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NEWS: Research examines impact of the pandemic on the early years

As part of the latest of a series of impact briefs from the Sutton Trust states that "Nurseries, childminders and pre-schools are facing major financial uncertainty in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, with many unsure as to whether they’ll still be able to operate next year." The brief looked at the immediate effects of the crisis on the early years and the children and families they serve. 

Key findings include:

  • Of those who closed during the height of the pandemic, 20% are expecting to still be shut and 15% are uncertain about whether they would reopen at all.
  • Nearly 70% of providers in deprived areas expect to have to operate at a loss for the next six months with 42% of settings anticipated making redundancies.
  • Many settings could close permanently due to financial difficulties.
  • Parents (45%) worried about impact of lockdown on young children’s social and emotional development.

Recommendations from the research include:

  • An £88 package of support for early years, including transition funding to protect early years providers in the coming months while they are facing the cost of being fully open, but unlikely to reach full capacity.
  • A one-off boost to Early Years Pupil Premium funding for the next year, to support nurseries and pre-schools, particularly those in deprived areas, to provide more direct support for parents in terms of the home learning environment and the healthy development of their children. 

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive at the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years commented:
“The Sutton Trust’s report makes for depressing but familiar reading. It shines a light on the thousands of livelihood currently under threat in childcare and early years. No working parent can be without childcare; no child should be without the quality early education that childminders, pre-schools and nurseries provide but Covid-19 is threatening to take this all way. We have members who have already closed their childminding setting or nursery and many more who are worried this may be the future that they face. The fact the report highlights that almost 70 per cent of providers expect to have to operate at a loss for the next six months is a wake-up call for this Government.

“PACEY has been urging DfE and HM Treasury to provide transformation funding for the sector for months now, so that early years and childcare settings – considered key services during the crisis that had to remain open for critical workers and vulnerable – have the funds they need to overcome the impact of this pandemic. This is urgent now. We are frustrated that our concerns haven’t been taken more seriously. Simply continuing to provide the low level of funding for early education places is not enough and reducing furlough support is placing real pressure on already underfunded services. When I see that zoos and aquariums have received additional funding but not the vital infrastructure that will be key to closing the disadvantaged gap so many children are now facing and essential to supporting our economic recovery, I have to ask what is going wrong?”

Read the full report here.