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Council defends consultation on controversial Fife shake-up of nursery places

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Fife Council has come under fire for its consultation on controversial changes to nursery provision.

In response to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Fife parent Chloe Milne, it was revealed the council received 717 responses to the consultation, which took place during November and December 2018.

Ms Milne said given 5,885 requests for nursery places starting this August had been made across Fife, the consultation did not go far enough.

“I am not convinced they had a good representation of working parents in the consultation.

“It doesn’t really fill me with confidence about the consultation – 717 responses doesn’t sound like enough considering the scale of the changes.”

The consultation was circulated as an online questionnaire and Fife Council’s head of education and children’s services Shelagh McLean said the survey was “promoted extensively”.

There has been a shake up of nursery provision across Scotland as local authorities prepare to roll-out the Scottish Government’s pledge to almost double the amount of funded childcare offered to parents.

Fife Council has been criticised for how it has gone about the expansion to 1,140 hours a year.

Letters from the council telling parents what nursery places their children have been allocated have started dropping through letterboxes and some parents have been disappointed.

The council’s education and children’s services convener, SNP councillor Fay Sinclair, last month warned that as many as one in five children would not be allocated what was applied for.

There has also been concern among parents about the range of options available.

Ms Milne, of Cellardyke, said the lack of full day places offered in the East Neuk was letting working parents down.

She added: “Here in Fife we can’t work full time without paying for additional childcare to fill the gap in hours given we are only now being offered morning or afternoon sessions in our local authority nurseries.”

Council education boss Ms McLean said: “We are required to consult with parents every two years.

“This questionnaire was promoted extensively using social media as well as being promoted through our own schools, partner providers, out of school networks and partnership links with health and other relevant organisations.

“There was also an option to complete a paper copy for those unable to access the questionnaire online or wanted additional support to complete this.

“The responses were used, along with all other information, to support decision making around the future early learning and childcare arrangements to be put in place across Fife.”

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