EARLY Years workers have been ‘thrown under the Covid bus’ according to a senior figure in the industry.

When Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the national lockdown on Monday, schools closed and moved to remote learning.

However, Early Years settings remained open in a decision which has divided workers.

Kate Barlow is the chair of governors at the ACE Centre Nursery in Chipping Norton.

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She said: “I was flabbergasted by the decision, it was almost like all Early Years workers were picked up and thrown under the Covid bus without a clear scientific explanation.

“All Early Years workers are alongside the age group dubbed ‘the super-spreaders’ and that’s no fault of the children as they are young and don’t understand all hygiene issues.

“The decision was driven by workforce considerations, which I get is important but at the same time we have to keep people safe and the decision was not made with the health of Early Years workers in mind.

“We will always look after the vulnerable and workers of key children, and the nursery school team has delivered an excellent package of resources in the previous lockdowns.

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“We had some incredible feedback from parents on this – they felt well-supported and that their children were also well-supported.

“I would say that would be a better choice this time around – to offer remote learning to the children.

“The number of cases in Early Years settings was really small in June and July, like a lot of places, but it leapt up in the autumn.”

Indeed, Ofsted data shows that from the week commencing November 16, there were 829 reported cases of Covid-19 in Early Years and childcare settings.

“In December, that figure was still in the 500s and we know what the new variant has been doing since then,” said Ms Barlow.

“Also, we know a lot of people will have bent and broke the rule over Christmas and we still haven’t seen the full effect of that.”

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However, Rebecca Warner, proprietor at Little Troopers Day Nursery in Cowley said remaining open was a positive decision.

She said: “I’m very glad that we stayed open – we can safeguard the children and care for their needs while parents of all types, including frontline, critical and key workers, continue to work.

“We put in safety measures as early as January last year and we risk assess these regularly.

“I understand some Early Years workers are concerned but it’s not feasible for us to go online.

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“The age group of these children is key in their development and any closures would be detrimental.

“There is a fear this pandemic could well be around for the next 18 months so we have to adapt to that.

“We feel very positive about being open, however should we voluntarily close, we would get no financial support.

“The only thing we would ask of Government is for financial support if we were to close due to a case.”

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