FM announces fund to improve access to free ELC entitlement.
Children with additional support needs will have improved access to nursery education thanks to £2 million announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon today.
The money will fund specialist training and equipment to ensure all nurseries offering the free early learning and childcare (ELC) entitlement are equipped to care for children with additional support needs
Today’s announcement builds on the First Minister’s pledge last week that 8,000 existing and all additional childcare staff will be paid at least the Living Wage by the end of this Parliament and comes ahead of the announcement tomorrow (Thursday) of the Scottish Government’s plans to deliver a doubling of free childcare over this parliament.
Announcing the funding while visiting Smile Childcare Early Years Centre in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh, the First Minister said: “Expanded provision must be delivered in a way that ensures equality of access for all children.
“We want our expansion plans for early learning and childcare to be built on a foundation of fairness and equity, whether that’s for the children benefiting, their carers or the staff delivering high quality learning.
“We know that there are a number of barriers which can prevent children with additional support needs from accessing early learning and childcare and this funding will help break down those barriers.
“We must give providers the skills and equipment to ensure that all children, regardless of their needs, can benefit from the huge expansion of early learning and childcare.
“It is vital that if we are to close the attainment gap that we intervene as early as possible to ensure children are given the best possible start in life.”
The consultation on the ELC Blueprint for 2020 highlighted that some children with disabilities or additional support needs still face barriers in accessing their entitlement.
The Minister for Childcare and Early Years, Mark McDonald, will set out the full response to the ELC Blueprint for 2020 consultation in a Parliamentary statement on Thursday (March 23).
All three and four year olds and vulnerable two year olds in Scotland are currently entitled to 600 hours of free ELC. The expansion to 1140 hours by 2020 will be the most transformative infrastructure project of this Parliament.
The money announced today will see £0.5m provided each year for the next four years to set up an Early Learning and Childcare Inclusion Fund.