Ministers must reverse the decision to keep early-years establishments open to all children if infection rates are to fall and staff be better protected, says UNISON today (Wednesday).
Only vulnerable children and those of key workers should be allowed to attend nurseries during the pandemic, as is the case with primary and secondary schools, says UNISON.
Nursery staff are being asked to work with large numbers of children every day, even as infection rates soar across the country, putting them, their families and communities at risk, adds UNISON.
These workers are particularly vulnerable to the more easily transmissible new variant of the virus because social distancing and mask wearing aren’t always possible with very small children, says UNISON.
Staff are putting their health on the line and should be protected. They need to be on the priority list of workers being offered the vaccine. That’s the only way their safety can be guaranteed, UNISON says.
UNISON South East regional secretary Steve Torrance said: “Keeping nurseries and pre-schools open is putting staff and communities at risk.
“No one wants to see education and childcare disrupted but it’s vital that this virus is brought under control quickly, or the NHS will be overwhelmed.
“Staff and the wider community need to be sure that the number of families walking through nursery doors isn’t going to drive up infection rates in the local area or threaten staff safety.
“Ministers must treat nurseries the same as schools. Numbers attending nurseries need to be kept at a safe number. And education staff must be a priority for vaccinations and mass testing.”
Notes to editors:
– UNISON will continue advising early years staff to consider whether their place of work is safe for them and if they should exercise their right not to attend.
– UNISON is the UK’s largest union, with more than 1.3 million members providing public services in education, local government, the NHS, police service and energy. They are employed in the public, voluntary and private sectors. It is also the leading union for early years workers with over 50,000 members working with young children.