Council aims to meet early learning target

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Only one in five of the 3000 children who receive Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) provision in Midlothian have access to the extended hours.

The Scottish Government wants all eligible children to have 1,140 hours of free care by August 2020. However, a report to councillors revealed that in Midlothian it is expected the number of children receiving this will have reached 41 per cent by August this year.

In a report to cabinet, the council’s director of education said: “This is in line with the Scottish Government’s expectation that if they are on track towards successfully delivering the expansion, local authorities should have achieved 40 per cent of places as 1,140 hours by August 2019.”

Among avenues being looked at to expand ELC is the introduction of the council’s first two outdoor facilities, with one planned for Vogrie Country Park and the hunt for a second site ongoing.

The council has set aside £200,000 for each of its outdoor early learning centres.

It is also looking at increasing the number of funded providers it uses and revealed it would raise the current hourly rate paid for three and four-year-olds to its partners from £3.70 to £4.50 an hour. It revealed that while 80 per cent of children taking up places in ELC currently did so in council settings, the increase in hours would require an additional 160 council places, costing an estimated £2.78 million and requiring 20 additional staff.

The report said that increasing the hourly rate would “strengthen their sustainability during the transition to 1,140 hours”.