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Final phase of Early Learning and Childcare expansion put on hold for now


By Gordon Calder

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A PLAN to deliver 1140 hours of early learning and childcare (ELC) from August has been put on hold.

Highland Council has been told the Scottish Government has removed the statutory requirement on local authorities to achieve that figure next month. Local authorities were advised to use the ELC funding flexibly to respond to Covid-19 crisis.

Locator Highland Council Headquarters on Glenurquhart Raod.Inverness.Picture: Gary Anthony..
Locator Highland Council Headquarters on Glenurquhart Raod.Inverness.Picture: Gary Anthony..

Paul Senior, the executive chief officer for education and learning, said: "For those ELC settings which were due to move to 1140 hours in August, as part of the final phase of the council’s delivery plan, this transition will be put on hold temporarily.

"When the Scottish Government releases the revised date for the statutory requirement to deliver 1140 hours, a decision will be made as to whether the final phase will be incremental or planned to the required date.

"Prior to Covid-19, we had made positive steps towards delivering 1140 in August and so an incremental final phase is possible."

Councillor John Finlayson, chairman of the education committee, said: "Highland Council is committed to continuing to fund settings that were delivering 600 or 1140 hours of ELC before lockdown and hopefully this continuity of service will support families in their planning.

"Highland Council recognises the importance of continuing to expand the provision of early learning and childcare and future decisions will be informed by further guidance received from the Scottish Government."

The chairman of the recovery board, depute leader Alasdair Christie, said: "We know fully just how important and beneficial this service is in supporting families and providing learning experiences for children. The education service is keen to continue with the final phase of ELC expansion at the earliest opportunity, as this will enable the whole Highlands region to move towards recovery both economically and from an education perspective."

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