11. To ask the Scottish Government what guidance it provides to local authorities in relation to providing partnership funding for nursery places. (S4O-02145)
The Scottish Government does not currently provide guidance on that. It is for local authorities to decide an appropriate level to pay partner providers. The key priority is to secure high-quality early learning and childcare for children.
New statutory guidance will be published to support the implementation of the early learning and childcare proposals in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill. A sub-group of the early years task force has been established to draft that guidance. The group includes representatives of private and third sector partner providers, including the National Day Nurseries Association, the Care and Learning Alliance and Parenting across Scotland, which supports parents and represents parents’ issues.
Many parents in my constituency have raised concerns that they cannot send their children to their preferred nursery because of a lack of partnership-funded places, and they dispute the local authority’s claim that there are sufficient places in its nurseries in the area. I welcome the minister’s comments, however. Does she agree that parental choice remains fundamental and that local authorities should take account of that and ensure that sufficient partnership-funded places are available in local nurseries?
Yes, and I take on board what Rod Campbell—no relation—has stated. If he so wishes, I am happy to meet him to explain some of the proposals in the bill. I agree that parental choice is important. That is why we are introducing more flexibility through the bill’s early learning and childcare proposals.
It is for local authorities to secure sufficient provision through their own services and through partner providers. The bill will introduce a requirement on local authorities to consult locally representative populations of parents with children who are under school age in order to identify patterns of hours that best suit parental needs and to respond to those views through local plans to reconfigure services to meet those needs. That is why the bill is so important. It is about giving parents flexibility and meeting children’s developmental needs.
I am happy to meet any member who wants to raise issues about specific elements in the bill. We seek to deliver something that is meaningful for all children and young people. We are particularly interested in early years childcare issues and we want the bill to deliver on meeting the developmental needs of children in Scotland. If Neil Bibby wants to meet to discuss some of those issues, I am more than happy to talk through some of the details with him.