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Nurseries in disadvantaged areas are facing permanent closures from Covid-19 crisis

NURSERIES in the most disadvantaged areas are facing permanent closures due to financial difficulties exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis, research by the Sutton Trust revealed last night.

It also found that almost half of parents are worried that their children’s social and emotional development has been negatively impacted by the lockdown, as children were unable to attend their nursery or preschool.

A third of the early-years sector relying on government support to stay afloat could close by next year.

Sutton Trust founder and chairman Sir Peter Lampl said that access to high-quality early-years education is “key” for children’s development, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

The charity is calling on the government to introduce a package of financial assistance worth £88 million for the early-years sector, in line with the support announced for schools. 

National Education Union (NEU) joint general secretary Kevin Courtney said that the government must recognise the vital role that maintained nursery schools (MNS) and the early-years sector play, and act now to keep them open.

He said that MNS provide specialist education that helps children from deprived areas and those with special needs attain better outcomes in school and later life. 

Mr Courtney said: “If MNS are forced to close, this will have a devastating impact on local communities, some of the most deprived in the country, and severely harm the educational attainment and life opportunities of the children these settings serve.   

“The NEU is alarmed that the recently announced additional £1 billion for schools does not include any funding for MNS or the wider early-years sector.  

“We urge the government to rethink this and also provide additional funding for early years and MNS in particular.”

Labour’s shadow minister for children and early years, Tulip Siddiq, said that the government needs to “wake up to the reality” that many thousands of essential childcare places could be lost unless it steps in with “a properly funded plan.”

She said: “The impact of mass nursery closures on working families and the life chances of disadvantaged children is too awful to contemplate. 

“Urgent support is needed to help early-years providers cope with reduced demand and extra safety costs, yet the sector has consistently been ignored.”

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