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Local authorities offering more choice for families.
Local authorities are now offering new patterns of early learning and childcare to provide more flexibility for families.
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 introduced a requirement on local authorities to offer more flexibility and choice over how funded hours are offered, and to do this following local consultations with parents and carers every two years. This is so that flexibility and choice can continue to increase year on year.
The Minister for Childcare and Early Years Mark McDonald highlighted examples of flexibility during a visit to Crookston Early Years Centre in Glasgow which is open all year, including school holidays. For example, City of Edinburgh and Falkirk Councils now provide full day places and some Aberdeenshire nurseries offer wrap around care.
Mr McDonald said:
"The early years are a crucial time in a child's development and evidence has shown access to high quality early learning and childcare helps improve educational outcomes. In addition to the educational benefits for children, free provision can help parents and carers to return to work, training or education.
"We know that access to free provision can be an issue for some families. That's why we made it a legal requirement for local authorities to increase flexibility and choice and I'm delighted that many of them are already offering more choice to families.
"It's fantastic that nurseries like Crookston Early Years Centre are offering year round provision; and that local authorities are providing additional wrap around care or using more child minders and partner providers to meet parents' needs.
"I look forward to working closely with local authorities and partner providers as we continue our work to expand provision even further to 1,140 free hours by 2020."
The Scottish Government expanded free early learning and childcare from 412 hours to 475 hours for all three and four year olds in 2007. The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 increased free provision from 475 hours to 600 hours for all three and four year olds and around 27 per cent of two year olds. This expansion has been fully funded by the Scottish Government through £500 million investment for financial years 2014-15, 2015-16 and allocations for 2016-17. The Scottish Government has committed to increase funded provision to 1,140 hours by 2020.
Further examples of flexible provision:
- Fife Council has introduced a number of different attendance patterns including half and full day sessions.
- Perth and Kinross Council will offer a range of options for parents to use their funded hours in half or full day sessions and in partner provider settings from August 2016.
- Glasgow City Council has introduced more than 1000 new partner provider places.
- City of Edinburgh Council has built three new nurseries.