The Chief Medical Officers and Deputy Chief Medical Officers of England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales have released a statement on the evidence of risks and benefits to health from schools and childcare settings reopening.
It states that “the current global pandemic means that there are no risk-free options, but it is important that parents and teachers understand the balance of risks to achieve the best course of action for their children.”
The report takes into account UK and international studies, together with summaries of the scientific literature from SAGE, the DELVE Group of the Royal Society, the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, and data from the Office for National Statistics.
“We are confident that multiple sources of evidence show that a lack of schooling increases inequalities, reduces the life chances of children and can exacerbate physical and mental health issues. School improves health, learning, socialisation and opportunities throughout the life course including employment. It has not been possible to reduce societal inequalities through the provision of home-based education alone. School attendance is very important for children and young people.”
Teachers, other school staff and parents:
“Data from the UK (Office for National Statistics (ONS)) suggest teachers are not at increased risk of dying from COVID-19 compared to the general working-age population. ONS data identifies teaching as a lower risk profession (no profession is zero risk). International data support this.
Transmission of COVID-19 to staff members in school does occur, and data from UK and international studies suggest it may largely be staff to staff (like other workplaces) rather than pupil to staff. This reinforces the need to maintain social distancing and good infection control inside and outside classroom settings, particularly between staff members and between older children and adults.”
Impact of opening schools on wider transmission (R)
“Because schools connect households it is likely opening schools will put some upward pressure on transmission more widely and therefore increase R. We have confidence in the current evidence that schools are much less important in the transmission of COVID-19 than for influenza or some other respiratory infections. Other work and social environments also increase risk and are likely to be more important for transmission of COVID-19.”
In conclusion, the statement says; “Early identification and quickly managing outbreaks of COVID-19 in schools is essential as part of a local response to COVID-19. Clear advice for pupils and staff not to attend school with symptoms, and prompt availability of testing, appropriate isolation advice, and careful public health surveillance and monitoring of educational establishments are key to support the safe return to schools.
Read the full press release on the government website here.
Children’s Minister Vicky Ford said that this new funding would “enable local authorities to provide them with stability while the Department confirms a long-term solution” ahead of the next Spending Review.
The minister said that, in addition to this, the DfE would be “block buying childcare places for the rest of this year” by promising funding at pre-coronavirus levels, regardless of the number of children attending each setting.
The package includes £9 million of funding for training and resources to support one-to-one and small group support for five-year-olds whose language skills have been affected by the pandemic and is part of the previously announced National Tutoring Programme and £1 billion catch-up package.
Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, said: “It is hugely frustrating – and frankly, insulting – to see yet another announcement of additional support for maintained nursery schools while the government continues to turn a blind eye to the huge challenges facing private and voluntary providers across the country.
“When the early years national funding formula was introduced, the government introduced universal base rates of funding on the basis that ‘the costs of providing childcare are broadly comparable for a private nursery, a charitable pre-school or a school nursery class’. How, then, can it now argue that maintained settings need more financial support than the rest of the sector?
Purnima Tanuku OBE, Chief Executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said: “Today’s announcement brings more warm words for the nursery and early years sector but no real support. While any additional support for early years is welcome, by focussing on Reception classes and Maintained Nursery Schools the Government is ignoring over a million children and those who work with them. “The childcare sector has been a fourth emergency service throughout the pandemic, allowing critical worker families to get on with their jobs. Over the summer a huge amount of work and investment has gone into safely re-opening settings for children coming back to nursery as well.
Full details can be found on the government website here.
A report published on 5th August from the Social Mobility Commission reveals that early years childcare workers are leaving the industry, blighted by low pay, long hours and poor prospects.
The study says the workforce is “increasingly unstable”, with not enough new entrants to replace those who leave. The government says it has boosted funding to childcare providers, in order to help parents get back to work, but the Commission urges a total overhaul of early years careers.
It states that good quality early years provision is key to reducing the attainment gap between children from disadvantaged families and their better-off peers, but this provision is at risk as committed professionals find themselves undervalued, underpaid and unable to make ends meet.
The Commission studied the pay of about 290,000 workers and finds that:
the average wage across the early years workforce is £7.42 an hour – this compares to £11.37 for the female workforce and £12.57 for the total population
13% of the workforce earn less than £5.00 an hour
11% of full time early years staff work more than 42 hours per week, compared with 3% of retail workers and 6% of the female workforce
one in 6 workers (15%) leave their jobs within a year
the workforce is mainly young and female – 40% are below aged 30 and 96% are female
31% of early years workers in the north of England stay with their current employer for less than 2 years, compared to 37% in the Midlands and 40% in the south of England
employers say they lack funding to provide training for their workforce – a 2019 survey found only 8% of early years providers planned to spend more money on training whilst 55% planned to spend less
Tulip Siddiq, the shadow minister for children and early years, said years of underfunding was “driving talented staff out of the sector and letting down the young children whose life chances are shaped by vital early education”.
The Department for Education said the government had invested £20m in better training and development for early-years staff, particularly in disadvantaged areas.
“We are supporting their career progression through better qualifications, more apprenticeship opportunities and routes to graduate level qualifications,” it said.
The full story, as reported by the BBC can be found here.
The Social Mobility Commission Report can be found here.
A new ‘childcare costs grant’ up to the value of £2,000 has been launched exclusively for care workers.
This grant is available from the Care Workers Charity (CWC), as part of the charity’s Coronavirus Emergency Fund, launched in March for care workers financially hit by the pandemic.
The grant can be used retrospectively covering childcare costs from 23 March up to the value of £2,000.
Care workers can apply for childcare costs for children up to five years old – for up to £125 per week and for childminder costs for six to twelve-year olds during term time – up to the value of £70 per week. They can also apply for holiday childcare costs up to the value of £150 per week.
Karolina Gerlich, executive director at the CWC, said: “We are delighted to be able to offer this new grant, which we know will be a lifeline to so many care workers who have struggled to juggle the demands of their work and families.
“We are hoping this new support will go some way to help make up for the considerable sacrifices many care workers have made, and all at their own cost.”
The CWC states on its website: ‘We will deal with applications on a case by case basis and till funds last’.
The full story, as reported in homecare.co.uk can be read here.
Ofsted has announced that from September this year, it will start to re-visit nurseries and childminders to ensure standards are being maintained and “well-run, safe and effective childcare is available for all who need it.”
It has published its guidance on interim visits which details how these visits will work in practice and which childcare providers inspectors will be visiting.
The visits are part of its phased return to routine inspection, details of which can be found here and it emphasises that they are not ‘inspections’ and will not result in an inspection grade, though inspectors will still be able to use regulatory or enforcement powers if necessary.
Routine inspections of early years settings will not start before January 2021.
Findings from the visits will be published in an outcome summary so that parents can be reassured that their children are safe while routine inspections are suspended.
On the official government Ofsted website, it states that “inspectors will be sensitive to the challenges presented by COVID-19 and will always take that context into account. We will prioritise the safety and welfare of everyone involved in the visits, including children, carers, staff and inspectors, following the most up-to-date guidance from Public Health England.”
The news story, as published on the Government’s Ofsted website can be found here.
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