In this week's Practitioner Diary, Anna McCallum makes her feelings known about the treatment of herself, her colleagues and all Early Years Professionals during the pandemic, and considers what better support could have been provided during an unprecedented time for the sector.
It was announced in January to close schools (except for key worker and vulnerable children) but to keep nurseries open to everyone.
Now I understand there are multiple reasons and factors to this decision, such as children’s susceptibility to Covid and respective transmission rates, but I was hoping after this announcement that nurseries might finally start getting some recognition as to how important they actually are.
How wrong I was!
Throughout this pandemic we have done what we’ve been told to do: muddling through, changing procedures and policies to follow the government guidance, and just getting on with it. None of it really bothered me until this last term.
Almost a year after the first lockdown I finally came to the realisation that nurseries really aren’t seen as very important. I am not one for bad mouthing my governmen, no matter who is in control, but somewhere within the halls of government I feel that early years workers have fundamentally been let down.
Schools have very much been in the spotlight throughout this pandemic and rightly so. They are extremely and indisputably important; but so are nurseries.
I have a school-aged child at home, and I think I have been pretty confident knowing what the latest situation has been regarding schools. I have meanwhile struggled to know what the next stages have been for my job in a nursery. I just had to watch the news to know the latest school update, but found myself having to google government websites to find out certain information about nurseries.
My nursery has been lucky enough to only close once during the Covid pandemic and that was back in March 2020 throughout the first lockdown. Since then we have remained open and we have received absolutely nothing to assist us. Now don’t get me wrong, I am extremely grateful that we received furlough, but what I mean is that we have received nothing in terms of helping our setting function since staying open.
I appreciate we are not a hospital and do not need resources as urgently as they do, however we have never received any PPE. We have had no testing like in schools, funding has actually been reduced, and we have no recognition for staying open and putting ourselves and our families at risk. We are looking after the children of all others, while schools only had to open for certain children, and with reduced numbers.
I think one of the arguments for keeping nurseries open for everyone was that children were less likely to contract Covid and therefore unlikely to pass it on to others. So I was surprised to read an article at Pacey stating that Ofsted had been contacted more and more frequently since January 2021 by early years providers to report confirmed cases. On the week beginning the 4th of January 1,267 settings reported positive cases and comparing that to 2,279 cases on the week beginning 18th of January. We are still at risk.
It is my opinion that maybe a little more caution would have been appropriate before announcing that nurseries stay open to all children. Perhaps we should have followed the same pattern as schools and just remained open for vulnerable and children of key workers? There are a lot of aspects that could have been handled differently throughout the pandemic, but now being this far through and with a new easily-spreadable-variant having major impact, I would have expected a little more caution and perhaps more research to be done before sending all our children and staff out into the mix.
Being in charge of an entire country has got to be one of the hardest jobs in the world, let alone during a worldwide pandemic, and it is a job that I certainly could not do. I do not blame any one single person for the shortcomings in supporting nurseries this past year, but more so an accumulation of political leaders, advisers and those in the media whose job it is to hold government to account, for not considering covering the early years as much as schools and other sectors.
It is still tough times for everyone, and I really value that fact that I still have a job. I only wish that my fellow workers in the early years could have had a little more help, were appreciated a bit more, and received the recognition that I feel we deserve.
How do you feel nurseries have been treated throughout this pandemic? Join in with my ranting using the hashtag #mynurserylife !