This is when nurseries could reopen in England - according to government plans

Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 4:05 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th May 2020, 4:16 pm
Rainbows drawn by young children have become a symbol of the coronavirus pandemic (Getty Images)
Rainbows drawn by young children have become a symbol of the coronavirus pandemic (Getty Images)

Boris Johnson underlined his desire for children to return to schools and nurseries before the Summer holidays.

A document released a day after the Prime Minister’s speech went some way to fleshing out the government’s goals, detailing plans for early years institutions as well as primary and senior schools, with the aim for some children to return to school before the summer holidays for a month "if feasible".

The Department of Education will engage with schools and early years providers to develop further detail and guidance on how schools should facilitate this.

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When could nurseries return in England?

Early years attendees could start returning to nurseries in England from June 1, so long as the rate of infection stays well below 1.

The Government is aiming for all primary school pupils to go back for a month before summer, though it is unclear if this applies to nursery pupils.

How long have nurseries been closed?

Schools, colleges and nurseries closed seven weeks ago on March 20 due to the coronavirus outbreak.

They have remained open only for vulnerable youngsters and the children of key workers.

Mr Johnson said: "If we can't do it by those dates, and if the alert level won't allow it, we will simply wait and go on until we have got it right.”

"If there are problems we will not hesitate to put on the brakes."

What could social distancing look like at nurseries?

For now government detail on social distancing in early years settings is minimal.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson did outline some measures that could be implemented at nurseries, primary schools and senior schools.

These were: – reducing the size of classes and keeping children in small groups without mixing with others

- staggered break and lunch times, as well as drop offs and pick ups

- increasing the frequency of cleaning, reducing the used of shared items and utilising outdoor space

The Prime Minister had previously said that class sized could be reduced to 15.

Which other rules have been implemented for young children?

The government’s plan said that face coverings should not be used by children under the age of two, or by primary school-age children unassisted.

The strategy also encouraged local authorities and schools to urge more vulnerable children, as well as the children of critical workers, to attend school as there is a "large societal benefit".

The Government is also amending its guidance to clarify that paid childcare, such as nannies and childminders, can take place subject to being able to meet its key public health principles.

Criticism of government guidance

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said that publishing a "vague outline of a strategy" before any detailed guidance is available for childcare providers is "unhelpful" for a sector already under pressure.

He said: "Nurseries, pre-schools and childminders need a clear plan of action on how they are going to be supported, both practically and financially, to reopen as lockdown eases.

"While the road map states that the Government expects children to be able to return to early years settings from June 1 - and for childminders, from as early as this week - the sector urgently needs more detail on exactly how this is expected to work in practice."

Mr Leitch added: "Early years providers are going to face significant changes to the way they operate on a day-to-day basis, including a likely reduction in the demand for childcare places as some parents opt to keep their children home rather than returning to their settings.

"As such, Government urgently needs to outline what steps it is planning to take to ensure that providers are able to remain financially sustainable during this period, as well as how it will ensure that both practitioners and the families they care for can best be kept safe."