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Concerns Highland school nurseries not ready to implement Scottish Government policy doubling the hours of free childcare spaces; Highland Council education committee to be told that more than 20 nurseries due to open after summer are in 'critical' position when it comes to readiness


By Louise Glen

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Highland Council news.
Highland Council news.

INFANTS as young as two whose parents hoped to claim a free childcare space at a Highland Council-run nursery may be caught short.

More than 20 school nurseries due to be open after the summer holidays are said to be in a “critical” position, with many more behind schedule.

Inverness councillor Ron MacWilliam called the situation unacceptable.

The Scottish Government is doubling the number of hours to 1140 to allow free access to nursery provision for all three and four-year-olds, and priority two-year-olds.

A report to today’s (Thursday) education committee shows schools such as Crown, Hilton, Kinmylies, Milton of Leys, Raigmore and Duncan Forbes are causing concern.

It stated: “Mitigating actions are being taken to manage risk around late delivery of capital, including identification of contingency plans, and where necessary early decisions being made around these.”

Cllr MacWilliam said: “It is unacceptable. This August will see the final roll-out of the SNP government’s commitment to almost doubling early learning and childcare provision.

“It will open up many opportunities for young families and could save them as much as £4500 in childcare costs annually. It is imperative that councils are ready to deliver the policy on the ground, so this gives serious cause for concern.

“The council administration needs to be far clearer about what alternative arrangements will be put in place. There’s no denying it is a significant and ambitious expansion but at present it looks like there will be quite a number of schools unprepared.”

A council spokesman said: “The council is committed to ensuring delivery of 1140 hours of early learning and childcare by August 2020, and the report sets out the steps the council is taking to manage delivery of the expansion programme, the associated capital projects. Where necessary, the council is ensuring that contingency planning is in place.”

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