Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP has today criticised the Scottish Government for mismanaging the nursery expansion programme after it conceded that only 60% of the estimated eligible population of two year olds will have access to more than 600 hours of funded ELC by April 2021.
A range of parliamentary questions submitted by the Scottish Liberal Democrats has revealed that:
- The Scottish Government’s August 2018 target to recruit 435 additional graduates to nurseries in the most deprived areas is still being missed, with only 92% of these positions having been filled more than a year later.
- The forecast is that 8,707 two year olds will be taking up their entitlement to 600 hours of funded ELC by April 2021. That represents around 60% of the estimated eligible population. In England it is already 70%.
In June, Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie questioned the First Minister on failures to provide free nursery education for two-year-olds who are in poverty. The full exchange can be found here.
Beatrice Wishart commented:
“Parents and the professionals working in nurseries across the country will be horrified to see the Scottish Government lagging so far behind on the rollout of free nursery provision for two year olds.
"The SNP Government hasn’t yet managed to meet recruitment targets for last summer and the expansion for 3 and 4-year-olds is stalling. All of these shortfalls are jeopardising our ability to make real progress in closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
“High quality childcare provision is essential to giving all young people the best start in life. The Minister for Childcare should be royally embarrassed that this flagship policy is being so poorly mismanaged it won’t even bring us up to speed with the rest of the UK by 2021.
“We are years into this policy so the problems its having identifying which 2-year-olds are eligible for free childcare should have been prioritised long ago.
“The Scottish Government has made a promise to parents. They need to face up to the situation they are in and double down on recruitment efforts if they’re going to make that reality.”