Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie has today accused the Scottish Government of letting down the poorest children in Scotland as he revealed new analysis showing that more than half of two-year-olds eligible for funded early learning and childcare still aren’t taking up their place.
Two-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds have been entitled to free childcare since 2015, after Scottish Liberal Democrat campaigning convinced SNP ministers of its potential to improve early development and attainment.
Scottish Liberal Democrat analysis now shows that while the Scottish Government estimates that 14,500 2-year-olds are eligible, just 6,913 were taking up the offer as of January - a take up rate of 48%.
Uptake has increased by just 1,217 (8.4%) in 11 months. At that rate of progress (9.1% a year) it will take another 4 years to catch-up with uptake in the leading region of England.
Commenting on the figures Willie Rennie said:
“It took years of work by Scottish Liberal Democrats and others to convince the SNP of the benefits of free early learning and childcare.
“High quality ELC helps families get the best start in life and helps children thrive. But similar offers elsewhere in the UK have far more children signed up. The Scottish Government is not doing enough to publicise that this support is available or ensure that parents can access the flexible hours they need to fit this offer around their lives.
“Expanding free childcare is a win-win. It’s good for families, good for children and good for the economy. The SNP need to refocus their efforts and get this policy back on track. With the attainment gap getting wider, not shrinking like the SNP promised, that’s more important than ever. We cannot afford to fall further behind other parts of the UK.”