Argyll and Bute Council’s education and property services teams have been shortlisted for two national Learning Places Scotland Awards for their work in delivering 1140 hours of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) to all three and four year olds, and eligible two year olds, in the area.
The expansion is part of a national policy introduced by the Scottish Government to increase the number of funded childcare hours from 600 to 1140. In Argyll and Bute, the council carried out an extensive programme of refurbishments to existing properties to prepare for the increased hours, as well as opening two new dedicated outdoor settings.
A successful recruitment campaign was also established to appoint more than 70 new posts in the area, including child minders, admin and other support staff. The council has also been working in close partnership with the Scottish Child Minders Association to promote child minding as a career to assist staff recruitment.
Funding was made available to help providers and child minders prepare for the expansion, with grants offered to every nursery and to each child minder delivering ELC. A free training scheme was also implemented for staff working in both the council and partner providers.
Policy Lead for Education, Councillor Yvonne McNeilly, said: “Our services have put in a tremendous amount of work to have 1140 hours rolled out across Argyll and Bute. While the Scottish Government announced that local authorities would no longer be legally obliged to deliver the additional hours as originally planned from August 2020 due to Covid-19, we continued to make arrangements and, as a result, we were one of the first local authorities in Scotland to implement it.
“We are dedicated to ensuring all our children and young people have an equal start in life and everyone involved in this project has worked tirelessly to get the resources required in place. I am extremely proud that their efforts have paid off and they have been shortlisted for this prestigious title.”
Council Leader Robin Currie added: “This is just another fine example of what a great place Argyll and Bute is to live and work. Getting 1140 hours off the ground wasn’t an easy task and Covid presented many challenges along the way. Lockdown, for example, meant tradespeople were unable to work; many had to self-isolate; and sourcing building materials proved difficult due to national shortages.
“Determined to implement 1140 hours though, the teams involved got the resources needed in place earlier than required so that pupils could benefit at the earliest opportunity. Being shortlisted for this award is a huge achievement and I’d like to wish them all the best in the final.”