The three local authorities - Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders, will test a variety of models for delivery of the country’s 1,140 hours (30 hours a week) of free early learning and childcare a year.
Last year, the Scottish Government announced plans to increase the provision of free early learning and childcare provision from 600 to 1,140 hours per year by 2020 for three- and four-year-olds and disadvantaged two-year-olds.
The news of the trial follows the launch of a consultation last month looking at ways in which to make Scotland’s childcare provision more affordable and flexible.
Models of delivery
In Aberdeen, a model of stay and play for two-year-olds where parents are reluctant to leave their children will be tested. Based on the existing model of stay and play delivered by Early Years Scotland, the provision will be open to 20 vulnerable two-year-olds. It will be run from a school located in a deprived area that currently has little two-year-old provision.
Improved access to outdoor learning will be trialled in Edinburgh, where two nurseries in areas of high deprivation will launch nature kindergartens. Children taking part in the pilot will be able to spread their hours across the indoor and outdoor settings.
In the Scottish Borders, the number of hours of childcare provided Monday to Friday during term will be increased, along with additional provision during the holidays. The trial will build on existing provision where some wrap-a-round exists, but parents are required to pay.
The trial will also explore how early learning and childcare can be delivered holistically and integrated with other services, including an out-of-school club and early years centre.
Additional trials will be announced in December.
Minister for Childcare and Early Years Mark McDonald said, ‘The Scottish Government is determined to increase the amount of early learning and childcare, as well as deliver the flexibility that families need to make best use of high-quality childcare.
‘By trialling different delivery models we will be better able to understand what parents and children need and want. The three successful local authorities announced put forward a diverse range of proposals and I look forward to seeing how these work in practice.
‘The announcement of the trial marks the latest milestone in Scotland’s journey towards a high-quality, flexible childcare system that helps children, parents and families the length and breadth of the country.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of the National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, 'NDNA welcomes the early start on these important trials ahead of the full roll out in 2020.
'The Scottish Government’s ambition for providing 1,140 funded hours for each three and four-year-old will be a transformation for early years, so it’s vital that all aspects of delivering this are fully tested by all types of childcare provider.
'The first three trials involve different groups of children and families, exploring a variety of models and including outdoor provision. We would like to see the remaining trials continue to encompass a range of models and it’s crucial that they involve fully private and third sector nurseries. These are key players who already provide flexible early learning and childcare for tens of thousands of working families and are essential to delivering this extension in the funded entitlement.'