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Pre-school Education: Coronavirus

Question for Department for Education

UIN 102736, tabled on 12 January 2022

To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what estimate his Department made of the number of (a) nurseries and (b) other early years providers who have (i) closed or (ii) reduced their opening hours as a result of covid-19 cases in each month of 2021.

Answered on

17 January 2022

For the period between 6 April 2020 and 9 December 2021, the department published information relative to attendance in education and early years providers during the COVID-19 outbreak. On 9 December 2021 there were a reported 81% of early years providers open compared to 5% closed. This included 54,000 open early years settings, 3,000 closed early years settings, and 9,000 early years settings whose status was unknown. The data does not distinguish between nurseries versus other types of early years provider. You can access data over previous months here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/attendance-in-education-and-early-years-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak/2021-week-50.

The department is also collecting data on the operating status of nurseries and other early years providers (and schools and colleges) as part of a weekly Pulse survey through January 2022 and high-level findings will be published on Tuesday 25 January and fortnightly thereafter. These findings will be reported here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/attendance-in-education-and-early-years-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak.

As set out in the response I gave on 5 January 2022 to PQ 92992, all nurseries and other early years providers on the Ofsted register must report to Ofsted any confirmed cases of COVID-19. Reporting is a legal requirement as set out in paragraph 3.52 of the early years foundation stage statutory framework. The notification data is published on a fortnightly basis here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reported-coronavirus-covid-19-cases-by-registered-early-years-and-childcare-settings. The department will continue to monitor the number of COVID-19 notifications in line with the trajectory of cases in the wider population.

Early years providers, including nurseries, should have contingency plans (sometimes called outbreak management plans) outlining what they would do if children or staff test positive for COVID-19, or how they would operate if advised to take extra measures to help break chains of transmission. Given the detrimental impact that restrictions on education can have on children, any measures providers take should only ever be considered as a last resort, kept to the minimum number of providers or groups possible, and for the shortest amount of time possible. Central government may offer local areas of particular concern an enhanced response package to help limit increases in transmission. For most nurseries and other early years providers, it will make sense to think about taking extra action if the number of positive cases substantially increases. Information on what circumstances might lead providers to consider taking additional action, and the steps they should work through, can be found in the contingency framework for education and childcare settings which is available here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-local-restrictions-in-education-and-childcare-settings/contingency-framework-education-and-childcare-settings. The contingency framework describes the principles of managing local outbreaks of COVID-19 in education and childcare. Local authorities, directors of public health and UK Health Security Agency health protection teams can recommend measures described in the contingency framework in individual education and childcare providers or a small cluster of providers as part of their outbreak management responsibilities.

Department officials also continue to monitor the sufficiency of childcare places and delivery of the entitlements with all local authority early years teams in England on a regular basis.

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