Last reviewed 4 January 2021

Early years providers have been asked to remain open across all tier levels including in high risk areas where primary schools will be required to close to all but key worker children and vulnerable children in the New Year.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson announced new education plans in the House of Commons confirming that secondary schools will now have a staggered start to term following mass testing and in areas with the highest infection rates, primary schools would remain closed temporarily.

The Department for Education (DfE) has also published a Contingency Framework for the affected high risk areas. The framework states that early years providers, including childminders and nurseries, should still remain open in all the affected areas. Early years providers based on school sites will "have discretion" to follow arrangements for primary schools.

The guidance also states that providers who run community activities, before or after-school clubs, tuition and other out-of-school or childcare provision (including wraparound childcare) for children over the age of five should only allow vulnerable children and children of critical workers to attend.

Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said:

"While we note that newly-published DfE guidance confirms that childcare providers in the worst affected areas of the country are able to remain open as of next week, it beggars belief that during today’s critical statement to the House of Commons, the education secretary didn’t even bother to mention the early years sector once.”

“Absolutely no information has been given as to the scientific basis for this decision, or why it has been deemed safe for nurseries and childminders to remain open, but not primary schools. This is something the education secretary could and should have taken the opportunity to provide during today’s announcement.”

“We urge the DfE to provide a clear scientific basis for today’s decision and ensure that all childcare providers are reassured that their safety and wellbeing, and that of the children in their care, has been fully taken into consideration by the Government.”