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NEWS: DfE mass testing plan to treat PVI childminders, nurseries & pre-schools differently to school

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson confirmed at the Education Select Committee that from next week, primary schools and maintained nurseries in England will receive rapid coronavirus home testing kits to help identify asymptomatic cases.

Private, voluntary and independent early years settings have not been included in these plans, and will instead have to travel to community testing sites to access these rapid tests.

PACEY, alongside EYA and NDNA called for the rollout of mass testing for all early years staff in our joint #ProtectEarlyYears campaign, along with prioritisation for the next phase of vaccinations and improved financial support for the sector.

In Wales PACEY Cymru are meeting with Welsh Government next week to discuss the approach to serial testing for the childcare and early years sector in Wales. We will provide further updates as these are confirmed.

Liz Bayram, Chief Executive at PACEY, comments:

“Like our members we are dismayed that the DfE has again treated childminders, nurseries and pre-schools in the PVI sector in England differently to schools and maintained nurseries. They are told they will be a priority but in reality they are not. They are the only education service currently open to ALL children but, unlike teaching and school staff, are expected to travel to mass testing sites rather than receive a home kit. There is little reassurance to be told you will have priority access at these sites if there is a queue.

“This is a completely impractical approach that will add pressure to already overstretched services and needs to be changed. These testing sites are only open from 9-5, in some cases for 10-4, so staff who can start work at around 7.30am will now have to leave work, get tested and return an hour or so later. If, like schools, staff are going to be asked to do this twice a week, it will be extremely disruptive and make delivering early education and childcare very difficult in nurseries and almost impossible for childminders, many of whom work on their own. How are they expected to travel to a testing site whilst caring for perhaps five under-fives?

“If schools can have home test kits, so can childminders and nurseries. The DfE has cited logistical challenges in delivering kits to so many early years settings. If that is the case, we would encourage them to consider delivering more kits to schools so that childminders, nurseries and pre-schools at least have the option of collecting kits from their local school.”