Young children and creches

 

Sir,– We are academics and researchers from the disciplines of child psychology and child development. As the Government considers reopening creches, for the children of health workers most urgently but also for all children, we wish to make the following points.

While the health of children, early education professionals, teachers and parents must be the priority we are concerned that there may be a hasty opening of creches without protocols in place that are safe and suited to the needs and capacities of young children.

Young children are not capable of social distancing. Any attempt to assert social distancing will cause them distress and bewilderment and will be impossible to manage. This applies to children in creches and junior and senior infants in primary schools. Other jurisdictions have kept creches open for the children of health workers since the start of this crisis. They provide examples of both good and poor practice from the perspective of children’s welfare and developmental capacity.

The Department of Children and Youth Affairs and the National Public Health Emergency Team (NPHET) should seek the advice of child psychologists as they develop policies and protocols in relation to the re-opening of creches and primary schools. There is no expert on child development, or child psychology, or early childhood education and care on the expert group or its subgroups. As creches and schools move to reopen, such expertise is essential and the Government should consider appointing a child psychologist with particular expertise in early childhood to NPHET as a priority. – Yours, etc,

Prof NÓIRIN HAYES,

School of Education,

Prof SHEILA GREENE,

Fellow Emerita,

School of Psychology,

Dr ELIZABETH NIXON,

Assistant Professor

in Developmental

Psychology,

Trinity College Dublin;

Prof EILIS HENNESSY,

School of Psychology,

University College Dublin;

Dr ANN MARIE

HALPENNY,

Lecturer in Psychology

and Child Development,

Technological

University Dublin.