The Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd had confirmed to all local authorities on Wednesday 8 July that from Tuesday 11 August ELC entitlement would remain 600 hours and that the legal obligation to increase provision to 1140 hours from August 2020 had been suspended.
Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “A revised date for full implementation of the expansion to 1140hrs will be jointly agreed by the Scottish Government and local authorities in due course, and will be mindful of a number of factors that are a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic including the delay to capital programme projects and the recruitment of practitioners.
“However, if the virus remains suppressed and the Scottish Government provides appropriate guidance, the Council aims to reintroduce the delivery of 1140hrs of funded early learning and childcare on a phased basis in the 18 Early Childhood Centres providing these hours prior to lockdown. We will also aim to introduce the increased hours in Nether Robertland ECC and Netherthird ECC on the same basis.
“This is a complex situation and teams across the Council are working closely with the Scottish Government on detailed plans and we will continue to communicate with our parents and carers throughout the planning process.”
The 20 Early Childhood Centres aiming to provide 1140hrs of funded early learning and childcare are:
Auchinleck, Bellsbank, Catrine, Crosshouse, Galston, Hillbank, Hurlford, James Hamilton, Kilmaurs, Littlemill, Mauchline, Muirkirk, Nether Robertland, Netherthird, New Cumnock, Newmilns, Riccarton, Shortlees, St Andrews and Whatriggs.
All other Early Childhood Centres, which were due to deliver 1140 hours in the final phase of our ELC expansion plan, will continue to deliver 600 hours until such times as we are in a position to increase the hours.
When the refreshed guidance for the reopening of early learning and childcare is published, we will need to consider the implications and implementation of the public health measures for each setting and how this impacts on the phased reintroduction of 1140 hours and 600 hours. There will need to be discussions with individual settings to plan, review and revise the allocation of places and agree a timescale to phase in the increased hours.
Allocation of places
The Scottish Government’s route map to recovery, which clearly sets out the plans for easing coronavirus restrictions in four phases, saw the reopening of Early Learning Centre settings during Phase 3.
National guidance on reopening early learning and childcare services in Phase 3 was published on Monday 15 June and had been developed to support a safe reopening of ELC settings in a manner which is consistent with wider efforts to control transmission of the virus and protects the health of children, their families, and staff. This is in line with the Strategic Framework for reopening schools and ELC provision published on 21 May.
The Strategic Framework has also identified three groups that will have priority access to provision where capacity is limited:
The necessary public health measures implemented have changed the way that ELC settings deliver services and how they operate. Consideration had to be given to the physical capacity both inside and outside, staffing capacity, the need to work in small groups, minimising contact between these groups, ensuring physical distancing between adults and ensuring enhanced hygiene practices and infection control procedures.
Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “At the Council’s Executive Committee meeting of Thursday 11 June, the Committee agreed to seven key principles for the allocation of ELC places. The principles are: