Nurseries impacted by coronavirus ‘probably struggling’ beforehand says County education head

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The head of education at Essex County Council (ECC) has warned of nursery closures due to the epidemic lockdown and said those impacted were “probably struggling” beforehand.

The warning from Clare Kershaw, director of education at ECC, comes after a national survey of more than 3,000 nurseries, pre-schools and childminders by the Early Years Alliance, indicating that one in four say they will have to close permanently within the next 12 months due to financial problems.

But while Ms Kershaw told a people and families policy and scrutiny meeting on Thursday May 14 that the council is working hard to ensure nurseries will be able to operate when the lockdown is relaxed for schools on June 1, she was unable to say every one will reopen.

She added: “We have done as much as we possibly can. Can I categorically guarantee that every childcare setting will be able to survive the lockdown – probably not .

“But we hope the majority will be able to return.

“Those that have been impacted more adversely were those probably struggling before all this happened and we know that was the case for most businesses that were not strong before and this has really had an adverse impact.”

There are around 800 nurseries or preschools in Essex – the total number of childminders, nannies, pre-school, day nurseries, out of hours schools care and schools with a nursery totals more than 2,000.

The committee heard that many early years providers felt that the numbers of children they needed to support were very low and they would then furlough the staff.

Ms Kershaw added: “We are continuing to provide free entitlement funding to all nurseries certainly for the first half of this summer term irrespective whether or not they are open or closed, recognising that when they are released from lockdown we will need our early years sector back operating.”

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Piers Meyler

Local Democracy Reporter