Wary parents mean nurseries could shut

Businesses that rely on fees are facing a struggle to survive as concern over coronavirus continues

Friday, 5th June 2020 — By Calum Fraser

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Masked parents drop off their children and hand over to nursery staff wearing PPE

ISLINGTON nurseries are facing closure, headteachers have warned, as parents remain wary of sending their children back.

More children returned to class this week after the government asked schools and nurseries to bring back pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6.

As most nurseries are run as businesses they rely on fee-paying parents and so senior leaders in Islington have been keen to bring back as many pupils as it is safe to do so.

Emma Gowers, who set up and runs The Gower School, a Montessori Nursery in North Road, Holloway, and the fee-paying primary in Cynthia Street, Angel, said: “I chair the Islington Early Years Providers Forum and I ran a Zoom meeting with 102 people.

“Some were saying their parents were desperate to come back and staffing was going to be tight. Others said only one family wanted to return.

“I think there will be closures of smaller nursery settings if they can’t get back up and running.”

She added: “A lot of us have been working hard to make ends meet on a shoestring budget for years, if those strings get tighter there is not a lot of room for manoeuvre.”

Tulip Sadiq, Labour’s shadow early years minister, said: “The government needs to wake up to the reality that millions of childcare places could be lost in this crisis unless there is a properly funded plan to save the early years sector.

“There is currently no additional funding to help childcare providers manage this difficult transition, or even pay for vital safety measures such as PPE and regular cleaning. Over two-thirds of nurseries and other childcare businesses expect to operate at a loss for at least six months. So without more support, it is unclear how many will be able to survive.”

Susan Bingham, founder and managing director at the Hopes and Dreams Montessori Nursery School in City Road, said that she had more than 30 pupils attend this week. The nursery usually takes 123 children per day and aims to build up capacity again over the coming weeks.

She told the Tribune: “Nurseries rely on pupils to plug the funding gap. Larger nurseries have more of a buffer.”

She added: “We have worked around the clock to be able to open this week. I have had to be strict with the parents, giving them specific timeslots to drop off their children. If they miss it then they have to wait to the end.

“Each child has been assigned a bubble and they go to the class in that bubble. Our members of staff wear PPE when the children arrive but they are allowed to take it off when they get inside with their bubble.”

Children and families minister Vicky Ford said: “Early years professionals have made heroic efforts to support families at this difficult time and I am grateful for the way they have worked with us to make sure we support parents and keep children safe. We have been working very closely with the sector as we begin the wider opening of settings, and have provided significant financial and business support to protect them during these unprecedented times.”

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