With thousands of young children in England able to go back to their early years and childcare setting from Monday, research from the Professional Association for Childcare and Early Years (PACEY) reveals that only four out of ten parents will be doing so next week.
Of the 1,000 parents of 1-6 year olds surveyed, 48% said they are either not planning on sending their child back to a childcare setting or haven’t yet decided, meaning thousands of childcare providers could potentially open to significantly reduced numbers of children.
Parents based their decision primarily on health and financial worries. 60% said they were concerned about their child’s health and 70% cited concerns that social distancing measures can’t be enforced with children.
For 17% of parents, living with a vulnerable person is the reason they are choosing to keep their child at home. The media also has a role to play with 24% saying that news reports worried them.
When parents were asked how they would manage childcare, 85% said they would continue to look after them at home themselves, but worryingly one in ten are turning to grandparents/family members for childcare.
Liz Bayram, PACEY chief executive, comments: “More needs to be done to reassure parents that childcare providers are doing their utmost to ensure their setting are ready to welcome children back and to help parents navigate fact from fiction on what a low-risk education environment should look like for their child. The fact that many parents are so worried that they would rather rely on family members than a registered childcare provider, who has put the necessary policies and procedures in place, show how much more the government and the sector itself has to do to reassure families.”
When asked what childcare providers could do to reassure them it is safe for their child to return, the top five reassurances parents are looking for are:
- Social distancing measures observed at drop off and pick up and within the setting
- Regular hand washing
- Clearly documented hygiene processes in settings
- Small groups of children, with children being kept in the same ‘bubbles’
- Daily temperature checking of staff and children (even though Public Health England are clear daily temperature checking isn’t reliable)
But 2 in ten parents need evidence that infection rates have been reduced in the local area or are zero before they send back their children to childcare.
Bayram continues: “It is clear that while early years and childcare providers have a key role to play in building trust, there are also so many other factors influencing parents. Providers have been through the mill over the last few months, being forced to close, and now preparing to re-open most likely to reduced numbers of children. Childcare and early years provision is part of our critical public sector infrastructure. Unlike many other public services, the majority of childcare and early years settings are run by private, independent and voluntary providers (PVI). They are different to schools, with many operating 52 weeks a year and relying on both public funding and private fees. Both maintained and PVI providers will need focussed government support to remain part of the UK’s critical infrastructure and to ensure all our children, including the most disadvantaged, are supported to catch up with their education over the coming year.”
Matt from Portsmouth runs a jewellery business from home along with his wife. They have decided not to send their three children back to nursery when it reopens from 1 June because of concerns about their health. He says: “Until the death and case rate is a lot lower than it is now, I am worried about sending my children back to nursery. I understand that it is relatively low risk to their health if they catch it, but I’d be really worried about them carrying the virus and passing it to a grandparent. With the suggestion of children having to maintain social distance, being in ‘bubbles’ and having child-sized face masks available, I’m not sure I want to put my children through it. “
Michaela from Huntingdonshire works as a childminder and her daughter goes to nursery. She is anxious about the health impacts of opening up early years settings so won’t be sending her daughter back to school on Monday. She says: “I’m not sending my daughter back to nursery, I worry about her being exposed to it after spending 10 weeks in lockdown, and now all of a sudden everything is opening and sending children back to settings whilst there are still deaths and hospital admission in our local area.”