Author: Cheryl Hadland
Over half our day nurseries are still open, but with an average of only 20% occupancy, they are losing money hand over fist, despite being able to furlough unneeded staff and receiving some Local Authority funding for some of the 3-4 year olds and some vulnerable 2 year olds who may or may not be attending. We need more funding per hour per child to survive, particularly as it was already extremely low, but that aside, what we can do to support parents go back to work, if they still have work, and children to settle back into nursery?
First of all we need to enable more of our staff to return to work, confident and happy, because if they are frightened and stressed this will pass to the children and there will be a very tense atmosphere, which is awful for learning and development and for staff themselves. So what should we do?
- Don’t bring staff back with underlying health conditions, nor those with others in their household who are more vulnerable.
- Don’t bring staff back with children unless their childs school is open or you are able to open up a school age room in the nursery, or their children can attend nursery.
- Ensure staff know not to come back to work if they are unwell – get a test first.
- Give staff their own pens, tablets, to minimise passing the virus by sharing equipment
- Give staff their own spray cleaner to spray door handles etc. as they go.
- Give staff their own PPE – gloves, aprons, masks, visors – whatever makes them feel better even if there’s only a marginal chance it will reduce risk
- Share and communicate with staff – give them a say in what they feel is best practice as well as sharing gov.uk information and your risk assessments.
- Offer staff training eg IHASCO on-line Covid-19 course.
- Stop staff meetings with everyone attending – go on line to Zoom or similar.
- Encourage yoga, meditation, exercise, eating well, enjoying the little things – with and without the children.
- Look at the Guidance for Early Years Setting Covid-19 Site Operating Procedures with your team and decide with them what is best for your setting.
- Share lone working policies and procedures if you are going to spread the children and staff into more rooms.
- Change clothes
If you can’t bring enough staff back to open, then you can’t open unless you can share staff with another nursery.
Next we need to consider what will give confidence to parents that their children will be safe, and also not pick up the virus to bring back to the household.
Fortunately children have not been suffering badly from the virus, but they could pick it up without symptoms, or just have cold-like symptoms, so how can we reduce the risk to them and to others?
- Ramp up hand washing, including on arrival and departure, Portable sink by the door?
- Visible PPE – about perception as much as efficiency
- Ask parents to temperature check children before bringing them in
- Change clothes? On leaving nursery or on arrival at home, maybe on arrival at nursery?
- Have children dropped off at the door, observing social distancing between adults, rather than bringing them into playrooms and use more photographic and videos to share children’s day with their parents.
- Share your Risk assessments and increase communications with parents
- Let parents know you won’t be going on trips, allowing toys from home, and that artwork coming home will be kept in a paper bag for 24 hours before going home.
And what else can we do with the children to keep them safe and happy during this crisis?
- Get them outside as much as possible
- Get them as spread out as possible
- Don’t come together into communal rooms like a dining room if you have one.
- Share child-friendly stories about the virus and handwashing so they can ask questions and discuss their concerns – but not too much, let them play, and enjoy their activities and their friends.
- Have a safe space to go if they aren’t feeling well (you would anyway)
- Lots of hand washing – make it fun – happy birthday song? Some might need a hand cream to replenish dry skin.
- Stop toothbrushing
- Stop self service of food and drinks
- Try and keep things as normal as possible
And your business?
Losses are inevitable at this time, through low occupancy. If you have several nurseries close to each other you might want to close some and maximise occupancy in one or two.
Furlough as many as you can, while you can, at 80% unless you have reserves or charge parents to pay the 100%. Claim it all back if you can (relies on some people still working).
This will increase your workload so try and look after yourself and colleagues doing the same.
Communicate with politicians, local councillors, Local authorities, representative bodies such as NDNA, EYA, PACEY so they know what your financial situation is – before you go bust – in case they can help.
Don’t stop marketing your business, maybe do show arounds virtually and by phone to secure future bookings.
Meet with your bank to arrange a loan to tide you over
Arrange to not pay your mortgage or rent for a few months
Consider what you can charge parents
Hang in there, hopefully the lock down will mean some people are making babies, they will be born in around 9 months, and start coming to nursery in the baby boom in 18 months time.