Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today called for the Scottish Government to put its money where its mouth is, as a new report from education officials at Edinburgh Council highlighted a series of major issues which risk preventing the promised expansion of free nursery education from being delivered.
Scottish Ministers plan to extend the entitlement to publicly funded early years nursery education from 600 to 1,140 hours per year by 2020. However, a new report laid before the Council’s Governance and Risk Committee questions whether the required infrastructure can be built and the necessary extra staff recruited in time to deliver the 2020 target. The report also questions whether there is sufficient available resources in the construction market to build and refurbish Early Years facilities on the scale proposed across Scotland.
Commenting on the report, Willie Rennie said:
"Nurseries have warned that they do not believe they will be able to deliver the government’s headline free childcare guarantee by 2020 without more funding. Now local authorities are saying the same thing.
“This is one of the Scottish Government's flagship policies but families will already be questioning whether they will be able to take up their full entitlement of hours given the challenges ahead in terms of recruiting enough staff and providing the necessary facilities.
“We know that high quality early years education can have a transformative effect on children. Extra free hours also help parents return to work. This is why the Scottish Government needs to put its money where its mouth is and provide the funding and support needed to deliver the promised expansion of nursery provision in Edinburgh and across the country."
Liberal Democrat councillor and member of the committee, Kevin Lang said:
“This new report raises serious doubts on whether the expansion can be properly delivered here in Edinburgh by 2020.
“It is far from clear whether the new buildings can be constructed in time. There is a question of whether new staff can be recruited. Even if they are, there is a risk that parents will not get the choice they were promised."