Speaking ahead of a visit to Loanhead Community Nursery in Midlothian, Scottish Labour Leader Kezia Dugdale pledged to set up a Fair Start Fund to help pupils and nursery children in a bid to close the achievement gap between ‘the richest and the rest’.
The fund, which would be the equivalent of England’s Early Years Pupil Premium (EYPP), would see nurseries receive £300 per child to support them to reach their development goals and secure a bright future. Labour believes that around 20,000 three- and four-year-olds would benefit.
Labour has already pledged to set up a Fair Start Fund, which would see school heads given an extra £1,000 a year to spend for every pupil that comes from a deprived background.
If Labour wins next year’s Holyrood elections it plans to raise the top rate of income tax in Scotland to 50 pence, a move which the party says could raise £110 million a year and would pay for the Fair Start Fund.
Ms Dugdale said, ‘Three- and four-year-olds from poorer backgrounds are already having to play catch-up. How much money a toddler's parents have shouldn't decide whether they get a fair shot at life.’
In England, EYPP funding is £300 per pupil, for nursery-aged children and £1,320 per pupil for primary school children.
NDNA’s chief executive, Purnima Tanuku, described the plans to support children as early as possible as ‘very encouraging’ and she said that early years settings were ‘best placed’ to know how to use this extra investment in a way that will meet each child’s needs.
But she added, ‘Existing proposals are for £300 for nursery children but £1,000 for school-age children. We would like to see a plan to increase this investment in early years as all the evidence shows that early years intervention leads to less investment needed once the child is in school.’
A Scottish Government spokesperson said, ‘We know access to high quality early learning and childcare for children from deprived backgrounds is the most effective way to reduce the gap in attainment. That is why we have committed to doubling funded provision to 30 hours a week for all three- and four-year-olds and vulnerable and disadvantaged two-year-olds by the end of the next parliament.
'The First Minister also announced last month that every nursery in Scotland’s most deprived areas will have an additional qualified childcare or teacher graduate by 2018 to work with children to help them reach their full potential.’