Extended hours for nursery kids

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Findings from a consultation carried out earlier this year will be used by council chiefs to help deliver extra hours of free childcare.

Children aged three and four years in East Dunbartonshire are currently entitled to 12.5 hours of funded pre-school education every week of the school year - a total of 475 hours per year.

With the introducation of the Children and Young People Act the Scottish Government is proposing to extend this to 600 hours of early learning and childcare from August 2014.

Two-year-olds will also be eligible for 600 hours of childcare.

Over 1,033 surveys were completed by East Dunbartonshire parents of children under five who attend local authority or partner nurseries during the early learning and childcare consultation, which ran from September 4 to October 4.

Some of the main points gathered from the consultation include:

nThe majority of parents would be willing to pay for additional hours, but would not be prepared to travel outwith their local area to get their preferred option.

nThere is a need for extended day and year provision and flexibility of opening and closing times to suit working parents.

nParents looked for more flexibility to use the 600 hours to reduce the overall cost.

nThere is a need for partnership centres to provide choice and flexibility for parents, particularly where there is no local authority provision.

nVillages need more choice and flexibility.

nParents felt a nursery in the local primary school benefits a child when they start school.

East Dunbartonshire Council’s convener of education, Councillor Eric Gotts, said: “I’d like to thank everyone who took the time to complete the survey or attend focus groups.

“The views of parents are extremely important as we move away from the traditional model of sessions for 2.5 hours per day to create a different model, that provides pre-school children with excellent nursery education whilst at the same time supports the needs of parents.

“A strategic plan will be prepared and submitted to the council for approval prior to the introduction of the extended sessions next summer.”

A Bearsden mum said: “A lot of people need this extra help and will welcome it whether they are working mums or stay-at-home.

“It’s really good to have children going into pre-school education as it makes the transition into P1 much easier for them.

“Lots of stay-at-home mums that I know use the free nursery hours and wouldn’t be able to afford to pay for it as their household income is lower when they aren’t working.

“Parents also want to have a choice about where they can use these free hours, often they may choose a private nursery so that they can benefit from childcare all day when they go back to work.”

For more information go to the Scottish Government website at: www.scotland.gov.uk/publications/2013/03/9148/7

Or log on to the East Dunbartonshire Council website at: www.eastdunbarton.gov.uk/600hours