CEO of the SPNA – Scotland’s largest provider of early learning – Sharon Fairley, said that she understands the government “can’t get everything right”, but that it urgently needs to engage with SPNA in discussions on how the guidance can be improved.
She said they warned “weeks ago” if clear guidance wasn’t given to the Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) industry then nurseries up and down the country would face having to close resulting in added pressure on parents and key-workers.
Ms Fairley said: "My biggest worry is the staff, and this is what we’re hearing across Scotland.
"We are not being supported, we’re not being respected, we’re very vulnerable and we’re very stressed.
“We don’t have administrators and office staff so it’s normally managers who are having to find out the information and assess the guidance when they hear that someone has been in contact with a positive case – most often in the evenings or weekends.
“We’ve been saying this for months. We are critical, we are on our knees, but I think everybody just thinks we’re saying this to be dramatic.
"Watching the news today and seeing a carer in tears, and then seeing my staff who I'm trying my best to support is so difficult, but what do we do?”
She referenced confusion around the rules which state children under five-years-old can attend nursery after being a close contact of a positive case, arguing that there is little evidence to support that under five's cannot carry the virus, and that no consideration has been given to how the child would get to the nursery if both parents are isolating.
She continued: “There are so many inconsistencies in the rules which confuse so many of us, part of the problem is that we don’t have a direct contact number in the government so everybody is being told slightly different things, it’s chaotic.”
Ms Fairley went on to say that they are not criticising the government, she understands that creating guidance for every sector to follow is a challenge, but urges it to give the SPNA a seat at the table and productively discuss the best options going forward for the ELC industry as Covid-19 cases continue to rise.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are closely monitoring the impact of the pandemic on childcare services and their staff.
“Nurseries are following a robust set of Covid-19 safety measures which, thanks to the hard work of staff, have helped to keep levels of transmission in ELC settings low.
“Under changes that came in on August 9, adults identified as close contacts of someone who has tested positive for Covid-19 are no longer automatically required to self-isolate for 10 days, provided they are double-vaccinated, with at least two weeks passed since their second dose, they have no symptoms and they return a negative PCR test.
"These changes will significantly reduce the length of time that staff need to spend away from work.”