All local authorities in Scotland are ready to provide 1,140 hours of free childcare, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The Scottish Government announced the flagship policy, aimed at allowing families to get back into work, in the last parliamentary term but its implementation was delayed by Covid-19.
The First Minister pledged during this year’s election that the Scottish Government will now go further, creating a wraparound childcare system that is in place before and after school hours, with those on the lowest incomes paying nothing for the service.
Ms Sturgeon visited Fallin Nursery near Stirling on Wednesday – where one of the youngsters made away with her shoes.
She said: “All children deserve the best start in life.
“Providing access to free, high-quality early learning and childcare enriches children’s early years and provides them with skills and confidence for starting school and beyond. It also supports parents’ ability to work, train or study.
“I am delighted to announce that every local authority in Scotland has assured us they are ready to deliver the 1,140 hours offer by the start of the new term – a truly transformational offer that will benefit children and families all over the country.
“Getting to this point, especially given the challenges of the pandemic, has taken a mammoth effort and I’d like to thank local authorities and private and voluntary sector providers for helping to make it happen.”
The policy will be available to three and four-year-olds, as well as those at the age of two in the most need, offering an estimated £4,900 of care per year.
Stephen McCabe, children and young person’s spokesman at local authority body Cosla, said: “This announcement is good news for families across Scotland with children able to benefit from almost double the amount of funded childcare later this month.
“These additional hours will be transformative for families, ensuring children have more time to play and learn while parents and carers will have more opportunities to work, study or volunteer.
“The delivery of the 1,140 hours expansion of early learning and childcare is the result of hard work by councils and our partners, who have made huge efforts to deliver against the extremely challenging and ever-changing nature of the pandemic.”