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Moray Council is marking one year to go until the full roll out of the early learning and childcare (ELC) expansion by publishing a new early years guide for parents.
With big changes on how funded ELC is delivered in Moray the information may seem overwhelming for parents unfamiliar with early years provision. The new guide, called Your Choices, aims to walk parents and carers through all the decisions they’ll be making about their child’s early learning and childcare.
Chair of Moray Council’s Children and Young People’s Services committee, Cllr Sonya Warren said the decision about which ELC service to use for a child is “pivotal” in their learning and development: “Research shows that the early years are crucial to a child’s development, and the environment they are in can shape their outlook on life. The decision made by parents and carers about ELC provision is a pivotal one for our children. Parents, quite rightly, want to know the facts before committing to a path for their child.
“Funded ELC hours are optional to use; how and where parents choose to use them may prove to be an overwhelming decision. This guide gives tips and hints of things to consider when choosing between nurseries and childminders but ultimately a parent or carer will know their child best and is best placed to make that decision”.
Moray Council’s early years guide for parents is available to download from http://www.moray.gov.uk/downloads/file122342.pdf and will be available in hard copy.
The ELC expansion offers all three and four year olds, and eligible two year olds, up to 1140 hours a year of early learning and childcare, funded by the Scottish Government.
Moray has been phasing in the increased hours, almost doubling the previous entitlement, and is already offering 1140 hours to over 1,000 children. Moray Council is on course to have all necessary changes to the service in place to ensure all 2,000 children here have access to the increased hours for the target date of August 2020.
Delivery partners have made their own preparations for the changes, attracting grant funding to the tune of £162,165 over the last two years to reorganise their provision and upgrade their nurseries.
Grants have been made available for infrastructure and training to allow all funded providers to meet new national standards and included contributions for start-up costs, improvement to outdoor space and support for quality improvement.
Torridon Education Group received over £26,000 across their four settings in Moray with training grants being used to develop creativity and expressive arts with dance and music training to up-skill staff, alongside workshops for parents in various curriculum areas to help improve outcomes for children.
Torridon Manager Lauren Hayward said: “We wouldn’t have been able to complete the work we needed to increase capacity and offer the full-time hours for children without this financial support from Moray Council and the Scottish Government. The funding has allowed us to improve our outdoor space, provide more training for staff and ensure the continuation of high standard of service that complies with changing legislation and we look forward to our children continuing to enjoy their new spaces to play and learn.”
Noah’s Ark Developmental Playgroup were awarded nearly £22,000 to build an outdoor classroom, which Manager Angela Mackay says the children have named The Pea Pod: “We let the children and their families offer name suggestions for the space that offers a flexible learning environment, which we use as a quiet space for children to retreat to as well as dancing, yoga and drama. The children also really enjoy having lunch on the veranda and we’re able to increase our capacity thanks to this grant funding.”
Outdoor nurseries have also been supported, with Earthtime for All receiving nearly £5,000 to install a new kitchen area as part of their expansion. Education and Outreach Manager, Laura Russell, can see the expansion of hours benefiting a lot of parents: “With our grant we’ve been able to install a kitchen at our base in the grounds of Duffus House in order to provide the funded meals children are also entitled to as part of the expansion. A number of parents have indicated how useful the extended hours will be, especially for working parents needing to build travel time in to their day – our new kitchen means we can offer everything children are entitled to during those longer days.”