Cash warning over extra free nursery places
Ambitious target for more places is ‘underfunded’
PARENTS will miss out on entitlement to more free nursery hours without significant additional investment, ministers have been warned.
Some 125,000 youngsters each year benefit from free childcare with the Scottish Government pledging to increase the number of hours to 1,140 a year by 2020.
A child born in August receives a full two years, or 1,200 hours of Government-funded provision before starting school; whereas a child born in September will receive only 18 months, or 1,000 hours.
And a child born in January will receive only 15 months, or 800 hours, according to a report by Reform Scotland.
Ministers have announced that £60 million would be made available in the coming year to pay for the additional workforce and infrastructure, but funding beyond 2018 has not been confirmed.
The National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), which represents private nurseries, said the policy could not be delivered without proper investment.
Purnima Tanuku, chief execu- tive of NDNA, said: “If the Scottish Government wishes to fulfil its pledge of doubling funded early learning and childcare, it needs to invest enough money to increase funding and support the creation of extra capacity within existing nurseries to satisfy demand.
“Private and third sector nurseries which we represent want to participate in funded childcare, but need to balance their books.”
Meanwhile, local authorities called for ministers to set out a “clear delivery plan” detailing how it will meet its ambitious target.
David O’Neill, president of council umbrella body Cosla, said: “We need a plan and we don’t have a plan. The potential consequence is a manifesto commitment made to the public might not be delivered.
“There are a number of serious concerns around the lack of definitive information regarding timescales, specifically funding information and associated milestones.”
Primary headteachers said the planned increase would bring “no better gains for children”.
Frank McAveety, the leader of Glasgow City Council, said: “How can we build new nurseries and recruit with no certainty of funding long term?”
The Association of Headteachers and Deputes in Scotland (AHDS) warned they would need protected time away from normal school duties to organise nursery staff shifts to cover extended hours during holidays, weekends and after school. Teachers and school leaders work a 35-hour week and the change must not rely on “goodwill”, the union told the Government.
The AHDS described the increase in free hours prioritised quantity over quality.
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said work had already begun on planning for the expansion, but it needed to consult before taking “final decisions” on implementation.
She added: “Our commitment to increase free early learning and childcare is our most transformative infrastructure project.”
‘‘ If the Scottish Government wishes to fulfil its pledge... it needs to invest enough to satisfy demand
ED SHEERAN said he is “incredibly chuffed” to have become the first artist ever to score the top two spots in the chart simultaneously with his two new singles.
Sheeran, 25, marked his comeback after a year away from the music scene last week by releasing tracks Shape Of You and Castle On The Hill.
Shape Of You has gone straight to number one in the singles chart followed by Castle On The Hill in second place. He said: “Both tracks mean a huge amount to me so it really is amazing to see them go to the top of the chart together.”