Council pilot sees families benefit from additional childcare hours

KIDS 2Councillors Karen Conaghan and Caroline McAllister with some of the children enjoying the care scheme.

By Lucy Ashton

Hundreds of children across West Dunbartonshire are benefiting from 30 hours of weekly free childcare as the Council makes preparation to roll out the scheme across the area by 2020.

The Council is piloting the expansion of its early education and childcare service at St Mary’s Early Learning and Childcare Centre (ELCC) within St Mary’s Primary School in Alexandria and Linnvale ELCC within Linnvale Primary School in Clydebank where eligible children are receiving an increase from 600 hours to 1140 hours of childcare. The move is part of a plan to meet the Scottish Government commitment to offer the increased hours to children by 2020.

Families of every three to five year old at the centers are being offered the increased hours and every pupil taking part will receive a free hot meal every day.

Ferryfield ELCC, Alexandria, will open next month following refurbishment works to transform the centre into a Hub for babies from birth to two-years-old is also providing the 1140 hours childcare a year and a free hot meal for entitled two-year-olds.

As part of the Council’s plans to introduce the additional hours, Andrew B Cameron ELCC in Bellsmyre will reopen over the coming year to three to five–year-old children with parents having the choice of whether to take the childcare over 38 weeks as is currently offered or 50 weeks of  the  year.  A new ELCC is also set to open within Levenvale Primary School before the end of the school session in 2019 and will offer 38 or 50 weeks care for three to five-year-olds.

A recent survey sought parents’ views on where they would like to access their additional hours of childcare with 81% opting for a local authority nursery, 17% preferring a private nursery and 1% choosing a childminder.  The Council is set to work in partnership with external nurseries and childminders to ensure the smooth delivery of the increased hours.  To assist providers, the Council has reinstated the West Dunbartonshire Childminder Forum, where members can openly discuss plans, and access training, advice and support. Three year old Ethan Rankin and Lola KIDS Farren show an example of a hot meal they'll be getting under the new expanded scheme

Karen Conaghan, pictured left with Cllr McAllister and the children, Convener of Educational Services, said: “We have made great progress in preparation for the expansion of early learning and childcare in West Dunbartonshire and I am pleased to see children already benefiting from the pilot.  Along with the additional hours, eligible children will also receive a free hot meal every day, which will help many of our families.  I welcome the Scottish Government commitment to increasing  the number of hours of funded childcare, which will not only improve children’s learning and attainment but will also  support more parents into work, study or training.”

Caroline McAllister, Vice Convener of Educational Services, said: “To accommodate the expansion of the service we are reopening a former centre in the heart of Bellsmyre, we have created early learning centres within schools and opened a dedicated Hub in Alexandria for children aged zero to three.   These developments will greatly enhance the early learning and childcare available in West Dunbartonshire and support our children from the youngest age to attain.”

It is estimated the Council will require an additional 98 Early Education and Child Care Workers along with a further eight managers to fully implement the additional provision for pre-school children.  The development of the service will provide an opportunity for new staff to join the Council and for current staff to retrain and progress to both managerial and leadership roles.

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