Following talks with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), the Scottish Government has agreed to invest by 2021-22 an exta £567 million per year in the offer, bringing the total annual spend to around £900 million.
The expansion of Scotland's funded early learning and childcare from 600 to 1,140 hours a year for all three- and four-year-olds will come into force by 2020.
The Scottish Government will also provide councils with £476 million in capital funding over four years to support associated building projects.
The announcement comes after a report by Audit Scotland found a ‘considerable gap’ between what local councils and the Scottish Government believe the expansion of funded early learning and childcare will cost. Councils estimate the cost of the 1,140 hours at nearly £1 billion per year.
Scotland’s childcare minister Maree Todd said, ‘I am delighted that we have reached agreement on funding with our partners in COSLA, reflecting the importance of this policy priority. This is great news for children and families across Scotland.
‘This is a landmark agreement, which marks the culmination of more than two years of hard work to establish a robust shared understanding of the costs attached to the expansion. I am grateful to all those in local authorities who have worked tirelessly to prepare expansion plans and cost estimates. As we now move into a delivery phase, I look forward to continuing to work closely with our partners in local government.
‘Making sure that all children get the best possible start in life is a key priority for this Government 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 has to be of high quality. That is why we are determined to get this right and ensure that the right amount of funding is in place.’
Purnima Tanuku, chief executive of National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, ‘NDNA Scotland welcomes the significant increase in funding for the Scottish Government’s expansion of early learning and childcare in 2020.
‘However, it is vital that this additional investment translates into a sustainable funding rate for childcare providers and doesn’t just get absorbed into local authority budgets.
‘This funding was agreed with COSLA as local authorities will be overseeing how it is spent. We would like more transparency in how this funding is allocated to providers to cover their full costs and support the sustainability of the sector.
‘Another major concern is staff recruitment and retention. For this expansion to work, nurseries are going to need more qualified practitioners and be able to pay them an attractive salary to keep them. Our members tell us that they are losing staff to higher paid jobs in the public sector.
‘Private and third sector nurseries, which offer the flexibility and high quality early learning and childcare that working families need, are struggling to compete with the public sector. For them to be included in this expansion, giving parents true choice, they have to be supported to be able to pay the Scottish Living Wage.’