern over reduced attendance in early years settings


Ms Tanuku said: “It’s a great tribute to our nurseries that despite the negative impacts from the pandemic, 97 per cent are still judged as being good or outstanding.


"It is testament to the dedication of early years educators in this country that 97 per cent of settings on the early years register are rated good or outstanding for the quality provision they offer young children - and that dedication has been proven throughout this very difficult year.


“However, we are concerned by the trend in recent inspections. It is vital inspectors recognise the challenges nurseries still face and the stress staff are under on a daily basis. Due to ongoing measures and staff absences, nurseries are very different places compared to pre-pandemic times.


“Children must be at the heart of educational recovery efforts, starting with early years. That’s why we need to see a clear reform of the early education and care policy and a funding system that is built to deliver this.”


Mr Leitch said it was "concerning" to see attendance in early years settings remain lower than before the pandemic, with more deprived areas the worst affected. He said: "More children are missing out on essential early education, including many of those who stand to benefit the most.


“The loss of places and providers from the Ofsted register highlights how challenging this period has been, seeing the largest drop in the number of providers in recent years. This is exactly what we warned about earlier this year, with closures disproportionately affecting areas with higher deprivation and lower funding rates."

You can read the full report here:

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1038508/Ofsted_Annual_Report_2020_to_2021.pdf




On a lighter note……in recent Nursery News


A Banksy Style Mural on Nurseries Wall


A nursery school and its parents in Greater Manchester have been surprised and delighted with a Banksy style mural appearing on their wall overnight.


Children and staff at a nursery in Greater Manchester have been shocked to find a Banksy-like mural appearing mysteriously on their building’s wall overnight, reported by Angeline Albert in daynurseries.co.uk.


Mural on nursery wall by artist Mr Eggs Credit: Sunflower Day Nursery

The artwork, which shows a little girl holding a watering can to give a yellow flower a drink, has been likened to images created by the artist Banksy.


Staff at Sunflower Day Nursery first spotted the mural when they arrived for work on 13 December and have since identified the artwork as the creation of a Manchester street artist known as Mr Eggz.


Artist Mr Eggz posted an image of his creation on his Instagram page.


Writing on his Instagram account, Mr Eggz describes himself as ‘a Salford based dude that doesn’t do much, but when I do I annoy folk.’


But nursery staff dispute the artist’s description of himself as ‘annoying folk’ and are thankful the artist picked their nursery building (which is owned by the nursery's owner) for his latest creation.


Nursery manager Amanda Ellis told daynurseries.co.uk that the mural has not just generated a fan club amongst staff, the children and parents, but is now attracting lots of interest from the general public with people stopping to stare at it.


“My deputy first spotted the mural. Lots of school children have been coming to see the artwork.


"It is on the wall outside my office and when I look out of my window I see people staring at it.


"It’s great for the community especially during the pandemic.”


The nursery cares for children aged from three months to five years old.


Speaking about the threat from Covid variant Omicron, rising cases of infections in nurseries and the impact of the pandemic on the nursery, Ms Ellis said: “We don’t know whether we’re coming or going with the [covid] regulations changing all the time.


"All we can do is follow the guidance.”


Flowers Day Nursery Update


The Flowers dedicated team are committed to working with and caring for our children during these uncertain times.


We are taking all precautions necessary and following the government’s advice when it comes to minimising the risk of coronavirus within our nursery including:

  • Every consideration is being made and continually reviewed in how we manage our day to day running of our nursery to minimise and reduce the risk of transmission at our setting

  • We are ensuring staff and children follow good hand and respiratory hygiene practices

  • We are maintaining effective and regular cleaning regimes

  • We are keeping occupied spaces well ventilated

  • We are following public health advice on testing, self-isolation and managing confirmed cases of COVID-19

  • We are asking that no staff members who have tested positive, have symptoms of COVID-19 or anyone who should be self-isolating attend our setting

  • We are asking that children who are unwell with core COVID-19 symptoms do not attend the setting until they feel better and have no symptoms

  • We are asking that our team take up the LFD testing offer as well as being fully vaccinated


You can find out more here:

https://gov.wales/guidance-childcare-and-playwork-coronavirus-html














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