East Calder Playgroup, and Park Road Playgroup and Little Flyers Too in Broxbourn, have all lost their contracts with West Lothian Council to provide free places for threeand four-year-olds. The council chooses its partner providers every three years via a tendering process in which past performance is not taken into account, as the council has been advised that this would discriminate against providers applying for the funding for the first time.
The council said that because more settings applied than there were places required in certain areas, priority was given to the highest scoring providers.
Michelle McLeary, manager of Little Flyers Too, said, 'There will now be only one private provider in Broxbourn, called Wee Gems, that receives council funding, and it is also the only setting that offers full wraparound care. This setting is based in an industrial part of town that is not ideal for any of our parents. None of the parents at our nursery know where their child is going next year. One who has applied for her child to join a maintained nursery has been told that there are no spaces available in the morning, but this does not fit in with her as far as work goes.
'It's also stressful and very hard on our staff. We will have to make cuts. We have an inspection every year by West Lothian council. Last year they said they were very happy with the quality of our childcare.'
Laura Brown, whose children Jack and Ben attend Little Flyers Too, said, 'Jack is very happy at Little Flyers and he has a good relationship with staff and all the children. I don't want to move him when he is so happy there.'
But Moira Niven, head of service at West Lothian council, said, 'We had a choice between two models - a free choice model without the emphasis on quality, or to fund only the best quality providers even if that means that parents do not have a completely free choice. We made the decision to focus on quality because we know how important pre-school education is. We have had to assess the settings based on the information returned on the tender and we made this very clear to all of the providers that applied for the funding.'