Coronavirus: Group of major providers calls for delayed school start for young children

The Covid-19 response group, formed by more than 70 childcare groups and the sector membership organisations, has called on the Government to allow children to delay starting Reception until January or April 2021 and to stay at their early years settings instead.

In an open letter to Government, local authorities and others, the group outlines how it feels the sector is best-placed to support Government and the economy by setting out how childcare provision can be safely and effectively reopened.

The group includes Childbase, Co-operative Childcare, All About Children, and Kids Planet. The newly-released letter and guidance was led by Sarah Mackenzie of N Family Club, Sarah Steel of Old Station Nursery and Andrew Clifford of CC Nurseries.

It argues that the Government should reinforce the existing mandatory school starting age of five for this cohort of children and that early years settings are ideally placed to support this move.

‘We are very aware of the difficulties faced by young children who will be transitioning back into settings, and for some also due to move onto primary school in just a few months, having spent in many cases a number of months away from their key attachments and familiar learning environments,’ the letter says.

A delayed start would support children’s wellbeing and relieve schools of some social distancing demands, the group says. The sector is well-placed to deliver this, it claims, because:

  • Flexibilities currently in place for the EYFS and the smaller nature of early years settings mean that transmission risks can be minimised.
  • Providers have clear guidance and accountabilities from a range of sources.
  • The sector has the ability to build on procuring key supplies such as PPE, educational materials, hygiene products and food.

Delaying school starts, the group adds, would need to be backed by:

  • Schools guaranteeing children’s Reception places
  • Local authorities funding term-time 30 hours provision using existing mechanisms and current underspends
  • Early years settings continuing to provide a rich and varied curriculum under the EYFS, which covers up to five years
  • Parents retaining a choice an paying directly for wraparound/out of school hours.

‘We want to be part of the solution as we come out of this lockdown,’ the group said. ‘We want to support schools with the transition of children by enabling them to stay at nursery for longer, we want to help employers by getting their staff back to work, and most of all ensure a smooth transition into school for all children, including the most disadvantaged who will have lost most during this lockdown.’

The group has also produced ‘Guidance for Early Years Settings – COVID-19 Site Operating Procedures’, which is intended to support providers in putting precautionary measure in place to reduce the spread of the disease. Areas covered include children, workforce, parents, visitors, travel, hygiene and health and safety, premises, supplies and responding to suspected cases.

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