Nurseries should be viewed as schools and vaccinated as a priority for workers, the union says.
The largest union in Britain has called for nurseries to be closed to most children in order to raise pressure on ministers to provide scientific proof that they can stay open safely.
The Unison Union said all children, except poor children and key children, should be closed to kindergartens and preschools because workers and local communities are at risk.
On Monday, as he announced a third national lockdown for England, including the closure of all primary and secondary schools, the prime minister described schools as “vectors of transmission”
Unison said that nurseries should be handled the same as schools as at the first closure, and that priorities for vaccines and mass testing should be given to early-year workers.
In a letter to her Conservative counterpart, Tulip Siddiq, the shadow minister for children and early years, reiterated the union’s fears, urging Vicky Ford to “set out clearly and in detail the scientific basis for the decision.”
If infection rates increase across the country, she said, many nursery workers, child care workers and nannies will fear for their safety.
She also called on the government to contribute to routine nursery workers testing and additional PPE.
As parents keep their children at home for safety reasons or financial pressure, demand for kindergartens and preschools has plummeted during the pandemic. Although funding equal to the number of children attending before the pandemic was given by the government, enabling several kindergartens to remain afloat, the policy was discontinued this month.
Siddiq pointed to the financial problems faced by the industry as a result and called for more funding. “She warned that during the previous closure, many kindergartens were operating at a “major loss” and that the new restrictions could “wipe out much of the childcare demand.
She urged the government to rethink the “misguided decision to change early years funding” and said that continuing the measure will mean “the death knell for many nurseries and childcare businesses.”
Neil Leitch, the Early Years Alliance’s executive director, said many staff are incredibly willing to keep working. He said, “It’s simply unacceptable that the government has yet to provide clear scientific evidence about the risk of the new Covid strain, not just to children, but to providers and their families.”
“Jon Richards, head of education at Unison, said, “For young children, social distancing is difficult, and the government has yet to publish scientific evidence to support treating nurseries differently from schools. It seems that the decision was taken with no concern for the health and welfare of employees.
Ministers, as they did during the first lockdown, ought to handle nurseries the same as classrooms.
For immunizations and mass testing, staff must be prioritized.
“A spokesman for the Department of Education said daycares remained “low-risk environments for children and employees,” adding, “Keeping daycares and childcare workers open would help parents and provide our youngest children with essential care and education. We will finance nurseries as normal and all kids in all parts of England will be able to attend their daycare. If nurseries see a reduction in revenue, whether from fees charged by parents or from income from DfE, they may use the system of exemption.