As one of the thousands across Fife who struggle with trying to juggle childcare, work and everything else life can throw, plans to almost double the annual hours in paid-for nursery places are appealing.
Increasing provision to 1,140 hours by August 2020 is going to be a massive undertaking.
In Fife alone, we’ll need around 400 more early years staff to cope with demand, new buildings, and extensions and refurbishments of existing ones.
A figure in excess of £120 million has been quoted over the next four years.
But the time to invest in young lives is at pre-school stage — it is when the biggest difference can be made so all the money, time and effort is surely going to be well spent.
Nobody said it would be easy. Audit Scotland has already warned there is a “significant risk” councils will not be able to resource the ambitious expansion.
In Fife, there are already discrepancies between Scottish Government and Fife Council estimates in relation to the number of places that will be needed, as well as the number of pupils who are likely to take up school meals.
However, Fife seems to be particularly well prepared and choice will play a key part the local scheme.
Fife Council term-time provision will consist of six-hour sessions per day across the academic year, while Fife Council full year provision will consist of sessions of four hours and 40 minutes per day available for 49 weeks of the year.
In addition, the council is working with private nursery, playgroup and childminder partners to offer funded ELC.
The Scottish Government made clear its expectations that Fife should maximise the use of existing school estate capacity, use existing council facilities to increase capacity where suitable, extend existing buildings to create additional capacity, and create additional capacity through new build nurseries.
One of the developments in the pipeline will see a dedicated nursery setting provided within the Methilhaven Care Home site in Methil, which will allow different generations to mix and learn together in a Scottish first.
Of course, you can’t have childcare provision without suitably trained adults, and there will inevitably be a large number of additional qualified staff needed.
Again though, Fife College has increased the number of placements available on their HNC childhood practice course from 100 in 2016 to 164 last year and again this year, while the council has also been developing its own Early Years Apprenticeship programme to suit.
It’s an amazingly complex piece of work, but the difference it could make to families across Fife could be so precious its value cannot be determined.