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.”

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