Petition Shut all nurseries and early years settings during lockdown
Urgent call for the government to close all nurseries and early years settings in light of the new lockdown to protect early years staff.
Parliament debated this topic
This topic was debated on 22 March 2021
This response was given on 26 January 2021
The wider restrictions in place as part of the national lockdown to contain the spread of the virus in the community enable us to continue prioritising keeping nurseries and early years settings open.
Read the response in full
We continue to prioritise keeping early years settings open for three main reasons. Firstly early education gives children the communication and social skills which set them up for life. You cannot care for a very small child online and you can’t get those months back. Secondly, our PHE advice remains that young children are less susceptible to the virus and play a lower role in transmission, usually because young children have lower contact outside their household. And thirdly, the evidence at the moment is that the confirmed case rates of COVID amongst the very youngest children are the lowest of all age groups.
Keeping children and staff safe is our utmost priority. The reason schools have been restricted is not that they are unsafe but because additional measures are needed to contain the spread of the virus. The wider significant restrictions in place as part of the national lockdown to contain the spread of the virus in the community enable us to continue prioritising keeping nurseries and childminders open, supporting parents and delivering the crucial care and education needed for our youngest children.
Early years settings remain low risk environments for children and staff. Current evidence suggests that pre-school children (0<5 years) are less susceptible to infection and are unlikely to be playing a driving role in transmission. There is no evidence the new strain of the virus causes more serious illness in children and there is no evidence that the new variant of coronavirus (COVID-19) disproportionately affects young children.
PHE advice remains that the risk of transmission and infection is low if early years settings follow the system of controls, which reduce risks and create inherently safer environments.
Early years settings have been open to all children since 1 June 2020 and there is no evidence that the early years sector has contributed to a significant rise in virus cases within the community. Early modelling evidence from SAGE showed that early years provision had a smaller relative impact on transmission rate when modelled with both primary schools and secondary schools.
Early years childcare providers were one of the first sectors to have restrictions lifted last summer, in recognition of the key role they play in society. Childminders and nursery staff across the country have worked hard to keep settings open through the pandemic so that young children can be educated, and parents can work. The earliest years are the most crucial point of child development and attending early education lays the foundation for lifelong learning and supports children’s social and emotional development.
Department for Education