East Ayrshire Council have announced plans for the resumption of 1140 hours free childcare at some locations.

Though parents will not be breathing a sigh of relief just yet, as the announcement does not give any date of a possible resumption, with an update to be given “in due course”.

The decision earlier this month to not provide the 1140 hours, when other councils had planned to offer them, caused much consternation amongst parents, who bemoaned a “postcode lottery” with child care provision.

Councillor Fiona Campbell, cabinet member for skills and learning said: “A revised date for full implementation of the expansion to 1140hrs will be jointly agreed by the Scottish Government and local authorities in due course, and will be mindful of a number of factors that are a direct result of the Coronavirus pandemic including the delay to capital programme projects and the recruitment of practitioners.

"However, If the virus remains suppressed and the Scottish Government provides appropriate guidance, the council aims to reintroduce the delivery of 1140hrs of funded early learning and childcare on a phased basis in the 18 Early Childhood Centres providing these hours prior to lockdown. We will also aim to introduce the increased hours in Nether Robertland ECC and Netherthird ECC on the same basis.

“This is a complex situation and teams across the council are working closely with the Scottish Government on detailed plans and we will continue to communicate with parents and carers throughout the planning process.”

The 20 Early Childhood Centres aiming to provide 1140hrs of funded early learning and childcare are:

Auchinleck, Bellsbank, Catrine, Crosshouse, Galston, Hillbank, Hurlford, James Hamilton, Kilmaurs, Littlemill, Mauchline, Muirkirk, Nether Robertland, Netherthird, New Cumnock, Newmilns, Riccarton, Shortlees, St Andrews and Whatriggs.

All other Early Childhood Centres, which were due to deliver 1140 hours in the final phase of the council's ELC expansion plan, will continue to deliver 600 hours until they are in a position to increase the hours, says the council.

When the refreshed guidance for the reopening of early learning and childcare is published, they will consider the implications and implementation of the public health measures for each setting and how this impacts on the phased reintroduction of 1140 hours and 600 hours. They say that there will need to be discussions with individual settings to plan, review and revise the allocation of places and agree a timescale to phase in the increased hours.  

The minister for children and young people, Maree Todd had confirmed to all local authorities on Wednesday 8 July that from Tuesday 11 August ELC entitlement would remain 600 hours and that the legal obligation to increase provision to 1140 hours from August 2020 had been suspended.