Responses have been prepared for this list of questions which have arisen following our Early Years Update on 20 July.
How will the Scottish Government announcement about the ‘bubbles’ affect planning for the reopening of early years?
The Scottish Government announced on 16 July, that children in early years will not require to be organised into small groups or ‘bubbles’ and that detailed revised guidance will be issued by the end of this month. We are also planning for the full reopening of schools in August and expect the final confirmation by Scottish Government by 30 July. This will also confirm that the Council does not require to provide keyworker childcare in August.
Once we have the detailed revised guidance on early years and confirmation about keyworker childcare, we will be in a position to review the capacity of our centres. This will enable us to provide more flexibility and additional hours for children. We will communicate any changes to parents as soon as possible.
Why have I not be allocated the sessions I applied for?
Letters have been issued to parents about their allocation for next session. We have allocated two full days to each child, using alphabetical order, as this was required if a part time return to school had to be implemented. In early years, we have used a similar allocation as in primary schools to support families. We have also kept Wednesdays free in the event we are required to continue to provide keyworker childcare in August.
We understand that circumstances may have changed or that the allocation may not suit parents so will be as flexible as possible in relation to any changes requested. Parents should contact their child’s early years’ centre directly and they will arrange to make any changes if possible. If parents require additional hours, there is a form on the Council website, where there is capacity within a centre, the additional hours will be allocated.
When will local authority early years centres reopen?
The date for the re-opening of early years centres has been confirmed by Scottish Government. As the country has now moved into Phase 3 of the Recovery Planning, early years centres can reopen from 15 July. Private and voluntary providers will inform parents of the arrangements for their centres.
Within the local authority, there are a number of centres where refurbishment work is taking place over the summer and we require to ensure that a comprehensive risk assessment is in place prior to reopening. The Early Years Hubs for keyworker childcare will remain open until Friday 31 July. From the week beginning 3 August, children will move from the Hubs to their own centre. There will also be transition visits or sessions for any child, who requires it. All extended year centres will open from Monday 10 August.
The two term time centres, Craighead Early Years Centre and Meadowburn Gaelic EY Centre will reopen on Wednesday 12 August.
Why can the Council not provide 1140 hours for funded early learning and childcare?
The expansion of early learning and childcare has been delayed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The requirement to deliver 1140 hours in August 2020 has been rescinded by Scottish Government.
The Council remains committed to the delivery of the expansion and our plans were well advanced. However in order to deliver the expansion, the Council required the completion of a number of capital projects: three new centres in Bearsden, Milngavie and Kirkintilloch and an extension to the centre at Killermont Primary. These projects have been delayed due to the lockdown of the construction industry and the Council does not have sufficient capacity in its existing facilities to deliver 1140 hours to all eligible children in Session 2020/21.
The Scottish Government published guidance on the reopening of early learning and childcare centres on 15 June 2020, a link to this publication is attached below:
All councils are obligated to ensure full compliance with this guidance when developing plans for reopening each local authority centre and when assessing the capacity of each centre.
The current Scottish Government Guidance states that in order to minimise the risk of infection and transmission, children should be organised in small groups of eight children and there should be sufficient space available to ensure that groups are not in close contact. Groups of children should be supported to stay 2 metres apart wherever practicable and appropriate. Adults in the centre are required to physically distance and where possible there should be a consistent staffing allocated to the group of children.
This separation between groups has resulted in a reduction in the capacity of each centre. Full use of the outdoor areas has been taken into account. Usually centres would have free flow of children and this will need to be restricted to minimise the risk of infection.
As a result of these restrictions, the capacity of each centre has been reduced by 20 – 30%. This reduction in capacity varies across centres depending on the layout of the facility, the outdoor space available and the occupancy rate of the building.
The Council’s delivery model can easily be scaled up if the Scottish Government’s requirement for small groups with distancing between groups is removed. More children can then be accommodated and the centres can move to full capacity.
At this time the Council is also working on the plans for the reopening of schools and no final decision has yet been made by Scottish Government. This is expected on 30 July 2020.
The current Guidance for part time attendance at school, means that the Council must continue to provide childcare for the children of key workers, and as such, we must build this provision into our planning for schools and for early learning and childcare provision.
Having assessed the capacity in all our centres, it was clear that until the new centres were completed, we could not provide all eligible children with 1140 hours of funded provision but we could provide all eligible children with 750 hours and it still ensured flexibility for parents to apply for more sessions. We recognise that working parents require additional sessions and these will be available for parents where there is capacity.
When will the Council be able to deliver 1140 hours?
We would plan to deliver 1140 hours as soon as possible but that is dependent on the completion of the four major construction projects. The three new build centres in Bearsden, Milngavie and Kirkintilloch are now scheduled to be completed in early 2021. The extension at Killermont is due to be completed in the autumn of 2020.
However, it is important to recognise the uncertainty due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the impact it has had on the construction industry. We are working closely with our construction partners to ensure that these facilities will be available as quickly as possible. We remain committed to delivering the expansion and will keep parents informed of progress.
