Coronavirus: 'Do we not matter?' - Redbridge nursery teacher says it's unfair to force them to stay open

A parent hugs her daughter outside Manor Park School and Nursery in Knutsford, Cheshire, as schools

An Ilford early years practitioner has launched a petition asking the education secretary to close nurseries after a third of its staff members contracted Covid-19. - Credit: PA

An early years practitioner in Ilford, where six out of the 18 staff members contracted Covid-19, has launched a petition to close nurseries saying the risk of staff getting sick is too high.

While schools have shut for in-person learning across the country from the latest national lockdown, nurseries have been left off the list and need to stay open.

This puts parents who work in nurseries in a bind because they might have children who are now doing online learning from home and they need to stay with them for childcare.

But since nurseries are open those parents won't be paid if they stay home and are not offered the same financial protections as parents who work in other schools.

Ruthba Amin, who has two children who are now home doing remote learning, said the government is putting nursery staff members like herself in "an intolerable position by keeping us open".

She launched a petition and pleaded with education secretary Gavin Williamson to close nurseries as well.

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In the petition she wrote: "It is already impossible to socially distance two to four-year-olds. You are asking staff to mix with children who have contact with other adults in their households of which many have had cases of Covid.

"The cycle of spreading the infection never ends. If you are truly interested in the health and wellbeing and the safety of all you must close early years also." 

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A Department for Education spokesperson said evidence shows that pre-school children are not playing a driving role in transmission.

"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.

"Keeping nurseries and childminders open will support parents and deliver the crucial care and education for our youngest children.

Ruthba disagreed that it was a low risk environment saying a third of the staff contracted coronavirus with some of them so sick they couldn't come back after the isolation period.

She stressed that there is still a need for provision for SEND, vulnerable and key workers' children similar to the start of the first national lockdown but forcing all nurseries to stay open was untenable. 

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