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Education / SIC puts out call for early learning providers as expansion continues

The Happyhansel Primary School in Walls has had an extension built to provide additional space for early years activities. Photo: SIC

CHILDCARE providers are being asked by Shetland Islands Council to come forward if they want to be included in the funded early learning and childcare (ELC) offer to parents.

The council has put out a tender seeking applications for the provision of ELC hours amid the phased, Scottish Government-backed expansion of free hours.

By August 2020 three and four year olds will be able to receive 1,140 hours a year of funded childcare, which is nearly double the previous amount.

The expansion is being phased in across Shetland, with some settings already live with the expanded hours, and some refurbishment work has been carried out to upgrade facilities.

The council said the call for providers was always going to happen ahead of August 2020.

A spokesperson said: “As part of the ELC expansion, the Scottish Government is implementing a Funding Follows the Child approach.

“The choice is in the hands of the parents and carers, who can decide, from approved providers, where they use their entitlement.  Providers include voluntary and private childcare settings and childminders.  The council is therefore asking providers to come forward if they want to be included in the funded ELC offer to parents.

“The ELC Flexible framework sets out the process any registered provider will follow in order to apply to become a funded provider of ELC provision from August 2020.

“The process reflects both the flexibility required for new providers to apply and be awarded contracts to offer the funded ELC entitlement whilst ensuring compliance with relevant legislation and guidance.”

The Scottish Government’s roll-out of expanded hours has not been without problem, however, with the Sandwick Central private nursery closing its doors earlier this year after being unable to compete with council run nurseries amid recruitment difficulties.

The viability of Peerie Foxes in Lerwick was also put under threat, according to its owner, after its application to become a funded ELC provider for three and four year olds was turned down as the council said there was not enough demand.

However, it understood that the business is submitting an application to the tender process.

Scottish Parliament election, 6 May 2021