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Early years staff should be prioritised for vaccinations, says Diss nursery manager

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A manager at a Diss nursery has echoed calls for early years workers to be prioritised for a coronavirus vaccine.

Despite schools being closed earlier this month as part of the latest lockdown measures, ministers decided that risk of infection at nurseries was low enough to warrant them staying open.

However Rebecca Lord, who runs Safe Hands Day Nursery, in Hopper Way, claimed that early years services had been ignored by the government.

Nurseries, unlike primary schools, have remained open during the January lockdown.
Nurseries, unlike primary schools, have remained open during the January lockdown.

“I think we have been overlooked,” she said. “I would like to see people working in early years prioritised.

“To me, they are so important and their role in this pandemic is vital.”

Nursery workers across the country have often claimed there is a friction between coronavirus guidelines and their role responsibilities, with social distancing measures increasingly difficult to enforce among children under five.

“With our job, even though you can put out guidelines saying keep your distance, you can’t really do that,” said Miss Lord.

“Mixing between staff and children is much more limited, which is really difficult, because it’s such a crazy and uneasy time for the children.”

The 23-year-old added that her nearly half-a-dozen staff have felt the strain of increased pressure over the past year.

“I don’t think anyone who took on childcare as a career ever thought they would be doing anything like this,” she said.

“The staff have definitely experienced anxiety, but none of them have said: ‘this is too much’.

“We are a close-knit group, we talk it through and are really together as a team. They’ve just kept going and have not stopped. It’s all for the children.

“But there is certainly some worry about how this is affecting the people I work with.”

The decision to keep nurseries open, while schools have closed, has infuriated union leaders, who have accused the Government of inconsistency.

Last week, Neil Leitch, chief executive of the Early Years Alliance, released a statement in which he insisted that nurseries must close – and called on Education Secretary Gavin Williamson (pictured) to take the necessary step.

He said: “Throughout this crisis, nurseries, pre-schools and childminders have been on the front line, educating and caring for children while putting their own wellbeing at risk, yet they have had to fight to be given anywhere near the same level of treatment as schools every step of the way.

“If the Government is this concerned about the spread of the virus in primary schools, it must provide clear, scientific evidence for why early years settings should be treated differently.

“If it cannot provide this vital reassurance, then it surely has no choice but to take the necessary decision to close early years settings and provide the financial support providers will need to remain viable during such temporary closures.”

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