Plans to expand early learning and childcare approved

Families with young children in North Lanarkshire are set to benefit from increased nursery provision after the council announced plans to deliver an ambitious expansion programme

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The plans to increase free early learning and childcare provision were put before councillors on Tuesday 18 December at a meeting of the Education committee.

The expansion of early learning and childcare is part of a Scottish Government policy to provide all three and four-year-olds, and eligible two-year-olds, with an increase in free childcare from 600 hours to 1140 hours a year by 2020.

It will give parents more flexibility in their choice of nursery and childcare services, meaning they can choose from council-run, independent and voluntary providers or childminders.

Children will also be entitled to the provision of a hot meal and the council's facility support services could support private nurseries and childminders who do not currently offer this service.

There will also be a potential increase in the number of places commissioned from independent and private nurseries dependent on parental choice.

Parents and carers should continue to apply to their preferred choice nursery for a place for their child. The council is phasing in 1140 hours over the authority with full implementation by August 2020.  If your preferred choice nursery is one the 2019 setting you will be contacted directly.

 To support the plans, the council is proposing to build nine new nurseries as well as adapting seven existing facilities.

As part of the programme 40 graduate practitioner posts are being created and the council is working in partnership with local colleges to give childminders the opportunity study the SVQ Social Services (Children and Young People) qualification.

Cllr Frank McNally, Convener of Education said: "At its heart these exciting proposals are about introducing more flexibility and increased choice for parents in the nursery classes and centres.

"It is part of our overall drive to close the poverty related attainment gap while providing the high-quality learning environments, whether they are local authority, independent, voluntary or childminders.

"Our funded providers are crucial to the effective delivery of early years expansion in North Lanarkshire and across Scotland

"Our proposed rate to funded providers is also significantly higher than the Scottish Government's guidance and we are proposing a grant scheme for providers to access."

The Scottish Government has confirmed that the council will receive £38million from 2020 in revenue grant funding to support the delivery of the 1140hrs programme.

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