'It seems unfair' - Nurseries on returning to work during lockdown

Staff at a Traquinas Childcare nursery in Thetford on Wednesday (January 6).

Staff at a Traquinas Childcare nursery in Thetford on Wednesday (January 6). - Credit: Carla Ferreira

Childcare bosses have described the "waves of emotion" felt by staff after learning that nurseries would stay open despite schools being told to close.

Unison, the largest trade union in the UK, has said that daycare centres should be closed to all except vulnerable children and those of key workers.

Managers at some of Norfolk's nurseries have echoed the call.

Carla Ferreira, managing director of Traquinas Childcare, a two nursery operation in Thetford, said: "I don't mind staying open for parents who are working from home.

"But to open for those who bring in the kids so they can have a cup of tea and have a quiet day, how can I justify that to staff working without any PPE, risking their lives and their families' lives?"

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Her twin nurseries employ 30 staff and normally provide for a total of 170 children. Since Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement on Monday, seven parents have decided to keep their children at home.

Staff at one of Traquinas Childcare's nurseries in Thetford working during the third lockdown.

Staff at one of Traquinas Childcare's nurseries in Thetford working during the third lockdown. - Credit: Carla Ferreira

Ms Ferreira said: "Our main concern is the fact we can't wear any PPE in early years, we can't maintain safe distance because they are little ones, and yet we are not on a priority list to get vaccinated first.

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"We're open for the country to financially run, yet we are always undervalued and underfunded."

MORE: MP: Teachers and key workers should get vaccine 'before some elderly'

When announcing the new lockdown, the Prime Minister said schools were "vectors of transmission" of the virus between households.

Figures show that children up to five years old continue to have the lowest rates of coronavirus of all age groups.

Connie Haylett, manager of Park Playgroup in Great Yarmouth, had been planning to keep the nursery open only for children of key workers and working parents - but some have already opted out.

Staff at Park Playgroup nursery in Great Yarmouth

Staff at the Park Playgroup nursery in Great Yarmouth. Manager Connie Haylett, third from right, said it is an "unsure time" for people working in childcare. - Credit: Submitted

Until the lockdown, the nursery had been providing for a bubble of 15 children. On Wednesday morning, there were only four children present.

Ms Haylett said: "The afternoons are busier. Yesterday afternoon we had ten in.

"But we just wish Boris said nurseries can stay open only for children of key workers and vulnerable children. That would have allowed some of our staff not able to be here to be paid.

"Now he's said what he has said, it means a lot of parents will not be claiming early years funding. If we don't get the funding my staff don't get paid."

Some staff, who live with vulnerable people, are "feeling a bit wobbly" about returning to work, she said.

"It doesn't seem fair. But I've just got to keep having staff meetings, and as long as they feel safe we'll continue. Yesterday was probably the worst day. Some staff are fine, but some are anxious about it. It's a very unsure time."

MORE: What can stay open in the new lockdown?

Emmy Byrne, manager of Chapelfield Children's Day Nursery in Norwich, said: "Suddenly we're frontline workers, having to take risks everyday to support children and families."

The nursery employs 27 staff and caters for 80 families, 51 of which include at least one key worker.

Emmy Byrne, manager at Chapelfield Nursery in Norwich.

Emmy Byrne, manager at Chapelfield Nursery in Norwich. - Credit: Submitted

"There is a lot of pressure for nurseries to close but remain open to key workers.

"We've had a couple of families who have dropped out, they are keeping their children at home.

"We go through waves of emotion. Monday we all returned and people were feeling chippy, but on Tuesday, after the announcement, there was a bit of a dip in morale, but today we've picked up again," Ms Byrne said.

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