CAMPAIGNERS are calling for the Government to treat nurseries in the same way as schools for the safety of children and staff as lockdown continues.

The north east Essex district of the National Education Union (NUE) believes keeping nurseries fully open to all children is “incompatible with making lockdown work”.

With all other education establishments currently closed to most students, except the children of key workers or those listed as vulnerable, union members say nurseries should also only be admitting children in these categories.

The group says the safety of the children and all nursery staff is being compromised, particularly given the close nature of contact with this very young age group.

This position is also supported by the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) who agrees keeping nurseries open is unsafe.

Nursery worker Abi said one of her concerns is nursery workers will not receive Covid vaccines for “months”.

“We provide a vital service and I think the service should remain, but those who work in nurseries need to be supported and protected,” she added.

“We have been an underpaid and undervalued profession for years and Covid has just highlighted it.”

However, Shane Jones, a parent from Colchester, thinks nurseries should remain open to all youngsters.

He said: “Children need an education and nurseries are giving young children a little chance of some normality.”

Mr Jones added: “It’s also down to the parents if they want to send there kids in.

“I’m on furlough but my daughter is in nursery.”

Jean Quinn, the local NEU press officer, said: “The key issue is funding because nurseries lose funding if a child is unable to attend, therefore we have seen some nurseries begging parents to send in their children because they cannot afford the financial blow.

“Furthermore, the Government has consistently underfunded nurseries for many years so that with the added burden of Covid-19 safety costs the nursery section is particularly hard hit.”

She said the union is calling on the Government to reduce the number of children attending and give additional funding to nurseries, and to furlough parents so they can care for their children at home.