Should early-year settings be open during lockdown?

Unlike in the first lockdown nurseries have been allowed to stay open for all pre-school children, but should this be the case?

Data from Public Health England shows that 10% of coronavirus outbreaks in education since September have been at early-years sites.

The government has argued that young children are less likely to spread the virus and that keeping early-year settings open allows more parents to be able to work from home.

Parents that ITV News spoke to at a nursery in Bolton this morning said they were relieved that nurseries stayed open this time.

One parent said that without the support of the nursery she "wouldn't be able to do" the job that she does.

Professor Kate Arden, the lead director for Public Health in Greater Manchester, told ITV News that nurseries should stay open.

However, there are fears that staff are being put at risk because of the close proximity in which they work with lots of children from different households.

There are also growing calls for nursery staff to be prioritised for vaccination programmes, with almost half a million people signing a petition in favour of the move.

Julie Robinson, who works at Eagley House Nursery in Bolton, said: "We use the terminology health before wealth don't we, and I want my staff to feel safe, I want my children to be safe.

"So please let us be tested and let us be prioritised for the vaccine."

The government has said it has "no intention" of closing nurseries, Gavin Williamson defended his decision to keep nurseries open amid concerns over the high infection rates of the more transmissible Covid-19 variant.

Speaking to MPs on the Education Select Committee, he said: "I always want to be in a position to ensure that every child can go to school and, as you'll be aware, transmissibility among those who are youngest is very low compared to all of the settings.

"So, when you're in a position to keep part of the education system open in the early years, I believe it was the right decision to make because so many families really rely on that nursery provision.

"Those early years are so important."