21 March 2022

Committee learns about benefits of additional early learning and childcare hours

Members of the Education and Children’s Services Committee praised the continuing progress in rolling out the fully funded additional 1140 hours of early learning and childcare across Aberdeenshire.

The Scottish Government pledged to increase the provision of early learning and childcare to 1140 hours per year. Since the new target was introduced there has been significant changes to provision in Aberdeenshire.

Since 2018, the number of providers in Aberdeenshire has increased from 74 to 180 in 2020/2021. The total number of early learning and childcare hours has risen dramatically from 291,948 in 2018/2019 to 1,891,808 in 2020/2021. The total number of lunches provided has gone up from 87 in 2018/2019 to 166,108 on 2020/2021.

The introduction of 1140 has also seen an increase in capacity with 62 early learning and childcare settings across Aberdeenshire open from 8am to 6pm and 46 settings open all year, excluding two weeks over Christmas and New Year.

The council is one of three local authorities in Scotland that has an enhanced hourly rate if additional support is agreed for a child attending a funded provider setting. The enhanced rate ranges from £9.30 to £10.31 and is applied based on the level of need. To date there have been 37 successful applications, which will allow for around £340,000 in support for additional support requirements over the current academic year.

Aberdeenshire Council has also spent approximately £670,000 to fund children with additional support needs that are now accessing local authority provision. The settings have been supported through guidance and support from Early Years Principal Teachers and Education Support Officers as well as bespoke training and development when required.

Laurence Findlay, Aberdeenshire Council’s Director of Education and Children’s Services, said: “We know that the earliest years of life are crucial for every child, and the evidence tells us that if our early learning and childcare offer is to help give children the best start in life, and contribute to closing the poverty-related attainment gap, it must be of high quality. This report suggests that in Aberdeenshire this is very much the case. I would like to congratulate the Early Years team on all their hard work over the last few years on delivering a fantastic service so that children in Aberdeenshire can get the best possible start in life.”

Aberdeenshire Council’s Interim Head of Service (Resources and Performance Management) Anne Marie Davies MacLeod added: “Families throughout Aberdeenshire have benefitted from greater flexibility, affordability and accessibility offered through the introduction of the additional free fully funded 1140 hours of early learning and childcare. It is great to see settings opening at times that are convenient for parents and carers. It is also good to witness the benefits to children’s learning and development as they have increased access to early learning and childcare, learning and playing together in settings that meet their needs.”

To read the report in full please visit https://committees.aberdeenshire.gov.uk/committees.aspx?commid=494&meetid=19871