Government insists childcare roll-out is "on track"

Written by Gemma Fraser on 20 December 2018 in News

Opposition MSPs remain sceptical about the Scottish Government's ability to deliver on childcare pledge

Image credit: Scottish Government 

The Scottish Government has insisted it is “on track” to meet ambitious childcare targets despite figures showing recruitment for extra early years staff was 18 per cent less than forecast.

The government has committed to increasing early learning and childcare (ELC) provision in Scotland by almost doubling the funded entitlement from 600 to 1140 hours per year from August 2020 for all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds.

But new figures have revealed that local authority nurseries have hired 18 per cent fewer additional staff than forecast and that there were four per cent fewer childminders between 2017 and 2018.

Up to 11,000 additional workers are needed to meet the commitment to expand ELC.

Giving an update on ELC expansion, the Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd said: “Local delivery of the expansion is now well under way in communities across Scotland.

“Local authorities reported in September that more than 11,000 children are benefiting from access to more than 600 hours of early learning and childcare, including 1,100 eligible two-year-olds.

“I have had the pleasure of visiting a number of settings that already provide 1,140 hours and I have been thrilled to hear of the positive benefits that children and their parents are experiencing.

“This is an ambitious and challenging transformation programme. We need robust and transparent governance arrangements to ensure that the expansion is delivered on time.”

But opposition MSPs challenged Todd on the Scottish Government’s ability to meet the roll-out by 2020.

Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s education spokesman, said: “The national standards are generally welcome, but the key concern about the policy has always been about how it will be delivered in practice, and, in particular, how enough qualified staff will be recruited.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Tavish Scott said: “Maree Todd’s assurances that this policy is on track aren’t borne out by the government’s own figures.

“Even with reports that private nurseries are haemorrhaging staff to local authority nurseries, the figures show they missed the recruitment target by almost 300 staff.

“Given that we need 11,000 new staff by 2020, the minister needs to provide more than mere assurances that her policy will be followed through.”

Todd insisted that the government is “on target to deliver the required workforce”.

She added: “Interestingly, the data shows that there are more children in placements than we had anticipated there would be at this point.

“Therefore, despite the workforce being slightly under the expected levels, the number of children receiving 1,140 hours of childcare is higher than we had anticipated.”

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