SNP under attack for free childcare promise

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon plays with Miriam, three, during a visit to Daddy Daycare in Edinburgh yesterday. Picture: PA
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon plays with Miriam, three, during a visit to Daddy Daycare in Edinburgh yesterday. Picture: PA
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Education secretary Angela Constance has been attacked by a parents group for failing to provide answers on the Scottish Government’s ambitious childcare promises.

Fair Funding For Our Kids campaigners said a meeting with Ms Constance had left them “frustrated and angry”, because she did not even have “ballpark figures” on the “most basic facts”.

How will the First Minister deliver this new, bigger promise if she cannot even give children what they are entitled to now?

Jenny Gorevan

At the meeting, the parents group wanted to receive detail on Nicola Sturgeon’s promise to double free nursery entitlement of every three and four-year-old by 2020. The First Minister has pledged an expansion in free childcare if the SNP are voted back into power next year. The Scottish Government’s pledge is to double childcare provision to 30 hours a week for all three and four-year-olds and vulnerable two-year-olds.

Fair Funding For Our Kids, however, claimed about 26,000 extra nursery places would be needed for that to be fulfilled.

Council nurseries, private nurseries and childminders currently provide the government-funded childcare all three and four-year-olds and some vulnerable two-year-olds already receive.

Jenny Gorevan, of Fair Funding For Our Kids (Glasgow), said: “The First Minister is right to put childcare at the heart of next year’s elections. But right now the Scottish Government says it guarantees 600 free hours childcare per year to every three and four-year old and we estimate as many as one in five kids are missing out. How will the First Minister deliver this new, bigger promise if she cannot even give children what they are entitled to now?”

Campaigners claimed Ms Constance was unable to say how many extra childcare places would be needed to met the pledged. She was unable to tell them how many new nursery buildings were required or how many extra training places and modern apprenticeships will be needed to ensure the right number of staff are available to work in the new nurseries.

They said they had failed to find out details of the cost and timing of the promise from the Cabinet secretary.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The figures estimated by Fair Funding for our Kids assume nothing will change between now and 2020 to deliver this increase in funded hours and fail to take account of Scotland’s 5,500 childminders.

“They also assume that doubling the hours of free childcare available will mean that we will need to double the number of childcare places. This is not true. We can reassure parents that preparations are well under way to deliver this massive expansion of 1,140 hours.”