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Very good progress made on expanded free early learning and childcare roll-out

The next Lifelong Learning Committee meeting on Wednesday 26 August 2020 will highlight effective preparations made by Perth & Kinross Council towards the delivery of additional free early learning and childcare (ELC) for local children and families.

Work to expand that provision, both within the Council's own settings and with funded providers including private nurseries, not for profit organisations and childminders, has been ongoing since 2017, with the aim of making available high-quality, flexible ELC that is accessible and affordable for all families.

The coronavirus pandemic has resulted in the Scottish Government determining that councils no longer have a statutory duty to deliver the increased entitlement (from 600 hours to 1140 hours) for all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds, from August 2020.

However, Councillors will hear that very good progress has already been achieved locally and work towards full readiness is moving forward apace. This includes significant efforts to recruit new staff; training and support to funded providers; regular communications with key stakeholders; increased hourly rates for funded providers in line with national standards and wide-ranging infrastructure works in Council settings.

As a result, all ELC settings in Perth and Kinross are on track to deliver 600 hours or more from August 2020, and many of these will also be able to offer the full 1140 hours entitlement. The Council's Early Learning and Childcare Expansion Team has also been working with all ELC providers to ensure they can reopen safely, in line with public health guidance. The report additionally sets out a range of next steps for the project's full implementation.

The Committee will be asked to note what has been achieved to date, and to request a further update by March 2021.

Lifelong Learning Convener, Councillor Caroline Shiers said: "From the outset, we have sought to plan thoroughly and effectively for delivering increased early learning and childcare provision in Perth and Kinross. The update before the Committee reflects the very wide-ranging work undertaken to achieve this, and the positive impact that this has had on access to high-quality, affordable ELC, even with the added complexities of the coronavirus pandemic.  I am confident that, together with our funded provider partners, we are in a solid position to move on to full entitlement in the months ahead."