Worksop nursery staff in vaccine plea for “forgotten sector”

Staff at a Worksop nursery say they are being “forgotten” in the vaccination programme while putting themselves on the “frontline” for working parents

Emma Barton, deputy manager at Luans Little People Day Nursery, says early years workers need to be pushed up the priority list for the vaccination, along with teachers.

At present although nurseries are open to all children – unlike schools which only cater for those of keyworkers – they are not included in the Government’s nine levels of priority to receive the vaccine.

The Government maintains that the most vulnerable in the first nine priority groups should still receive it first.

Workers Lucy Pollard, Sarah Pearson and Sarah with little ones at Luans Little People Day Nursery

Emma told how in December, 14 out of 16 staff were stuck down with the virus.

The mass infection forced the nursery to remain closed during the first week of the new year and to operate under reduced hours the following week as exhausted workers struggled to recover.

She told how staff were now “on edge constantly” and felt like they were playing a “waiting game” until the next outbreak.

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Emma Barton and Sarah Pearson, of Luans Little People Day Nursery

During the first lockdown in March nurseries were closed to all children apart from those of keyworkers alongside schools.

However during the current lockdown the Government decided not to close them - leaving workers dangerously exposed to the virus and even spreading it to others unknowingly.

Luans Little People staff, like most early years workers, are unable to wear PPE for fear of upsetting little ones as young as four-months-old.

Even though social distancing is “impossible” with such young children staff have had no access to fast Covid tests - having instead to visit testing sites when they can.

Staff member Jenna Davy with a youngster at Luans Little People Day Nursery

Mum-of-three Emma said: “Our staff did not sign up to be on the frontline of a health crisis but for the children they did it - through the uncertainty and fear they turned up every day.

“Then came the new more contagious strain and my committed staff braced themselves to turn up with their usual smiles for the children.

“But we were left open to all children - we weren’t offered vaccines, we can’t wear PPE - we weren’t even offered rapid result test kits.

“Social distancing is impossible - have you ever tried to ‘social distance’ from a two-year-old who has just bumped their knee?”

She said: “When you’re with the children you just carry on as normal because we’re here for the children but it’s just scary.

“What we want is to be next in line for vaccination because right now it feels like we’re the forgotten sector.”

Last week Labour leader Keir Starmer called for teachers to be pushed up the priority list for vaccinations - however no mention was made of early years workers.

Official advice remains that younger children are less likely to pass on coronavirus than older children.

Speaking about the open-to-all policy for nurseries the UK's chief medical officer says the reason nursery schools are open “is to allow people who need to go to work or need to do particular activities to do so”.

It is understood Luans Little People Day Nursery have now been offered rapid Covid tests and are in discussions to find a way of conducting them effectively.

In these confusing and worrying times, local journalism is more vital than ever. Thanks to everyone who helps us ask the questions that matter by taking out a subscription or buying a paper. We stand together. Nancy Fielder, editor.