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Nursery staff work on despite virus fears

Union: ‘Schools are closed, rules should apply across the board’

08 January, 2021 — By Helen Chapman

Susan Bingham, founder of Hopes and Dreams Montessori Nursery School, and manager Mikki Parkes outside the City Road centre

NURSERIES say their staff are worried about coming to work amid the national lockdown, with staff calling for more test kits to ensure their safety.

While schools and colleges have been ordered to close as part of the coronavirus rules, early years services can stay open.

Unison union campaigners said this week that the same rules should apply across the board and that they should remain open only for children of key workers and those that are vulnerable.

Briony Densham, Islington Unison schools convener, said: “From the science, children might not be suffering from the virus but they can spread the virus. That then affects our staff members and other adults that are around.”

She added: “There are children’s centres that are inside schools and staff are not sure what to do because they are still a nursery but that is up to staff discretion. That is another concern. The virus spreads so much easier now that it is too much of a worry.”

Susan Bingham, the founder of the Hopes and Dreams Montessori Nursery school in City Road, said: “There is a lot of anguish and a lot of worry from the staff but we are putting into place everything we can to make sure everyone is safe and well.”

Gower Nursery’s International Children’s Day

She added: “We are constantly monitoring where we are at – we have had no cases with the children and our parents have been very supportive. We will continue to look after everyone’s wellbeing and making sure they are being supported.

“We are governed by what we are told to do by the government and we are glad we can carry on. They are not going to allow us to continue and open if there were other risks.”

Staff are being tested every Monday and have returned negative results.

Ms Bingham added she felt proud of all of her staff, saying: “I feel pleased and glad we can continue to offer this service to the parents and for the children. For the children I think it is so essential for them to get some normality.

“I remember after the first lockdown when we reopened it was wonderful – they couldn’t wait.”

Emma Gowers, founder of the Gower School nursery in North Road, off Caledonian Road, said: “All the information out there says regular testing is one of the solutions to this.

“In terms of early years, they said they will have tests for secondary schools but said nothing about nurseries at all. When they sent out a box of 10 tests in September, we asked for the same for nurseries.”

She added: “They treat nurseries as a Cinderella service. What is the difference? Why can’t we have a test kit and PPE like everyone else?”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Early years settings remain low-risk environments for children and staff and there is no evidence that the new variant of coronavirus disproportionately affects young children.”


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