Stirling Council can confirm it will offer 1140 hours of free early learning and childcare per year for eligible children from August, subject to COVID-19 scientific and health advice.
Lecropt Nursery

The provision will be available across all local authority nurseries, private and voluntary partner settings and partner childminders.

Letters and guidance have been issued to parents and carers advising them of the announcement and how the arrangements will work.

The Scottish Government has removed the legal requirement for local authorities to deliver 1140 hours to families from August 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This means the current requirement for nursery provision is 600 hours per year.

Stirling Council, however, is able to provide this important service to families due its phased rollout of the programme from August 2018, and its close work with partners in the private, voluntary and independent sector.

Vindicates our phased approach

Convener of the Council’s Children and Young People Committee, Cllr Susan McGill said: “This has been an uncertain and worrying time for families across Stirling and I am sure they will welcome this announcement.

“The fact we are able to provide this important provision, despite the current challenges, vindicates our phased approach, long term planning and partnership work with various providers.

“A lot of hard work has also gone on behind the scenes in recent weeks and months, and our early learning and childcare teams deserve immense credit at putting these arrangements in place.”

The latest Scottish Government guidance on the reopening of childcare and other settings was published on 15 June and requires them to comply with physical distancing and other safety measures.

As such, the Council can only confirm places for children in the August intake at this time. Eligible children, however, will be guaranteed a place for January and April and information on this will be shared as soon as possible.

Reassurance and relief

Vice Convener of the Committee, Cllr Christine Simpson said: “This is a fast moving situation and hopefully we will be able to provide confirmation of places to families for the later intakes as soon as possible.

“We will contact parents and carers as new information becomes available, and I would like to take this opportunity to thank them for their support and understanding during this unprecedented crisis.

“Hopefully the news that we will deliver this transformative programme for all eligible children will provide some reassurance and relief to families at this tough time.”

More information:
The Scottish Government programme will almost double the amount of free childcare hours from 600 to 1,140 by 2020 for pre-school children (those aged three and four) and some two-year-olds.

Phase one of Stirling Council’s expansion of free early learning and childcare started in August 2018 in the Bannockburn and McLaren learning communities.

Wallace, Stirling and the rest of McLaren joined the programme in August 2019, with Dunblane and Balfron part of the final phase that gets underway next month (August 2020).

Stirling Council had 75 per cent of places available to eligible children one year before the statutory implementation of 1140 hours for all families as of August 2020.

The Council undertook more than 30 capital projects over a three-year period as part of the rollout of the programme.

More details on the expansion of early learning and childcare in Stirling can be found on the Stirling Council website.

Picture details

Main picture (taken before the COVID-19 pandemic) shows families and staff from Lecropt Nursery, a private provider nursery based in Bridge of Allan, alongside Cllr Susan McGill.

From left: Yan Gao and Amy Wei; Antoni Soler-Playa and Iris Soler-Roca, Jen Reavey (Early Years Practitioner); Cllr Susan McGill; Joanne Kirkwood (Early Years Practitioner); Vicki Allan (Nursery Manager); Darcy Kidd; Katelinn Lyle (Early Years Practitioner); Alison Kidd.

Other picture (taken before the COVID-19 pandemic) shows staff from Callander Nursery, the McLaren Learning Community and the Council’s Early Learning and Intervention team, alongside Stirling Council elected members in the new nursery space.

As part of Stirling Council's expansion of free early learning and childcare, the nursery made the short move to the former library at McLaren High School, which has been converted into a state-of-the-art facility in a £540,000 project.