Calls from across the region for nurseries to close in national lockdown

  • ITV Calendar's Sam Casey reports.

Tens of thousands of people are calling on the government to protect early years staff and are asking why nurseries are expected to open when schools will close.

The third national lockdown for England came into force today. But while Boris Johnson announced on Monday that schools must move most students to remote learning, he said everyone will still be able to access early years settings.

The Prime Minister is facing calls to shut nurseries as more than 40,000 people have signed a petition to protect early years staff.

Wendy Kettleborough, who runs a children centre in Sheffield, says it's a vital service and is keen for her business to remain open but is calling for more to be done to minimise the risk to staff. 

She said: "I think there is a little bit of disparity between saying stay at home if you can and keep safe but send your youngest children.

"We want to be protected while we are open. What we are asking for is testing and vaccinations for our older, more vulnerable members of staff.

Others want to go further, with tens of thousands of people have signed a petition calling for all nurseries and early years facilities to be closed, a campaign endorsed by one Sheffield MP, Olivia Blake.

The Sheffield Hallam MP said: "I know nurseries up and down this country, who have had outbreaks, who have had to close their settings, who have had to change their provision multiple times in the last six months.

"So you know the idea that just keeping them open, will keep the nurseries open is just a bit misguided."

Ailsa Monk, owner and headteacher of Cotswold Montessori Schools, revealed how a nursery manager tested positive for Covid-19, just a day after Mr Johnson’s announcement and after leading an inset day with staff.

Ailsa Monk, owner and principal of Cotswold Montessori Schools

She had to close one of her two centres as all staff had to self-isolate. Ms Monk decided to close her second centre for at least another week as “anxiety levels of staff were through the roof”.

Ms Monk, who is nearly 50, said there are staff members older than her, with underlying medical conditions or living with vulnerable family members.

She told ITV News: “I feel I was given a hospital pass on Monday night. Why is it not safe for primary schools to go back and why is it safe for early years to go back? If we had more time, we would have got our heads around it. We do not want to be an after thought."