THE DEPARTMENT of Education has retracted its offer to include the Early Years Sector from the £650 million catch up fund.

The announcement leaves thousands of children across the country deprived of necessary services to make up for the time they have lost due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Throughout the crisis, those who work within the Early Years were left to fend for themselves with no additional funding available for staff and children to be protected after the government decided the sector did not need any additional PPE equipment.

Cheryl Hadland, Managing Director of Tops Day Nurseries said: “On behalf of Early Years providers across the country I would like to know exactly why we are not seen as equals to school provisions.

“We have had to work twice as hard with less staff and reduced opening hours to manage to remain open due to receiving no support, why is it that the sector that is responsible for giving the best possible start in life to the next generation is so undervalued?

"Many of our nurseries are based on hospital sites and have the opportunity to support NHS staff with holiday club care for children up to 11 years old yet we are being declined the opportunity to support children who have missed several weeks of education.”

Numerous nurseries across the UK have already closed their doors permanently and one in four providers are expected to go out of business within the next year.

However, Tops Day Nursery has managed to reopen 29 out of 30 nurseries across Dorset, Hampshire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Devon.

Before the coronavirus pandemic, the Early Years sector was already an extremely underfunded sector with many nursery workers forming part of the lowest paid workforce in the UK.

Initially offering £700m, the DfE has since corrected their press notice reducing the ‘catch up fund’ pot to £650m before removing early years from the offer altogether.

This means that children being cared for in the early years sector, particularly pre-school children, will not be able to benefit from additional educational resources before they transition to ‘big school’.

Cheryl added: “I am not stating that schools do not deserve this much-needed financial support, but I would like to question how long the government plans on ignoring the financial pressures that our sector is facing.

“Our Early Years sector were the ones caring for the children of school children to allow teachers to open up the schools.

“We were the ones exposing ourselves to contracting the virus by caring for children of NHS staff, care home staff, delivery drivers, shop assistants, farmers and councillors to enable them to go to work.