Moves to expand Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) and implement 1140 hours of funded ELC in Argyll and Bute by August 2020 are on schedule, Argyll and Bute Council’s Community Services Committee has confirmed.
The expansion in childcare, from 600 hours to 1140 hours, is part of a Scottish Government initiative aimed at providing young people with a high quality experience that can make a significant contribution to their development, and help close the poverty related attainment gap.
The latest update shows that from January 2020 – seven months ahead of the deadline – 76% of nurseries across Argyll and Bute will be phased in to 1140 hours.
By August 2020 all 60 local authority nurseries, 24 partner providers and 16 child minders will be phased in, although it is expected that the number of child minders delivering 1140 hours will increase.
The ELC expansion has increased employment opportunities in the area with more than 70 new posts being created including child minders, admin and other support staff. The Council is also working closely with the Scottish Child Minders Association to promote child minding as a career with a view to recruit more staff.
Funding has been made available to help providers and child minders prepare for the expansion, with grants offered to every nursery and to each child minder delivering ELC.
An extensive programme of refurbishments and extensions to existing properties is also under way to assist with the delivery of the extended hours.
In addition, an extensive targeted training scheme has been implemented for staff working in both the Council and partner providers. By September 2019, 1,546 individuals had requested training compared with 1,253 requests in total for 2018/19.
The Council’s Policy Lead for education, Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, said: “By delivering ELC which is high- quality, flexible, affordable and accessible, parents will be encouraged to take up their child's entitlement to funded childcare.
“Extending availability in this way is a major benefit in enabling parents and carers to return to employment and education or to access training. Crucially, it will also help to shape children’s learning at an important stage in their development.
“As the expansion of hours has progressed we have consulted regularly with parents, partners, practitioners and community groups and that process will continue as we work toward the August 2020 deadline.”