Childcare (Funded Places)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 18th September 2019.

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Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

7. To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to ensure that funded childcare places are flexible enough to meet parents’ needs. (S5O-03539)

Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

Quality is at the heart of the expansion, because high-quality early learning and childcare have the potential to transform children’s lives. As well as ensuring a high-quality experience for our children, we are working to enable flexibility for families. To support that, and in preparation for August 2020, local authorities are working with providers to develop their plans for delivering the expanded hours. In line with their statutory duty to consult parents and carers on the provision of early learning and childcare as set out in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, local authorities are also working with families to inform how they make ELC available in their area in order to put in place a flexible and high-quality local offer.

Photo of Michelle Ballantyne Michelle Ballantyne Conservative

The requirement that all settings that want to provide funded places have to offer the full 1,140 hours has meant that small settings that have, to date, been contracted to deliver 600 hours but cannot or do not want to deliver the full 1,140 hours are being removed as a choice for parents. Will the Government consider revising that requirement, to allow parents to choose blended care or fewer hours in small high-quality settings?

Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

That is a very good question. Blended provision is already a cornerstone of many local authorities’ provision. As part of the phasing, local authorities are consulting their communities on exactly what is required. I refer to my earlier response, in which I mentioned the statutory duty on local authorities to consult local families closely, which means that local authorities are aware of what is required in their areas. Blended provision is part of the provision in areas where parents are requesting it.

Photo of Fulton MacGregor Fulton MacGregor Scottish National Party

Will the minister provide an update on the Scottish Government’s recent work on the issue of deferment for children with birthdays from mid-August to December, as highlighted by the members’ business debate on the issue on 1 May this year and the give them time campaign?

Photo of Maree Todd Maree Todd Scottish National Party

I put on record my thanks to Fulton MacGregor for his work on the issue. I know that many of the founder members of the give them time campaign group are his constituents and that he has worked well alongside them to raise their issues.

This morning, I updated the Education and Skills Committee on the work that the Scottish Government and partners are undertaking on funded early learning and childcare and deferral of school start. We are in the process of updating the early learning and childcare statutory guidance to reflect legislative changes since 2014. As part of those updates, we have committed to strengthening the guidance on providing an additional year of funded ELC in a deferred year. We will hold a public consultation on the refreshed statutory guidance prior to its publication.

We have worked with Convention of Scottish Local Authorities members and the give them time campaign on parental communication issues. I put on record my thanks to the campaign for its support for that work. I have updated the Scottish Government web pages to provide more clarity for parents on the right to defer children’s entry into primary 1. We have also investigated the available data on deferral and uptake of early learning and childcare. We will publish new analysis using information from the pupil census.