Council meets government early learning target

Shetland Islands Council will deliver 1,140 hours of early learning and childcare from this week.

The increase from 600 hours is part of the Scottish government’s planned expansion of funded early learning and childcare.

The government aimed for local authorities to do this by August with the coronavirus pandemic putting this on hold.

Staff had worked “extremely hard” to still meet this target, according to education and families committee chairman George Smith.

Education and families committee chairman George Smith.

Families can now access the additional hours they requested during registration week in February.

The expansion has been phased in over the last three years, with nursery classes at Urafirth, Dunrossness and Whiteness the first to offer additional hours in 2017.

The full 1,140 entitlement is being used by 40 per cent of families, while a further 43 per cent have opted for additional hours on top of the previous 600 hour entitlement.

Mr Smith said: “Children’s Services staff have worked extremely hard to implement this early years and childcare expansion in Shetland, on top of the challenges of the last few months.

“The high uptake of placements reflects how well this scheme has been received locally by parents and carers, and families will benefit significantly from this provision.”

The council’s early learning and childcare workforce has increased by 40 per cent since 2016.

Additionally, four private or voluntary sector providers – including Hame fae Hame and Peerie Foxes – and five childminders are delivering the funded hours.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said: “This is good news for parents and children in Shetland.

“Liberal Democrats have long championed a major expansion of childcare as a way to support children, tackle the attainment gap and boost the economy.

“This is excellent work from Shetland Island Council and shows that with effort and organisation it is possible to deliver on this commitment. I’d like to thank staff who have made this happen whilst responding to the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“This is an example that the Scottish Government should look to learn from given the struggles that some other local authorities are experiencing.”


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