To ask the Secretary of State for Education, what recent discussions he has had with the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government on the effect on the viability of (a) academy trust nurseries and (b) maintained school nurseries of local authorities returning to funding following the child from 1 January 2021.
During the COVID-19 outbreak, we have provided unprecedented support to the early years sector by continuing to fund the free childcare entitlements, making grants and loans available and ensuring early years providers can access the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme for their non-government funded income, and childminders the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme.
While we recognise childcare attendance has been affected by the COVID-19 outbreak, we saw attendance rise over the autumn term from 482,000 on 10 September 2020 to 792,000 on 10 December 2020. On 17 December 2020, the government therefore announced a return to funding early years settings on the basis on attendance.
Under these arrangements, local authorities should ensure that providers are not penalised for short-term absences of children (for example sickness, arriving late or leaving early, or a family emergency) through withdrawing funding but use their discretion where absence is recurring or for extended periods, taking into account the reason for the absence and the impact on the provider.
The national lockdown announced by my right hon. Friend, the Prime Minister, on 4 January 2021 means the number of children attending childcare will drop although early years settings remain open for all.
We stay in regular contact with the early years sector and have heard from them already on this subject. We publish regular official statistics on attendance in early years settings, available here: https://explore-education-statistics.service.gov.uk/find-statistics/attendance-in-education-and-early-years-settings-during-the-coronavirus-covid-19-outbreak. The next release is due on Tuesday 19 January 2021. We will be closely monitoring both parental take-up of places and the capacity and responses of providers and will keep under constant review whether further action is needed.