Plans to invest £44 million to build 12 new nursery facilities and create more than 200 jobs over the next seven years have been set out by East Renfrewshire Council.
The proposal is part of a range of measures outlining how the Council will provide the increased level of free early learning and childcare provision required by August 2020.
But, not everyone is happy at the announcement with plans showing that some of the new facilities may be built on parks, including Rouken Glen and Overlee.
Local authorities currently provide 600 free hours a year for all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds, however, this is increasing to 1,140 hours. The increase will provide 400 additional places for East Renfrewshire residents by 2020 and will also allow the Council to offer more flexibility to parents.
East Renfrewshire Council’s expansion plan also outlines proposals to significantly extend some current centres and create new nursery classes in existing facilities.
Councillor Paul O’Kane, Convener for Education and Equalities, said: “The experiences provided to the youngest members of our community are so important in shaping their approach to learning.
“It is also vital that we continue to support parents by making our early learning and childcare provision as affordable as possible and nurturing a family-centred approach to learning. So a key part of the Council’s expansion plan will be to continue to ensure that quality remains at the heart of our approach.
“It also offers us the opportunity to recognise the changing needs of our communities and respond to these with early years and childcare options which reflect feedback from parents. The plan goes far beyond the built infrastructure which will be required to meet the increased provision, and this is recognised in our commitment to maintaining consistently high standards across the board, with all children benefitting from our highly skilled and motivated workforce.
“Our expansion plan has now been submitted to the Scottish Government and we look forward to gaining the support and funding required to realise our ambitious vision.”
Once the Council’s expansion plan has been considered by the Scottish Government, the intention would be to implement it in three phases.
The first phase would be developed in preparation for providing 1140 hours by August 2020.
This would include providing a new nursery class at Cross Arthurlie Primary, in Barrhead, creating a new family centre within Overlee Park, in Clarkston, creating a replacement facility for Glenwood Family Centre, in Giffnock, and creating a new family centre near Fairweather Hall, in Newton Mearns.
These developments, and the wider expansion plans, would create a significant amount of new child development officer jobs, as well as new head teachers, depute heads of centre, senior child development officers, teaching staff, quality improvement staff, facilities management and business support roles.
Nine Foundation Apprenticeships in Early Learning and Childcare would also be created for senior pupils in local schools.
A more flexible approach to nursery places will be adopted as part of the following phases of the expansion plan, with sessions matching the school day, the ability to attend longer sessions if required and stretching the provision throughout the year, rather than just term time.
Relationships with partnership nurseries and childminders will also be enhanced to give parents the opportunity to access their free hours in a combined way.
The Council’s expansion plan was submitted to the Scottish Government on Friday (September 29), and it is expected it will take some time before any funding commitment is provided to local authorities.
If the appropriate funding is secured, then the due planning process would require to be carried out in relation to all potential sites given the local sensitivities and opposition to building on parkland.