New childcare pilots announced
Yesterday, I was fortunate to visit Larkhall Children’s Centre, meet the children, staff and parents and see for myself how the nursery there is helping deliver the Scottish Government’s aims to expand free early learning and childcare.
The children were fantastic and it was clear that they are benefitting from an extremely high quality of teaching and care.
That is important, because we know that access to universally available, affordable, high quality early learning and childcare brings significant benefits for both children and families.
It gives our young people the skills and confidence to build on throughout school and is a cornerstone for closing attainment and inequality gaps. For parents, flexible, affordable ELC helps them access other family services and get into education, training or employment.
That is why one of the Scottish Government’s key priorities is to deliver our pledge to double the number of funded hours of childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds and those 2 year olds who need it most. By the end of this parliament, we will have increased free provision from 600 hours a year to 1140 hours a year.
Good progress has been made, but we know that one of the key challenges we need to address is how we can make this service flexible and fit better into the lives of working families.
In the new year, three pilot projects – in Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the Borders – will begin to help us identify how this flexible early learning and childcare can be best structured.
Yesterday, I was delighted to announce the locations for the next pilot projects. One of those will be in Larkhall Children’s Centre, and will see the local authority use childminders to support the needs of parents in the outlying communities of Stonehouse, Dalserf and Netherburn.
Although based in these communities, the childminders, will form an extended part of the nursery team and benefit from support as well as being able to access nursery and council resources. It’s a really imaginative way of delivering the service we want to provide in our communities.
The Larkhall project is just one of 11 new pilot programmes we confirmed. As well as using childminding services, these projects will test new approaches such as linking ELC to local employability services to help parents access employment, training or education and co-locating ELC and out of school care services.
The trials will take place in Argyll and Bute, Dundee, Glasgow, Western Isles, Shetland Isles, North Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Midlothian and Angus.
They will commence by Summer 2017 and will be supported by more than £827,000 in Scottish Government funding, bringing our total funding commitment for this work to more than £950,000.
You can read more about individual trials here: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/People/Young-People/early-years/ELCTrials/ELCTrials