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Restricting attendance during the national lockdown

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A message from NAHT general secretary Paul Whiteman to maintained nursery school members.

Thank you to all of you who attended our maintained nursery school webinar earlier this week.

As I’m sure you will have seen, yesterday the government published its updated guidance following the announcement of a national lockdown on Monday evening.

Our view is that the guidance fails to answer the vital questions we, along with others in the sector, have been asking the government. Along with many other organisations, we have asked the government to explain why it is taking a different approach in the early years to primary. We have also been asking about the crucial issue of funding. Neither of these is addressed satisfactorily in the guidance.

The government has put leaders in maintained nursery schools in an invidious if not impossible position.

We are aware from our communications that many of you are already working closely with your local authorities, and I am sure you will want to continue to do so in the coming days.

Today, on behalf of our members in maintained nursery schools, I have written to Vicky Ford, the minister with responsibility for early years, to ask for urgent answers on attendance, safety and funding. You can read that letter in full here. We will let you know what response we receive.

We have followed-up our recent legal action with a further letter seeking information about the scientific evidence used to inform the decision to keep early years settings open.

We have also been made aware that on Tuesday 12 January there will be a Westminster Hall debate in parliament on the effect of the covid-19 outbreak on early years settings. I know just how busy you will be now, but I want to draw your attention to this because you may want to consider writing to your MP and asking them to support your school during this debate. You can find details on how to contact your MP here. Any specific information you can provide them concerning your school’s current situation and the potential funding implications would be particularly useful.

Finally, in terms of our immediate advice to you: the position remains that you can only open your nursery insofar as your risk assessment suggests it is safe to do so. For example, that means that a reduction in staffing numbers may leave you with no option other than to keep numbers reduced. I know from the webinar that this does not solve the problem and challenges many of you are facing, and the funding situation has created a dreadful catch-22 for many of you. For that reason, we are continuing to pursue both the issue of safety and funding with the government.

We aim to keep you as updated as possible on this work.

First published 08 January 2021