New fund announced to improve ASL in nurseries
Two million pound fund to improve access to nursery for children with additional support needs announced
Nursery - credit Emily Goodstein
A new £2m fund to improve access to free childcare provision for children with additional support needs has been announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
The funding will go to nurseries offering free early learning and childcare as part of the Scottish Government’s expansion of free provision.
The move follows responses to the government’s consultation on plans to double the free entitlement from 600 hours to 1140 hours by 2020, which revealed many children with disabilities or additional support for learning (ASL) needs are missing out on the current provision.
This is despite the existence of a statutory duty on education authorities to promote, protect and safeguard the wellbeing of children and young people with additional support needs, including a formal decision on whether a child needs support.
Speaking at an early years learning centre in Wester Hailes this morning, Sturgeon said equality of access must be ensured during the expansion.
“We want our expansion plans for early learning and childcare to be built on a foundation of fairness and equity, whether that’s for the children benefiting, their carers or the staff delivering high quality learning,” she said.
“We know that there are a number of barriers which can prevent children with additional support needs from accessing early learning and childcare and this funding will help break down those barriers.
“We must give providers the skills and equipment to ensure that all children, regardless of their needs, can benefit from the huge expansion of early learning and childcare.”
All three and four year olds and vulnerable two year olds in Scotland are currently entitled to the 600 hours of free early learning and childcare, but parents have complained the provision is not flexible enough in many local authority areas.
The campaign group Fair Funding for Our Kids argue the current 600 hour system is “unusable” for many working families, and that it should be implemented successfully first before any attempt is made to double the hours.
Today’s announcement follows a pledge by the First Minister at SNP conference to invest £50m to make sure all staff working in private nurseries are paid the real living wage.
Currently 80 per cent of staff in private and third sector nurseries earn less than the living wage.
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