Councillors were updated on the progress being made to almost double Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) provision for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year old children in Fife from August 2020.
Significant changes are taking place, involving schools, nurseries, playgroups and childminders across Fife, in preparation for the roll out of 1,140 hours fully funded childcare per year.
The expansion in childcare, from 600 hours to 1,140 hours, comes from Scottish Government legislation and policy aimed at supporting children and families. In Fife, this will provide children with high-quality early learning and childcare that can make a significant contribution to their development.
To accommodate the increased hours, work is underway extending or re-furbishing some existing nurseries, as well as creating new nursery provision. The number of private and voluntary sector nurseries and childminders coming into partnership with Fife Council continues to increase, offering more choice and flexibility to families. The Early Years Apprenticeship Programme has helped recruit 160 Early Years Officers since August 2016, with another 25 apprentices due to start in October 2019.
Cllr. Fay Sinclair, Convener of the Education and Children’s Services Committee, welcomed the update saying: “I’m pleased to hear that work is progressing and that we’re on track to be able to provide the increase in ELC, to 1,140 hours, for eligible children.
“We have mounting evidence that shows investment in Early Years plays a very important part in closing the attainment gap. An increase in the free hours available will give parents flexibility and access to high quality care for their children in a way that best suits their family.
“Along with this, the early intervention which we can provide can have a huge impact on future outcomes, benefitting all families with young children across the area.”
Councillors also agreed the adjustments needed to the ELC Admissions Policy to reflect the ‘funding following the child’ approach identified by the Scottish Government. A range of ELC provisions will be available across Fife and parents will be able to apply for places that will support their family and childcare needs.