Scottish Liberal Democrats have demanded a new legal funding guarantee to help families considering delaying their child starting primary school, in light of the impact that COVID-19 has had on children's opportunities to play, socialise and develop the skills they need to thrive when they start school.
It comes ahead of a vote at Education Committee on Wednesday on an SNP Government proposal that would only grant families the legal right to both defer Primary 1 and have it replaced with funded early learning and childcare from 2023 onwards.
Scottish Liberal Democrats are demanding that this extra legal right is given to parents across Scotland immediately.
Education spokesperson Beatrice Wishart MSP commented:
"More families than ever before will now be wondering if their four-year-old is ready to start school this August. These children will be turning up to school for the first time having missed out on 18 months of normal play. This is so important to developing the basic skills they need to start school.
"Children have missed out on so much because of this virus. Some will barely remember socialising with anyone outside their bubble. We know how critical the early years are to their life chances and attainment.
"However, there is a £4,500 price tag hanging over families thinking of deferring their child's start at school. Children only start school once, so the SNP's plan to remove this from 2023 does not a jot to help the children whose development has been affected by the pandemic.
"In response to COVID-19, parents must immediately be given the legal right to both defer Primary 1 and have it replaced with funded early learning and childcare. The only question that should be in their mind is whether putting off entry into P1 is the best thing for their child.
"The government has the ability to remove the extra financial barrier, and empower parents to do what they feel is right. This would be an important part of the education system's response to the pandemic and the plan to help children catch up."