Options agreed to increase flexibility for early learning and childcare

Plans have been approved for the introduction of an additional term for Early Years so more children and families can benefit from the Scottish Government’s expansion of fully funded 1140 additional hours of early learning and childcare.

By Dawn Renton
Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 7:55 am
Updated Wednesday, 23rd March 2022, 10:16 am

According to a report presented to Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee, a total of 443 children would benefit from the additional term which would translate as 240 hours of fully funded early learning and childcare over the duration of the additional term.

Advantages of the additional term include a reduction of children transitioning into early learning and childcare, which would assist practitioners in supporting children, making childcare more affordable, simplifying the process of applying for parents and carers through the removal of requirement to reapply each year.

Another benefit is that children with siblings at the same setting will be given a place. This is to support accessibility due to Aberdeenshire’s geography and the challenges in accessing public transport in remote rural areas.

The £240,000 cost of introducing an additional term would be met through Early Learning and Childcare funding from the Scottish Government.

Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Education and Children’s Services, Laurence Findlay, said: “In Aberdeenshire we provide high quality, flexible Early Learning and Childcare that is accessible and affordable for all families.

"This additional term and the removal of the requirement to reapply each year will give parents and carers even greater flexibility when deciding what childcare arrangements work best for them.”

Anne Marie Davies MacLeod, Interim Head of Service (Resources and Performance Management), added: “I would like to commend the Early Years team on the continued success of the roll out of 1140 in Aberdeenshire.

"I am also grateful for the support provided by fully funded providers and other childcare settings in making the 1140 hours of fully funded early learning and childcare accessible and affordable for parents and carers across Aberdeenshire.”

The Scottish Government pledged to increase the provision of early learning and childcare to 1140 hours per year. Since the new target was introduced there has been significant changes to provision in Aberdeenshire.

Since 2018, the number of providers in Aberdeenshire has increased from 74 to 180 in 2020/2021. The total number of early learning and childcare hours has risen dramatically from 291,948 in 2018/2019 to 1,891,808 in 2020/2021. The total number of lunches provided has gone up from 87 in 2018/2019 to 166,108 on 2020/2021.

The introduction of 1140 has also seen an increase in capacity with 62 early learning and childcare settings across Aberdeenshire open from 8am to 6pm and 46 settings open all year, excluding two weeks over Christmas and New Year.

The council is one of three local authorities in Scotland that has an enhanced hourly rate if additional support is agreed for a child attending a funded provider setting.