Childcare and Early Years Education

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 26 June 2013.

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Photo of Jayne Baxter Jayne Baxter Labour

12. To ask the Scottish Government how it is responding to the conclusions on childcare and early years education in the Equal Opportunities Committee’s report, “Women and Work”. (S4O-02303)

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

We welcome the report of the Equal Opportunities Committee. I am pleased to see that its recommendations are consistent with those identified at the women’s employment summit last year, which was held in partnership with the Scottish Trades Union Congress.

Our long-term ambition is to improve and increase early learning and childcare to match the best in Europe, ensuring that it offers the greatest benefit to our most vulnerable children. As a first step, we will legislate, through the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, to increase free and more flexible early learning and childcare provision from 475 to 600 hours. That will remove some of the barriers that parents and carers can face in taking up education, training and employment, as well as saving families the equivalent of around £700 per child per year.

Photo of Jayne Baxter Jayne Baxter Labour

I recently had the opportunity to meet parents and childcare workers in Methil as part of Save the Children’s childcare conversations work. The message that I got from that discussion was clear—for too many women, lack of flexible, affordable, out-of-school-hours childcare is a persistent major barrier to continuing learning and training. Will the minister outline what the Scottish Government is doing to meet the need for affordable or free out-of-school-hours and school holiday childcare as part of prioritising childcare as a key aspect of community infrastructure in our most disadvantaged communities?

Photo of Aileen Campbell Aileen Campbell Scottish National Party

I recently met Jayne Baxter at the Gingerbread celebrations in Fife, in the region that she represents. I appreciate the input to the on-going debate on childcare from the parents that she has spoken to in Methil.

We absolutely recognise that flexibility is a key thing that we need to get right, which is why flexibility will be enshrined in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill. We recognise that, to meet the needs of parents who want to access education and training, we need to provide the hours flexibly.

The member raises the issue of out-of-school care and the childcare needs of parents of children who are older than the early years sector. That is why we are pleased that the Scottish Out of School Care Network is on the early years task force in a sub-group that is looking at out-of-school care. We have just announced £1.7 million for our third sector strategic partners, which include SOSCN, the Care and Learning Alliance, the National Day Nurseries Association and the Scottish Childminding Association, in order to influence the way in which we provide more opportunities for families with children who are older but who nonetheless need childcare facilities to be available to them.