Parents’ delight at extra nursery cash Stirling Council to be included in school deferral pilot
A parents’ campaign group has welcomed news that Stirling Council will pilot an extra year’s nursery funding for children deferring P1 entry from 2022.
The local authority is one of five - also including Clackmannanshire - selected by the Scottish Government to trial full implementation of the additional year of ELC support for children who are not yet aged five by the school start date.
The current system means that funding is automatically granted for children born in January and February, but for parents of youngsters born between the middle of August and December, the discretionary support is reliant upon an application to the council.
However, a recent law change now means all children legally deferring their school start date for a year are automatically entitled to a further year of nursery funding - with the change coming into effect in August 2023.
As part of ministers’ efforts to understand the impact of the changes, five council areas were invited into an earlier pilot and that has now been expanded to a further five councils, including Stirling.
Patricia Anderson, co-founder of the Give Them Time group, said: “We think it’s going to mean a hell of a lot for parents that Stirling has been included in the pilot from 2022-23.
“We’re learning from these pilots what the implications of full national rollout are, but that’s necessary because it’s a false choice at present for those unable to fund a continuous place in nursery.
“This legislation was one of the best kept secrets in Scotland, so this will mean increased choice for parents and will empower them to make a child-centred decision.
“It’s now dependent on parents being made aware of the legislation and more people are becoming aware, although we’re still hearing stories of parents being misinformed by councils and nurseries.”
The group have criticised the consistently low rates of granting referrals in Stirling, with data from August 2020 revealing that only ten of the 21 requests for funding were accepted.
The rate of 42 per cent was the lowest percentage figure recorded across any Scottish council area, with the next lowest being North Lanarkshire on 81 per cent.
Ms Anderson added: “We’re delighted that Stirling was brought into the expanded pilot because we had specifically asked for local authorities with poor records of granting requests as well as city areas - and Stirling ticks both boxes.
“We have good relationships with councillors in Stirling and they have been very supportive of getting change in this area and are also supportive of making sure the information gets out to parents.
“We don’t think things would have changed without the lobbying and the brave parents who have come forward and raised their own issues.”
A Stirling Council spokesman said: “We are delighted that our application to be part of this pilot scheme has been accepted by the Scottish Government.
“The subject of deferral requests has been under consideration by the council and we know this news will be welcomed by parents whose views helped inform our decision to apply for this pilot, ahead of its full rollout in 2023.”