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Short term pain but long term gain for childcare sector

INCREASED funding for early learning and childcare should attract more workers into the expanding sector, a Shetland Islands Council committee heard on Tuesday.


Combined capital and revenue funding is set to expand by £6.63m by 2021/22 according to a multi-annual package announced by the Scottish government last month.

But the education and families committee was also warned parents and carers would be frustrated as the service will have to rein back its plans for an extra £1m revenue spend this financial year, as it has only been allocated £388,134.

As a result of the updated “strategic delivery plan” the number of modern apprenticeships in care delivery is restricted to two this year instead of the planned five but will be expanded again in following years.

A trial of the government’s plans for 1,140 hours of early education and childcare at Urafirth is set to continue as are trials at Whiteness, Dunrossness and Burra Playgroup.

Brae High School early years is set to join the programme whose full implementation by 2020 has been rolled back a year as a result of the funding settlement.

Committee chairman George Smith said it was a “huge piece of work” and that he was “delighted” with the funding, but there would be difficulty meeting expectations before 2020.

According to children’s services quality improvement manager Audrey Edwards the offer of the forthcoming 35 hour-per-week child care should enable the council to take on some of the pool of HNC early learning and child care qualified students emerging from Shetland College.

These had often drifted away in the past owing to the lack of full-time contracts. The current pattern of job availability had led to a “peerie bit of a patch work” of jobs, Edwards said.

Chairman George Smith said that there were “potential opportunities down the line” but there was a “slight disappointment” that the modern apprenticeships had been put on hold.

There were also plans to bring some career progression into the care service with the creation of a senior practitioner post.

Committee member Martin Tregonning warned that Scottish government plans to hive off auditing duties to local authorities could lead to an unhealthy situation of the council monitoring its own child care personnel and practices.