A plan that sets out how East Lothian Council proposes to deliver increased early learning and childcare provision has been approved by councillors.

The draft Early Learning and Childcare Implementation plan was approved at a meeting of East Lothian Council on 31 October. The plan follows the Scottish Government’s vision for the expansion of early learning and childcare provision to 1140 hours by 2020, and along with all other local authorities, East Lothian Council has been developing an implementation plan that sets out the ways it plans to expand provision across the county. The plan also takes account of the council’s Local Development Plan and the projected increased demand for pre-school provision by the 10,500 new homes to be built in East Lothian of the coming decade.

Our priority is to ensure this secures positive futures for our children, with high-quality provision at the heart of everything we do.

Fiona Robertson, Head of Education

The plan sets out how creative measures such as making the most of outdoor spaces, expanding provision in local authority nurseries over 50 weeks rather than the current 38 week model, and building on existing relationships with other providers of childcare and early learning, will create an offer to families that is flexible, accessible and affordable.

The council’s Early Years Team intends to test out the proposed delivery model within existing early learning and childcare settings and has sought Scottish Government funding to implement these trials. A series of parent consultations will also be held, allowing parents to engage with the service proposals. This follows a parental survey undertaken in the Prestonpans area in the summer of 2017 that showed a clear preference for a 50 week per year provision.

Fiona Robertson, Head of Education, said:

“We’re looking at a range of models to support implementation of the new policy. Our priority is to ensure this secures positive futures for our children, with high-quality provision at the heart of everything we do. At present, families in East Lothian use a combination of council nursery provision and other partner providers. While this will continue we see the increased entitlement as an opportunity to offer more flexibility and an increased choice of early learning and childcare - which meets the needs of local families. It will also be an exciting time for people working in or interested in childcare as a career. We look forward to providing more information to parents and carers and those interested in working in the sector as our plans develop.”

 Shamin Akhtar, Cabinet Spokesperson for Education and Children’s Services, said:

“I would like to thank all the officers who have been working on this draft plan, which has been a significant amount of work. East Lothian Council is strongly committed to ensuring children have the best start in life, and implementing the expanded provision of early learning and childcare hours is a key principle in our Early Years Strategy. We do have to make ensure that this policy is fully funded by Scottish Government. We know the benefits of this plan are clear: not only is there more choice and flexibility for parents, but it reduces costs for working parents and those who are seeking to move into work, education or training. It also complements other work that the council is doing to close the poverty related attainment gap and ensures that all of our children start life ready to succeed.”

Published: Wednesday, 1st November 2017