Angus is facing a nursery care crisis as already stretched facilities face the prospect of having to almost double the hours they provide.
Council chiefs say key pressure points already exist in the Monifieth/Carnoustie and Forfar/Kirriemuir areas where demand for childcare places is close to outstripping supply – with new housing set to bring an influx of event more toddlers.
The authority has just completed a major consultation exercise to seek the views of parents, carers and providers across Angus, but with a Scottish Government plan to raise early learning and childcare time from the current Angus yearly total of 600 hours to 1,140 hours within five years, officials have admitted the plan presents “significant challenges”.
All of the area’s three and four-year-olds currently receive early learning through funded places delivered in 49 school nursery classes, 12 private nurseries currently in partnership with the authority and via 21 voluntary playgroup partnerships.
There is additional provision over the core 600 hours in three rural schools, with only one primary – Strathmore in Forfar – offering afternoon opening outwith term time.
Strategic director Margo Williamson told the area’s latest children and learning committee: “In light of the proposed future increase in early learning and childcare there is a need to develop a detailed strategic plan as to how Angus Council will meet future demand for early learning and child care.
“It is recognised that the Council, as well as seeking to enhance its own provision, will require to continue to work in partnership with partner providers to meet the particular needs of the four localities. It is also recognised that there will be a need to maximise use of existing provision by extending both opening hours and accessibility over holiday periods.
“Pressure points have been identified in Monifieth/Carnoustie and Forfar/Kirriemuir where demand is currently close to outstripping capacity. Moreover, in these localities, capacity is also under pressure due to new house building. “
The director’s report added: “Within the Brechin/Montrose locality, there is sufficient provision to meet current demand. However, there is a need to review the standard of accommodation across a number of rural settings.
“Within Arbroath, provision within the new school developments has been made for early learning and childcare. This along with the addition of two new private nurseries partnerships will be sufficient to meet current demand and a small increase into the future.”
“In light of the policy intention of 1,140 hours there is likely to be the requirement for early learning and childcare developments in each of the locality areas in the future.
“These developments will be taken forward as new resources are made available. However, given the current pressures in Monifieth/Carnoustie and Forfar/Kirriemuir, the directorate is currently undertaking options appraisals about how we can best deliver early learning and childcare in these localities taking into account the totality of current resources available.”
Councillors will be presented with option appraisals in due course, and the authority is also undertaking a consultation seeking the views of parents, childminders and childcare providers and staff, with details at www.angus.gov.uk.