Scotland's council-run nurseries not meeting needs of working parents

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A Scottish campaign group has renewed its call for nursery reform after new research shows nine out of ten council settings don’t provide the hours working parents need.

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FFFOK wants an end to councils capping the number of funded places at partnership nurseries

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request by the campaign group Fair Funding for Our Kids (FFFOK) shows just one in ten council nurseries are open between 8am and 6pm or longer.

Of the 30 councils that responded, 19 had no nurseries which were open between 8am and 6pm - the hours that the campaign group say most parents need if they are to hold down a job.

In Scotland, the majority of funded places for three- and four-year-olds are available at council-run settings.

Private and voluntary settings are contracted by their local authority to deliver the 600 hours of free childcare. These partnership pre-school providers are allocated a number of funded places for each school year.

While 23 councils who responded to the FOI claimed they offered some children ‘full-day’ places, FFFOK found that just three per cent of all children attending council nurseries have a place starting at 8am or earlier and only two per cent have places ending at 5:15pm or later.

The campaign group says that even a ‘full-day’ place is impossible for many parents to access, with one council defining a ‘full-day’ as 9am-3:30pm and another saying a ‘full day’ ends at 4:17pm.

As highlighted by FFFOK, further disparity in provision exists across the country. In East Renfrewshire, all of the 17 council-run nurseries are open from 8am-6pm or longer, yet in neighbouring Renfrewshire, less than half of its 34 nurseries offer these hours.

In comparison, in East Dunbartonshire, around a third of children are able to start at or before 8am and around ten per cent can finish after 5pm.

In Glasgow, less than two-fifths of the 110 council nurseries are open between 8am and 6pm. Despite the council’s claim that 43 of its nurseries do operate these opening hours, FFFOK found that few children are benefitting from them – just six per cent of children start at 8am or earlier, and only four per cent finish at 5:15pm or later.

FFFOK is now calling for:

  • An end to councils capping the number of places in partnership nurseries they will fund:
  • A national agreement on funding children who live in one area, but need to attend nursery in another;
  • Ring-fenced childcare funding:
  • A minimum hourly rate to be paid to providers by local authorities.

Carolyn Lochhead, parent volunteer at Fair Funding for our Kids, said, ‘Our research shows that the system is just not set up for working parents - the very people the Scottish Government say they want to help. If you don’t have grandparents nearby who can help with drop-off and pick-up, then it’s almost impossible to make use of a council nursery place’.

Moira Gibb, a parent from Lanarkshire, said, ‘I’ve had to change my working hours to do 30 hours over five days, so I can collect my little girl at 4pm. And even that wouldn’t work if my dad didn’t do a 40-mile round trip every day to take her to nursery’.

Claire McCarte, a parent from West Dunbartonshire, added, ‘I can only use the council nursery on my day off: on a normal working day it’s just not possible for me to do drop-off and pick-up as well as working my contracted hours’.

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