The closure of nurseries to all but the children of key workers sent a seismic shock through the industry. At a stroke, most nurseries saw their attendance decimated.
For many settings it was no longer financially viable to remain open and trading. The government support measures, especially the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme and continuation of local authority grants (see here for more details), will hopefully allow those that do shut to survive the coming months and reopen later in the year.
Some nurseries, especially those near hospitals, will have enough key workers to continue to trade successfully, but what about nurseries who may struggle to stay open but don't want to shut (maybe they have a small number of key worker or vulnerable children and feel duty bound to stay open)?
The current situation may actually provide opportunities for entrepreneurial operators if they are able to adapt. Some suggestions are:
Maximise Income: there are key workers who are searching for a nursery as their existing one has closed. Reach out to the local authority and any nurseries in your local area and ask to be put in touch with any such parents, you could be a vital lifeline for them.
Minimise Costs: take advantage of the government schemes and furlough as many staff as possible. Provided the quality of care and safety and security of children is maintained, the EYFS framework allows changes to the ratios, so there is less need to retain excess staff capacity to cover absenteeism (within reason).
Pool Resources: for operators with more than one setting, it may be feasible to transfer all children to a single setting and close the others.
Maintain Staff Morale: furlough periods must be for a minimum of 3 weeks but there is no restriction on furloughing employees more than once. Nurseries will thus be able to rotate staff to share the burden in difficult times.
Create Goodwill: Staying open will be, for many, a public service and nurseries may be able to create goodwill/publicity beyond their existing parent base. This could lead to higher intakes once nurseries are allowed to open fully.
These are uncertain times with guidance seeming to change almost daily, but the fundamentals of business remain constant. Our Childcare Team is on hand to help, so get in touch if you have any questions. You can also visit the Brabners Covid-19 Support page for more useful advice.
Catherine Phelvin and her husband, both NHS clinical workers, said the nursery of their one-year-old child closed at short notice last week. "For various reasons and this really left us quite stuck," said Catherine. "If we don't have adequate childcare provision for our youngest pre-school children, it's difficult for two key worker parents or indeed single parents to continue working - even their current hours, let alone, doing extra hours.