On the 18 March the Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson and the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson instructed all Schools, Colleges and Early Years’ settings to close after they locked the gates on Friday 20th March. It was made abundantly clear that this applies equally to the entire education sector, including colleges and nurseries.
The guidance states “If children can stay safely at home they should, to limit the chance of the virus spreading. That is why the government has asked parents to keep their children at home, wherever possible.” Please see: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/schools-colleges-and-early-years-settings-to-close.
Schools, and all childcare providers, are however being asked to continue to provide care for a limited number of children - children who are vulnerable, and children whose parents are critical to the Covid-19 response and cannot be safely cared for at home.
It was clarified that settings should only remain open for the children of critical workers and vulnerable children (those with EHCPs) and a list of those critical workers was made available on 20 March 2020.
Settings that choose to remain open to all children and contravene this instruction from government could be in breach of Health and Safety guidelines which could invalidate their employers’ and personal liability insurance.
As suggested above, Early Years providers have been advised by the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, that they will continue to receive funding for the children they have on roll and furthermore…
“To support nurseries at this time, we have decided that they will also be eligible for a business rates holiday for one year from 1 April. Local authorities will be fully compensated for the cost of this”.
Not only that but, if your employer cannot cover staff costs due to COVID-19, they may be able to access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme to continue paying part of your wage to avoid redundancies. This is called being furloughed and it means that you are kept on your employer’s payroll, rather than being laid off.
Under this support your employer can claim a grant of up to 80% of your wage for all employment costs, up to a cap of £2,500 per month for three months. Your employer could choose to fund the differences between this payment and your salary, but they do not have to. To qualify for this scheme, you should not undertake work for them while you are furloughed.
Therefore, no education setting should remain open to all children and staff should not need to be placed on short-term working or let go at this time.
It is only safe for Schools, Colleges and Early Years settings to remain open for specified children because of the reduced number of people in any given space. Therefore, employers operating a normal service to paying customers are putting staff, children and parents at real risk.
It is time for all employers to do the right thing. If you suspect your employer is not, please do use the information contained in this letter and updates on our website to ensure they are fully aware. And if they fail to follow the guidance, please do get in touch for further help and support on 01332 372 337.