Early Learning and Childcare expansion programme

The revised plans for the final phase of the Early Learning and Childcare expansion in East Ayrshire have been agreed by Cabinet and all 36 Early Childhood Centres (ECC) will be in a position to deliver 1140 hours by August 2021.

The roll out of 1140 hours within East Ayrshire has been delayed due to lockdown, which was called on Monday 23 March, and the restrictions that were necessary to protect the NHS and save lives. Building work on our new ECCs and extensions to existing ECCs came to a halt and the Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd confirmed to all local authorities on Wednesday 8 July that Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) entitlement would remain 600 hours and that the legal obligation to deliver provision to 1140 hours from August 2020 had been suspended.

A full review was undertaken of Early Learning and Childcare and in August work began on planning the reintroduction of 1140 hours to educational facilities that had previously been a position to deliver the extended hours. By Tuesday 22 September, 22 Early Childhood Centres across East Ayrshire were delivering 1140 hours of funded early learning and childcare. 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.

Construction work restarted in June and four projects will now be completed and registered with the Care Inspectorate between October and February 2021. The two new builds, Cherry Trees ECC (Barony Campus) and Loanhead ECC and the extensions at Cairns ECC and Onthank ECC will be in a position to deliver increased hours, subject to additional staff being in place, between January and February 2021. It is also anticipated that Dunlop ECC and Fenwick ECC will start to deliver increased hours from January 2021. The next phase we see increased hours being delivered between April and June 2021 at Dalmellington, Dalrymple, Drongan and Patna ECCs, subject to additional staff being in place and approval from the Care Inspectorate; with the final four ECCs namely Darvel, Flowerbank, Gargieston and Lainshaw, in a position to deliver 1140 hours from August 2021.

Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning said: “Preparations to roll out the expansion of 1140 hours across East Ayrshire is a very complex matter that takes time and careful planning to get right. This year has brought significant change to all of our lives and the pandemic has had a significant impact on our plans for Early Learning and Childcare provision. Our contractors are working hard to deliver building projects timeously and I am delighted that four of our big projects will be ready by the start of next year. This is great news for parents and carers and of course our youngest learners.

“I am also pleased to announce that a decision was taken at Cabinet today to fund increased hours in cross boundary places for the children of parents resident in East Ayrshire but who work or study in other local authority areas.

“Early Learning and Childcare is incredibly important for our parents and carers and our youngest learners. Setting a foundation of learning helps to reduce the attainment gap and of course access to Early Learning and Childcare helps parents and carers to remain within the workplace, something that is essential during this time of economic uncertainty. I can assure parents and carers that we are doing all that we can to introduce extended hours as quickly as we can, safely and always following Scottish Government guidance.”