Coronavirus: First figures show 65,000 children going to early years settings

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Around 65,000 children are currently attending early years settings, according to Department for Education research ­– about four per cent of the number who usually attend in term time.

An estimated 22,000 settings are open, which represents 26 per cent of all settings, with 45 per cent closed and 30 per cent unknown.

The DfE is sending online surveys to local authorities so that they can report on attendance at early years provision remaining open during the Covid-19 pandemic. The first data is for Thursday 16 April and figures will be published on a weekly basis. The response rate for the first survey was 87 per cent.

Of the 65,000 children going to early years provision, the DfE estimates that 59,000 are children of critical workers and 6,000 are vulnerable children.

Schools have been reporting attendance on a daily basis. Around 3 per cent of children attended on 23 March, the first day of official closure of schools, but this has since fallen to around 1 per cent or 84,000 children on 17 April. About 61 per cent of schools, 15,100 establishments, are open to children who qualify for a place.

Liz Bayram, PACEY Chief Executive, said, ‘Both the settings that have closed and those that remain open are playing a vital part in the battle to beat Covid-19, but it is coming at a significant cost to them, their staff as well as the families who used to rely on them to balance work and home.

‘We remain acutely concerned that the current support from government will not be enough to help many of these settings to survive this pandemic and believe more needs to be done to ensure the financial pressure childcare providers are experiencing now doesn’t lead to permanent closure.

‘We also need government to start to think through how it wants the sector to prepare for life after lockdown, especially if we are facing a phased return to work. This will heap additional pressure on to the sector as it is likely to lead to reduced need for its services over the summer and in the run-up to the critical September period when many families make new childcare arrangements as children start school or early education for the first time.

‘Whilst government support during May and June is important, the childcare sector will not simply bounce back over the summer without significant support to help it prepare and navigate what may be a complex transition period.’

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