Early Learning and Childcare Provision (Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 6th February 2019.

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Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

9. To ask the Scottish Government what impact its commitment to invest £500 million to expand early learning and childcare provision will have on demand for skilled staff and infrastructure investment opportunities in the Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley constituency. (S5O-02857)

Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government and local authorities have committed to an unprecedented level of investment in early learning and childcare through the near doubling of the funded entitlement to 1,140 hours per year from August 2020. The multiyear funding package will mean that East Ayrshire will receive capital funding of £21.6 million from 2017-18 to 2020-21, with revenue funding to support the expansion increasing to £13.6 million by 2021-22. That will support investment in 15 sites in the Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley area, and 1,140 hours are currently being delivered in six settings in the area as part of phasing. More settings will offer the expanded hours later this year. It is estimated that 162 full-time equivalent posts will be created in Kilmarnock and Irvine Valley through the expansion.

Photo of Willie Coffey Willie Coffey Scottish National Party

I welcome the minister’s answer. Does she intend to expand the number of modern apprenticeships in early learning and childcare and in foundation apprenticeships, to encourage new recruits to the sector and perhaps to offer young people work experience while they are still at school?

Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

Modern apprenticeships are popular and very fruitful in training, recruitment and retention in the sector. That is why Skills Development Scotland has committed, through its skills investment plan for the early learning and childcare expansion, to increasing ELC modern apprenticeships by 10 per cent each year to 2020. Figures that relate to the 2017-18 academic year indicated that that target was exceeded, with an increase of 21 per cent in uptake in those modern apprenticeships compared with the figure for 2016-17. We fully expect that growth to continue as we move towards 2020.

For the foundation apprenticeships, the framework on social services, children and young people saw an increase in the number of starts from 57 in cohort 1, in 2016-18, to 466 in cohort 2, in 2017-19. The information for cohort 3, which is due early this year, is expected to show a further increase.

This morning, I had the pleasure of visiting Kidstore Childcare, which is a partner provider in North Lanarkshire that benefits from over half of its staff having joined as apprentices and from five foundation apprentices attending from school. They were absolutely full of the benefits of that way of entering the profession.

Photo of Mary Fee Mary Fee Labour

Thousands of qualified and highly trained staff are required in order to meet the ambition of the Government’s childcare expansion. Can the minister tell me what progress has been made to recruit the required staff and how many people are currently working in the sector?

Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

Absolutely. At the moment, we have about 35,000 people working in the sector and just over 25,000 people delivering the funded entitlement. This morning, we had a meeting of the joint delivery board, which is where Government and local authority representatives monitor progress. The data and the intelligence both show that we are broadly on target to meet the forecasts.

In recent months, another comforting fact has been that the Scottish Social Services Council’s report, which was published just before Christmas, showed that day care children’s services—a category that includes the ELC provision—reported a level of vacancies that was significantly below the national average. The proportion of services that reported vacancies that were hard to fill was also significantly below the national average, which is very comforting at this stage of the expansion.