Last reviewed 6 August 2021

More than four in ten early years settings in England have had to fully or partially close at least once since 1 June due to self-isolation rules, according to a survey by the Early Years Alliance.

The snap poll of over 1000 early years providers suggests that the decision to not include the early years sector on the self-isolation exemption list could leave critical workers without the childcare they need to do their jobs.

The findings of the survey reveal that:

  • more than four in ten nurseries, pre-schools and childminders in England have had to fully and/or partially close at least once since 1 June as a result of self-isolation requirements, with nearly a third having to fully close at least once

  • around nine in ten early years providers deliver places for critical worker families (where at least one parent is a critical worker), with critical worker children accounting for more than a third of total places offered on average

  • more than nine in ten providers believe that the early years sector should be included on the self-isolation exemption list.

The survey also showed some regional variation with early years providers in the North-West and Yorkshire and Humber being more likely to say they had been forced to fully and/or partially close due to staffing shortages because of self-isolation rules than those in London and the East Midlands.

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

“When the Government told the early years sector remain open at the start of year despite instructing schools and colleges to close, it said this was for two reasons: because early years settings were ‘low-risk Covid environments’, and because of the vital importance of early education and childcare.”

“It beggars belief therefore that now, when self-isolation rules are playing havoc not only with providers’ ability to remain financially sustainable, but also their ability to provide the care and education that working parents need, we are once again the forgotten sector.”

“The early years sector is a critical part of our national infrastructure and should be treated as such. The Government simply must include the early years workforce on the self-isolation exemption list, before the vital services we provide are put at any greater risk.”