Important update for Early Years and Childcare Providers

Dear Early Years and Childcare Providers

I am sure that the government announcement on Monday night about Devon being included in the national lockdown came as much of a surprise to you as it did to us. The timing of the announcement has meant that we are going through the current guidance to try and make sense of what it means to us this time round.

The main difference, as we know, is that Early Years settings are open to all children and not just those who are deemed vulnerable or who have parents who are critical workers. 

I think there is concern in the sector as to why the Early Years sector carries less risk than schools, but we understand from Public Health England that Early years settings remain low risk environments for children and staff and that 0–5-year-olds continue to have the lowest confirmed rates of coronavirus of all age groups. There is no evidence that the new variant of coronavirus disproportionately affects young children. Evidence shows that pre-school children are less susceptible to infection and are not playing a driving role in transmission. There is no evidence that the new strain of the virus causes more serious illness in either children or adults and there continues to be strong evidence that children are much less susceptible to severe clinical disease than older people.

PHE advice remains that the risk of transmission and infection is low if early years settings follow the system of controls, which reduce risks and create inherently safer environments. We all know that the Early Years are the most crucial point of child development and attending early education lays the foundation for lifelong learning and supports children’s social and emotional development. They are clear that we need to continue to prioritise keeping early years settings open in full because of the significant benefits to children’s education and wellbeing and to support working parents. You all know that caring for the youngest age group is not something that can be done remotely.

I just want to reassure you that all the teams in the Early Years and Childcare Service including our commissioned service delivered through the Babcock Early Years Consultant team are here to support you and will be making contact with you all over the next few weeks.

We aim to get as much information out to you as we can through the Provider Portal, Friday digest, Facebook and Twitter so please keep an eye out for updates.  You should ensure that staff who access the Provider Portal are advised, to share important funding messages with managers and finance colleagues as appropriate.

The Early Years team are planning to hold virtual coffee mornings and catch-up sessions where you will be able to ask all the questions that you feel remain unanswered. The first of the meetings will be held today, Friday – which I know is very short notice – but will give you the opportunity to talk to the Funding Team and Early Years Advisers. If we don’t have the answer we will of course try and find out and get back to you. Please use the links below to join us.

We are awaiting the promised updated guidance from the DfE but for now we are fully operational so headcount claims will be processed as normal. Please be assured we are raising your concerns with the Department for Education and Ofsted

I have asked the department that you are seen as part of the education sector when the lateral flow test is rolled out to school staff. I do not have a date yet when this will start but it should mean that you and your staff will be able to self- test on a weekly basis.

I have also asked that you are considered part of the vaccination roll out for front line staff in the same way as school staff, but again, I am sure you understand we have no time scales yet.

I want to finish by saying a big thank you for your continued hard work and absolute commitment to children in your care.

Kind regards

Val Smith

Senior Manager Early Years and Childcare