Will the funded hours increase this session?
The planning by the Council is flexible as the situation, due to Covid-19, may change. There are some key dependencies, which we have to take into account in our planning.
As yet, there is no final decision from Scottish Government as to whether schools will open fully in August and whether there will be a requirement to provide key worker childcare.
If schools do return full time and if the Guidance from Scottish Government changes and there is no requirement for small groups and the distancing between groups then we will be able to provide more funded hours. We will continue to review our plans taking account of the direction from Scottish Government.
Why can other Councils deliver 1140 hours?
All councils are in different positions in relation to the construction contracts and staffing that is required to be recruited. We do work with other councils through the Regional Improvement Collaborative that is the West Partnership. While some councils are able to deliver 1140 hours to all eligible children, others are in a similar position to East Dunbartonshire and can provide 1140 hours in some centres but in others can only deliver 600 hours.
When will I find out my allocation?
We will let parents know by week beginning 13 July. This will allow parents to request any changes that they require as we recognise that family circumstances may have changed.
Why are the allocations two full days?
We have allocated in line with the planning for primary schools, which were developed in line with the Scottish Government Guidance for a blended model of delivery. If parents require to make any changes, we will do our best to accommodate these.
In order to comply with the Scottish Government Guidance to minimise the risk of infection and transmission, there requires to be consistent groups of children. Children attending for half day sessions make this difficult as many children attend for a full day and so the membership of groups would not be consistent. We will offer half day sessions where we have capacity and if the Scottish Government Guidance changes.
When will parents know if schools will reopen fully in August?
Scottish Government have stated that a decision will be made by 30 July. We will inform parents of our plans as soon as the decision is confirmed. This will also confirm if the Council is still required to provide childcare for the children of key workers.
Why can funded providers not deliver 1140 hours?
We want to be fair to all parents and clear criteria for awarding funding of 1140 hours is in place.
For the last two years, the Early Years Centres in the areas of highest deprivation within the Council, our Place priority areas, have delivered 1140 hours. These are Hillhead EY Centre; Auchinairn EY Centre; Twechar EY Centre and Lennoxtown EY Centre. Children, who live in a household in receipt of certain benefits are also eligible for 1140 hours of funding. This is supporting families on low incomes to return to work and has been part of the pilot roll out of 1140 hours.
We understand that parents will be upset and disappointed that the expected provision of 1140 hours is not possible at this time. However, it would not be fair if some centres in a locality deliver 1140 hours and others did not and therefore 1140 hours will currently only be available in our Place priority areas and children who live in a household in receipt of certain benefits.
We understand that private and voluntary providers have made commitments in the anticipation of delivering 1140 hours. We will continue to support funded providers if they find themselves in financial detriment, due to the decision not to fund 1140 hours at this time.
What about cross boundary applications? E.g. I live in East Dunbartonshire but my child attends a nursery in another Council area.
The current cross boundary protocol across the West Partnership is under review. It will require the agreement of all Councils within the West Partnership. The current agreement is 600 hours of funding for children who are in partner provider in another authority.
Can my child go to any early years centre or a childminder?
Yes, we are committed to a “funding follows the child” model and parents can choose a local authority centre, a private or voluntary provider or a childminder who are in partnership with the Council.
Will I get funding for my child from their third birthday?
Yes, we will continue to fund the provision from the child’s third birthday.However, this may not be the case if the child does not live in East Dunbartonshire as it would be a cross boundary application and currently funding is not allocated until the term after the child’s third birthday.
I have planned on getting the full funding of 1140 hours and now cannot afford to return to work.
We understand that this is a difficult time for parents and the decision by Scottish Government that Councils were no longer required to deliver 1140 hours due to the Covid pandemic is a disappointment and may result in additional financial costs.
The Council is committed to delivering the full entitlement as soon as we are able to and if the Guidance changes and we are able to have full capacity in our centres, we will increase the amount of funded hours. If parents are eligible to certain benefits, they can apply for 1140 hours of funding and this can be accessed at any local authority centre or funded provider.
Is my child eligible for 1140 funded hours?
Your child can access 1140 funded hours if they are aged 2,3 or 4 years old and your household meets the criteria set out below:
If this applies to you please complete the application form under the Early Years provision and how to apply page.
- Income Support (IS)
- Job Seeker's Allowance (income based)
- any income related element of Employment and Support Allowance
- Incapacity or Severe Disablement Allowance
- State Pension Credit
- Child Tax Credit, but not Working Tax Credit and your income is £16,105 or less
- Child tax Credit and Working Tax Credit and your income is £7,320 or less support under part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
- Universal Credit and your household take-home pay, is £610 a month or less
Funded early learning and childcare is also available if your child is 2 or over and is or, since they turned 2, has been:
- looked after by a local council
- the subject of a kinship care order
- the subject of a guardianship order
Please contact your Early Years Centre to apply for your eligibility and request a form.