Many parents have been left wondering if nurseries will open next month after Prime Minister Boris Johnson updated the nation as to the government’s tentative plan for reopening schools in the UK, without addressing what will happen for children of nursery school age.
The Prime Minister’s plan for a “phased return” to schools for pupils will be explored in greater detail today. However, the question remains as to whether nurseries will open when the schools do next month, as there has been less clarification from the government on the issue.
In the briefing on May 10, Boris Johnson laid out plans for phase two of lifting the UK lockdown rules, suggesting that returning to school and nursery would be done in a gradual way and not all at once.
We know that while the PM said schools could reopen on June 1, it is only a conditional plan based on the idea that the infection rates of the virus will continue to decrease in the coming weeks.
It has been confirmed that pupils in Reception, Year 1 and Year 6 will be the first to return, along with secondary school pupils due to take exams next year. However, there was no mention of when pupils in other years would return to school.
Will nurseries open when schools do next month?
Currently, it is not known when nurseries specifically will be allowed to open again.
However it is understood that many children in the early years of education could return to school at the beginning of June, in order to reduce the pressure on parents who have been homeschooling for almost two months. This could include those children at both private and state nurseries.
Chief executive of PACEY, Liz Bayram today advised childminders, nurseries and pre-schools about what to do since the announcement. She said, “Childcare cannot be simply treated like any other business, nor lumped in with schools. It is critical to our economic recovery and to helping children catch up.
“We will today analyse the recovery plan that will be published to Parliament later today, as well as the COVID-safe guidance promised to employers, whenever that is available.
“Our advice until then is to not make any firm decisions about opening until you have more clarity and, this week, take time to talk to your families about what they need and what their worries are.”
Is it the same rule for schools and nurseries across the UK?
The UK Prime Minister announced this phased return to school for pupils in England. Other ministers across the country have rebutted his plan, such as First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon. She said that the return to school “might not be possible” before the summer holidays, which begin in late June.
While the education minister for Wales, Kirsty Williams has also said that schools would not reopen on 1 June and in Northern Ireland, education minister Peter Weir has confirmed that a phased return to school is more likely to begin in September.
When will primary schools reopen and what does a ‘phased return’ mean?
For schools and nurseries in England, a phased return is likely to involve some year groups returning to school sooner than others or pupils would take turns to study at home and in school. Staggered break times and limited class sizes would also be introduced, according to the BBC.
This is being proposed by the government as a way to incorporate some element of normal schooling for children, while maintaining suitable social distancing.
There is no news on whether this phased return approach would also be applied to nurseries specifically.
While this approach has come as a relief to some parents concerned about how to continue to keep children entertained, others are worried that returning to school too quickly will contribute to a spike in cases.
The phased approach to return to school has also been criticised by the National Education Union as “nothing short of reckless”.
They have said, “We must have a national plan for social distancing, hygiene, appropriate PPE and regular testing to ensure our schools and colleges don’t become hot spots for Covid-19.”