The planned teachers’ strike could have “quite a serious knock-on effect” for nurseries as staff may struggle to find childcare, a charity has said.
Director of policy at the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) Jonathan Broadbery told the PA news agency early years settings “might not be able to take all the children that they planned to” when teachers strike.
Walkouts by teacher members of the National Education Union (NEU) in England and Wales will take place on Wednesday – the first of seven days of strikes in February and March – after talks with Education Secretary Gillian Keegan failed to find a resolution.
Mr Broadbery said he was concerned about the potential long-term impact on nurseries should the dispute not be resolved.
Speaking about the potential impact on early years settings, Mr Broadbery said: “We know that the vast majority of the workforce in nurseries and early years is female – and if there are problems with children not being able to go to school, research over Covid shows it maybe falls to the working mums rather than working dads to look after the children who can’t go to school.
“So there will be quite a serious knock-on effect to the early years workforce if schools do have to close.
“It will have a big knock-on effect for parents even of younger children – but I know nurseries will be doing all they can to keep services open.”
Questioned on what he thought nurseries would have to do to cope with the impact of the strikes, Mr Broadbery told PA: “What’s most likely is they’ll have to move people’s working patterns or provide extra cover for staff who might not be able to work if their school is closed.
“Some nurseries do provide after-school clubs – so obviously if children aren’t going to school then they might not be able to run those clubs as well.
“I think it will be a case of, like for so many people, juggling who can be in – but unlike office staff … for early years you have to be present in the nursery to count in the legal ratios and things like that.
“So if they do have a significant number of staff off in a particularly hard-hit local area for example, then they might not be able to take all the children that they planned to that day.”
Addressing whether parents of nursery children should be worried about the strikes, Mr Broadbery said: “First and foremost, parents who are worried about a potential childcare nightmare, they should be reassured that nurseries will be doing all they can to stay open.
“If they do have out-of-school care services, they will be doing what they can in conjunction with the school to offer those where the school does stay open.
“One thing we know could happen is if a parent has to take a day off work because a school-age child is affected by the strikes, then they might also decide to take a younger sibling out of nursery.
“So it’s just important that they speak to the nurseries about that so that they can plan for the childcare that they will be delivering on those strike days.”
Asked if he was concerned about the potential long-term impact of the strikes on nurseries, Mr Broadbery said: “Absolutely yes, because nurseries and early-year providers are themselves a crucial part of children’s educational opportunities and their learning.
“There’s a lot of important things that need to happen between an early-years setting and schools – things like transitions into reception classes are really important for those children.
“It will make it much more difficult to for these settings to help those children and help them progress.”