Parents won’t be forced to send children to nursery during lockdown to avoid losing funding
West Sussex parents will not be forced to send their children to nursery during the third national lockdown to avoid losing funding.
Originally Department for Education (DfE) guidance had stated that in order to receive ongoing funding, parents had to send their children into their nursery, preschool or childminder for ‘headcount day’ next week.
The Lib Dems launched a petition urging West Sussex County Council not to cut funding for children not physically attending nurseries next week, as many families will want to continue to stay at home during the third lockdown.
The county council has listened to the concerns of parents and childcare providers and has committed to fund the places irrespective of attendance for the next month.
A day later the DfE similarly changed its guidance.
A West Sussex County Council spokesman said: “We have taken the decision to use discretionary powers to fund all Free Entitlement places for West Sussex children in pre-schools, nurseries and childminders until February half-term, including where parents wish to keep their children at home due to Covid-19.
“We are acutely aware of the national issues and pressures regarding attendance and funding which are causing real concern to West Sussex families, early years and childcare providers, and hope this decision alleviates some of these concerns.
“We have written to the Department for Education to raise these issues. Early year and childcare providers have been informed and we would like to thank everyone working in this sector for going above and beyond for their children in these very challenging circumstances.”
In a letter confirming the decision, Lucy Butler, WSCC’s executive director for children, young people and learning, said they were ‘very aware’ there was some anxiety for parents trying to make a decision about whether to send their child to nurseries during the lockdown and the impact this might have on future access to their Free Entitlement place.
As a result they would continue to fund providers for FE places where parents have already signed a parent declaration even if they are choosing to keep their child at home.
She added: “We are passing on this funding to support providers with their ongoing sustainability and enable them to provide home learning experiences, whilst children are not attending, due to parental decisions to keep children at home under the current circumstances.
“This means that you should be able to access your child’s place when you are ready to send them back to your childcare provider.
“We know that early years is a crucial phase in a child’s development and the support offered by early years and childcare providers has a long-term impact on children’s learning.
“This is why we are funding providers so they can continue to offer support to your child during this challenging time.”