Two thirds of council nursery places are half-day only, report finds

More than two thirds of three to five-year-olds attending council nurseries have places for just three hours and 10 minutes per day, according to a new report.

Children aged three to five are entitled to 600 hours a year of free childcare. Picture: Andrew Matthews/PA.

A study by childcare campaign group Fair Funding for our Kids found that 68% of all council nursery places for three to five-year-olds in 2017/18 were for half days only.

Almost half (48%) of all nursery places in Scotland were half days only, while less than 3% of all nursery places are for full days all year round, according to responses to Freedom of Information requests submitted by the group.

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Children aged three to five are entitled to 600 hours a year of free childcare, however campaigners said that half-day places, many of which are offered in term time only, are almost impossible for working parents to make use of.

A campaign spokesman said: “Early years care is so important, but working parents continue to miss out.

“Very few people have bosses who are prepared to let them work for less than three hours a day, and many don’t have grandparents who can fill gaps in childcare.

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“We need much faster progress in eliminating half-day places except where parents specifically request them.”

The report found that 16% of all nursery places in 2017/18 are for full days in term time only, up from 3% in 2016.

While 68% of council nursery places and almost half of all nursery places were for half days only, this is an improvement on 2016, when 90% of council places and 65% of all places in Scotland were offered on this basis.

The study also claimed that local authorities in Scotland are underfunding partnership places in private nurseries by up to £461 per child a year.

The research found that 21 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities are offering an hourly rate below the national average cost of £4.03 an hour.

Campaigners concluded that Scotland is still “some distance from the fully funded, flexible, child-centred system that we need”.

The Scottish Government has pledged to increase the free childcare entitlement to 1,140 hours a year by 2020.

Campaigners are calling for action to address the problems and a focus on improving the childcare sector so that it works for all families.