Children with additional support needs will have improved access to nursery education thanks to £2million 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 23 March 2017) 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.
Local MSP, Gordon Macdonald, noted, “This will give providers the skills and equipment necessary to ensure that all children, regardless of need, can benefit from this massive expansion of early learning and childcare. In order to close the attainment gap, it is essential to intervene as early as possible in order to ensure children are given the best start in life and this funding will help to do that.”
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.