Life for nursery tots after lockdown
No playdough, sandpits, or water games, but plenty of cuddles from staff and outdoor play in smaller groups. NO floor markings for children’s play areas or timed toilet breaks.
That’s the message from bosses at the Busy Bees day nurseries, which has centres at Preston, Warton, Blackpool and Lancaster, as more nurseries and schools prepare to re-open after the Covid-19 lockdown.
But all children and staff at Busy Bees will be having their temperature checked when they arrive, and families waiting to enter the nursery have to stand two metres apart at drop off and pick up.
The group is also planning temperature checks for both children and team members throughout the day, along with frequent hand washing and disinfecting of communal areas.
But, as the nurseries open up this week, unlike schools, youngsters will not be in little bubbles or hoops.
Staff are focusing on dividing children into close friendship groups, limiting the number of people children come into contact with, reducing the space that children can explore and spending more time outdoors.
Emily Brimson-Keight, Head of Safety at Busy Bees which also has a nursery in Chorley,, said: “There is much speculation about how life after lockdown could look in nurseries and schools, and parents are understandably very anxious. “The biggest priority for us is, and always will be, the safety, welfare and happiness of the children in our care.
“That’s why we have been working hard behind the scenes to prepare to open all centres, including those in Preston and Warton, since they first went into lockdown, and we are constantly sharing ideas and looking at best practice to ensure personal and emotional well being for children and team members.”
The group is also planning to utilise it’s safety mascot Safety Buzz to help promote safety, health and wellbeing in all aspects of children’s lives both at home and whilst in nursery. The Safety with Buzz programme is provides a range of activities and information for educators and parents and is designed to help children understand risks and make good decisions on how to stay safe.
The “new normal” is pretty much as life has been throughout lockdown for staff and children in the Ashbridge School and nursery group.
The group has sites at Lindle Lane in Hutton, Near Preston, which also houses a primary school, Maxy Farm at Cottam and Higher Walton near Preston as well as a creche.
The three main nurseries have remained open throughout to cater for the children of key workers, although the Myerscough College creche was moved to Maxy Farm at Cottam, Preston, because the campus was shut.
Group director Sarah Carr is chairman of the national Day Nurseries Association, and she staff have worked hard throughout the past few months to try to make sure that nursery life was a normal as possible for the youngsters in their care.
She says: “ Every nursery centre has remained open for key worker children and it was absolutely essential that we remained positive.
To be honest, our staff have really enjoyed it and felt they were doing something really useful - and it was appreciated.
They went above and beyond and were cooking meals and packaging them up for parents to take home so they didn’t have to worry about making tea and everyone has been really grateful.”
Staff worked round the clock to make that the school side at Hutton could open on Monday - despite the last minute call by the director of public health.
“ Now the school at the Lindle Lane, Hutton campus is open to reception year one and year six pupils as well as the nursery.
Sarah adds: “ School opened as arranged last Monday and everyone has been absolutely delighted.
“We are very lucky that all our premises have big grounds.
“Children are working in their key worker groups and we are using the outdoor areas as much as possible.
“The fantastic weather has helped.
“Currently with the three year groups in school we have been able to put the necessary distances in place.
“We are fortunate to have small classes but so far everyone has been pleased to be back. The children are all very calm and sensible. It is all about getting that balance right.
"We are keeping parents at a distance for drop off and pick up and everything has gone extremely smoothly but then, we worked really hard to ensure that robust systems were put in place.
“She is “very confident” that the rest of the school will be back before long and the 230 staff, many of whom were furloughed.
AKS Nursery and Preparatory School in Lytham has been open to children of key workers throughout lockdown and opened it’s doors to all children back in nursery, reception, Year one and Year six back last week.
Those who are shielding or who choose to remain at home are able to continue to access the four live Skype lessons a day, along with those in Years Two to Five who continue their remote learning programmes.
Nationally, nurseries have been operating at around 30 per cent of capacity and, says Sarah Carr, many may struggle once things return to normal.
She said: “The Early Years Funding was paid in full by Lancashire County Council but ti only covers 20 per cent of our income. The fact that business rates were cancelled will help some and Furlough was a Godsend.”
Rossall School is to partially reopen this week with Nursery, Reception, Year one and Year six returning to classrooms today.
The school will have fully reopened ahead of September and has created a Promoting of Safety and Wellbeing brochure to provide reassurance and peace of mind to all parents ahead of the School re-opening fully in September.