Farington Nursery: Running a nursery during a pandemic

It has been nearly two months since nurseries were told to close to all but key workers and vulnerable children. The effects of COVID-19 pandemic on society have been wide ranging. For nurseries in particular, this has meant changes in their provision and has left nursery settings vulnerable to closure.

Farington Nursery in Leyland usually provides childcare for up to 50 children. Despite opening for a week to provide care for key worker families, by the end of the week, they only had one child who needed their service. As a result, the committee had to make a decision to temporarily suspend childcare provision. Unfortunately, it just wasn’t viable to continue to run for just one family and the child was placed at another setting.

Communication with Parents

Managers Jacky and Maxine, explain how the nursery has been affected and some of the new measures they have put in place to survive during this challenging time.  “We have continued to provide support and advice to our families via Facebook posts, emails, video meetings and telephone calls.” Clear communication at a time like this is critical and the nursery have maintained their high level of support and advice to parents with tips on behaviour, family routine and wellbeing for both children and parents. In addition, the nursery has continued to provide ideas for learning activities. These include sending links to learning websites, setting challenges for the children to undertake and activities linked to the individual child’s stage of learning and development and knowing the particular child’s interests. The staff at Farington Nursery have done all they can under the  circumstances, even going out of their comfort zone by posting stories and rhymes on to social media.

Support for Staff

The mental health and wellbeing of their staff has also been a key priority. “As managers, we have provided emotional support to our employees through advice for looking after their mental health. In addition, we were able to pay staff 100% of their wage for a number of weeks. However, after sometime it became apparent that this would not be sustainable. The committee therefore made a difficult decision to reduce all staff wages by 20 per cent and furthermore furlough some staff members.  Nurseries are no longer able to claim for all staff to be furloughed. We have had to undergo costings to determine how much we are able to claim from the furlough scheme. This amounted to 6 staff being furloughed.  We are still awaiting confirmation that this has been accepted.”

The re-opening off nurseries on 1st June

The government has confirmed that early year’s settings will be opening along with primary schools in England on 1 June 2020. The Department for Education (DfE) revealed that keyworker and vulnerable children will still be able to attend early years settings as they are currently and if the transmission rate for coronavirus decreases by 1 June, early years settings may also be able to open for all children. As a result, the government is asking schools and childcare providers to plan on this basis, ahead of confirmation of the scientific advice.

The DfE is issuing guidance to the early years sector including:

  • reducing group sizes and keeping children in small groups without mixing with others
  • staggered break and lunch times, as well as drop offs and pick ups
  • increasing the frequency of cleaning of toys and play equipment, reducing the use of shared items and utilising outdoor space
  • removing soft furnishings, soft toys and toys that are hard to clean (such as those with intricate parts)
  • frequent hand washing.

To read the government’s guidance in implementing protective measures in early years settings click here

Falling numbers

The Guardian newspaper recently reported that more than 10,000 childcare providers in the UK are likely to have folded by the end of the coronavirus lockdown. Leaders have been saying the sector has been “crushed” by financial instability and a fall in demand. A survey by the Childcare online platform found nearly one in six of more than 2,000 providers said they were likely to have permanently closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, while one in three said they were unsure if they would be able to reopen. Just 50% of the childminders, daycare centres and nurseries surveyed said they were likely to remain open after the lockdown ends. In England alone, the results would mean a loss of about 150,000 childcare places currently available for children under school age. The Childcare survey found that out of those likely to close permanently, nearly three-quarters blamed financial difficulties. But the remainder said they expected fewer parents to be able to afford or need the childcare they had previously employed.

Challenges Ahead

Like other nurseries in a similar position, Farington nursery is working towards re-opening on 1st June. Health and safety of children, families and staff is a priority. The ability to run at full capacity will be guided by Health and Safety information and the nursery setting. As a non-profit making nursery the team are committed to providing the safest possible experience for children. Along with safety it will continue to provide a secure, warm, caring and sharing environment with stimulating, fun activities, even with the current constraints and continue re-investing any profits into the Health, Safety and Wellbeing of children and the nursery setting.