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Early Learning and Childcare expansion plans move forward

Posted on 29 Aug 2017
Ambitious plans to expand early learning and childcare provision are taking shape.

North Ayrshire Council has drawn up proposals to ensure that it is well placed to continue to provide high quality, flexible and accessible early learning and childcare for its youngest residents to deliver the Scottish Governmnet’s expansion programme. .

Across Scotland, entitlement to fully funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) is due to increase from 600 hours to 1140 hours by 2020.

That means that all 3 and 4 year old children, and eligible 2 year olds, will be entitled to almost double their current provision.

North Ayrshire Council is  drawing up proposals to ensure it is ready to meet the demands.

At Cabinet today (Tuesday, August 29), members agreed to take forward plans for expansion.

The Fullarton community, in Irvine, has been piloting the 1140 hours programme. This has helped shape the proposed model for North Ayrshire.

A consultation exercise with parents and carers, of children attending early learning and childcare provision in North Ayrshire, gathered views on the programme. The results showed:

  • 83% of survey respondents indicated that they would take some or all of the hours made available,  and 64% would take 900 or more hours.
  • 19% of respondents said they would require to purchase additional early learning and childcare hours (on top of the 1140 funded entitlement) in order to continue or take up employment.
  • 71% of respondents said they would need childcare in the mornings (8am‐12pm), 64% of in the afternoons (12pm‐4pm).

Councillor John Bell, Cabinet Member for Education, said: “We want to place families at the very heart of the expanded provision in North Ayrshire.

“We have engaged parents and carers early and extensively to ensure they have a voice in how the proposals have been shaped.

“The expansion of early learning and childcare means that we have explored ways in which the service can be delivered and what kind of impact they will have on the lives of parents and children.

“Our priority has been to ensure we continue to provide high quality provision for children as well as giving flexibility to families to help parents get back into work, training or education.”

The proposed model will see provision available from 8am until 6pm over 50 weeks of the year in all ELC establishments.

It is expected that this would enhance the quality of care and learning by providing a consistent delivery over 50 weeks, instead of the current 38 weeks.

It is expected that the service would offer greater flexibility to parents and carers, whilst improving affordability.

The proposed model highlights the requirement to create a new early learning centre, which could accommodate 40 three to four-year-old children and 20 two-year-old children. The centre would incorporate a training facility for early years’ practitioners and leaders which will support the Council’s ambition to develop a high quality early learning and childcare workforce.

North Ayrshire Council’s proposed model will be submitted to the Scottish Government.