East Dunbartonshire Council has been criticised over its reluctance to work with private early learning and childcare providers as it prepares to meet the Scottish Government’s target of 1140 funded hours per child.
Just one year before the full roll-out of this major policy, independent providers are warning of a staffing crisis, according to the National Day Nurseries Association.
In a newly-published report, NDNA identified East Dunbartonshire Council as one of four Scottish local authorities which is not engaging with the private sector during the process of extending childcare and early years provision. This, they say, is contributing to a staffing crisis with a turnover much higher than the UK average.
Jane Malcolm, NDNA’s policy manager for Scotland, said: “East Dunbartonshire Council is one of only four local authorities that have told the Scottish Government they won’t be involving private and third sector nurseries in the phasing-in of 1140 hours of funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC).
“This phasing-in period is an important opportunity to iron out any teething problems or difficulties ahead of the full roll-out in August 2020. NDNA Scotland has always recommended that councils include partner providers and have worked closely with COSLA to agree partnership principles of working. These included transparency, accountability and communication with childcare providers.
“Now that some areas are phasing in 1140 hours, we are concerned from our survey responses that it’s having a detrimental effect on the workforce – more and more staff are leaving for jobs in the maintained nurseries where phasing in is taking place.
“While East Dunbartonshire Council has not included partner providers in phasing in, it does appear to be happy to work with private and third sector providers. The council has created two support networks and invited nurseries to their recruitment and information events. When staff are leaving to work for council providers, they have tried to ease the burden for private nurseries by moving start dates where appropriate.
“But we would urge the council to explore any opportunity to involve private and voluntary providers who can offer all-year flexibility for working families and already play a vital role in delivering funded ELC.”
Ann Davie, the council’s depute chief executive for education, people and business, said: “East Dunbartonshire’s approach to phasing in the new additional hours has focussed on our four Place areas – Hillhead, Twechar, Lennoxtown and Auchinairn. This enabled us to run pilots over the last year with families in line with our Place regeneration programmes.
“This has prioritised areas of deprivation and enabled us to implement a
revised delivery model.
“We are working with the funded providers in our area to support them to deliver the expansion from August 2020. We recognise the challenges that they face and have discussed the implementation and phasing with them.
“Each provider received a grant to support improvement in their facilities and we increased the funded rate to £5.31 from August 2019. This is a significant increase and is one of the highest rates paid by any local authority. This will allow them to make improvements to be able to deliver 1140 hours when it is implemented next year.
“As we enter the final 12 months of planning for the expansion in hours we
will continue this close working and offer as much support as possible.”