Audit Scotland: Roll-out of 1140 hours leaves sector fragile
Audit Scotland have today published their review of the progress of delivery of the 1140 hours expansion. Whilst it was noted that the Scottish Government, councils, and partners did well to increase early learning and childcare (ELC) provision to 1,140 hours a year per child, despite the challenge of the Covid-19 pandemic. They also note that the sector remains fragile.
The report highlights the significant challenges facing the PVI sector that NDNA Scotland have been raising with Scottish Government and MSP’s of the Scottish Parliament. The report identifies the risks to the sector that could affect flexibility and choice for families. These include budget pressures, workforce recruitment challenges, and the ability of funded providers such as private nurseries and childminders to stay in business. Data gaps exist, including whether funded providers pay the living wage.
NDNA’s Chief Executive Purnima Tanuku OBE said, “The aims of the funded ELC policy are well supported but today’s report shows there are still a lot of issues with the 1140 hours expansion. It is welcome that the positives for parents, including the flexibility offered by private and voluntary run nurseries are acknowledged.
“When it comes to funding rates we know they are not keeping pace with the rising costs of delivering ELC places and this should be reviewed annually. The report’s findings of a lack of clarity on how ELC funding has been spent is concerning but not surprising. NDNA have been trying to unpick the differential funding rates paid to partner providers compared with how local authorities fund their own settings.
“Issues around the ELC workforce are the biggest risk to the success of the policy and efforts to improve quality. We know that high quality ELC has the biggest impact on children’s outcomes and understanding how the workforce crisis is affecting this is crucial.
“As the First Minister has committed to a faster roll-out of funded ELC for younger children it is vital that the Scottish Government address the concerns of this report around data collection, the workforce and how funding is being spent.
“We would want to see more clarity and transparency around how councils use their ELC budgets to ensure funding follows the child and all providers are supported to deliver the high-quality ELC places that children and families need.”
The report also acknowledges the delays in developing software needed to improve the management and monitoring of ELC services. It was also noted in the report that the Scottish Government needs to improve data gathering as it was clear to Audit Scotland that they don’t have robust information on how Local Authorities have spent budgets on delivering the expansion.
- urges the Scottish Government to address the issues raised in this report.
- would like to see ring fenced budgets to ensure that there is clarity and transparency on how budgets are being spent.
- Urges Scottish Government to fully consult with the sector before any further expansion of childcare. There is a real risk of replicating the problems if resolutions to the issues raised in the Audit Scotland report are not resolved.
You can read the full report here.