It has now been a month since nurseries, schools and other educational settings were asked to close indefinitely to contain the spread of the Coronavirus.

Several nurseries in Clacton-On-Sea have closed their doors leaving only a quarter of providers open for children of key workers, including Willow Tree Nursery on Chingford Avenue.

Here we share the thoughts and experiences of some of the staff working on the frontline and what it is like running a nursery during a pandemic.

What are your thoughts and feelings about the current situation?

The situation itself is one we have never had. It is very surreal, but I take each day as it comes and try to have an optimistic outlook on the ‘here and now’ as opposed to worrying too much about what the future holds.

On a normal day we are now caring for only a handful of children as opposed to 140 depending on the day! The end of the week is a bit busier with some parents continuing with our after-school club.

Nursery staff are admittedly worried about caring for children of key workers for fear of contracting the virus, infecting themselves and their families. The concept of social distancing is not something children of such a young age can comprehend and adhere to.

What steps you are taking to protect yourself and the children?

We collect the children from the door and do not allow the parents past the foyer to minimise contact. The children and staff wash their hands as they come in and do so regularly throughout the day. We also monitor temperatures and avoid certain activities that involve too much contact. This doesn’t stop us from comforting a child if they need a cuddle.

We are constantly cleaning toys, surfaces and play areas, and are planning a deep clean before the nursery reopens as ‘normal’.

Though the majority of our team have been furloughed due to reduced attendance, there are always at least two members of staff caring for the few children we have in.We are also advising parents of safety precautions at home and regularly sharing any advice from Essex County Council or other agencies.

We have stopped wearing our uniforms to and from nursery, they go straight into a bag to be washed when arriving home. Also keeping social distancing guidelines outside of work.

What is keeping you going?

What keeps us going is knowing we are helping those who genuinely need it at this time and that the essential service we are offering is helping front line key workers to continue their incredible work.

We also find comfort in knowing our nursery children are able to stay in a familiar setting with familiar adults – not adding to their (or their parents) individual anxieties and stresses.

Working alongside incredibly supportive and hardworking staff helps, plus the kindness and appreciation shown by parents and colleagues with the odd delivery of gifts.

Personally – I have had a lot of support and guidance from Central Support staff at Storal Learning and my main source of support has definitely come from my Area Manager, who has been in daily contact and supported me in any which way she can. Keeping in touch with our families via Facebook and parent app has kept us going but we cannot wait to see all their faces once we reopen.