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MSPs urged to take opportunity to end discrimination in government-funded nursery provision

Expansion of provision will be watered down unless amendments are backed

Reform Scotland, the independent non-party think-tank, is calling on members of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Culture Committee to back amendments which will end the wide variation in children’s entitlement to government-funded nursery provision.

As Reform Scotland has previously highlighted, currently only 50% of children born in Scotland are entitled to two years’ provision, while others receive as little as 15 months.  This can also mean a difference in over £1,000 towards the cost of a partnership nursery. (See table in Notes to Editors)

Amendments to the Scottish Government’s Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill, put forward by Elizabeth Smith MSP, are set to be considered by the Education and Culture Committee today (14 January).  During the stage 1 debate, MSPs from Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats all indicated that they wanted all children to be given the same basic provision.  However, the Scottish Government has indicated that it is its intention for the current variation in entitlement to remain in place.

The Scottish Government has suggested that the current system takes “proper account” of a child’s development.  However, Reform Scotland would argue it does no such thing and instead applies three arbitrary points in time – no qualifications, such as being fully toilet trained, must be met for the entitlement to begin, and the age at which entitlement begins varies between 2 years 11 months and 3 years 5 months.

Reform Scotland proposal is based on a specific entry-point (probably the August two years before the child starts school), but crucially, under our system every child would be treated equally and receive a basic two years of government funding before starting school.

Commenting, Alison Payne, Research Director of Reform Scotland, said:

“The Scottish Government put childcare and nursery provision at the heart of its white paper on an independent Scotland, no doubt because this is an issue of importance to many Scots.

“I am, therefore, disappointed that the Scottish Government has not yet taken the opportunity to ensure that all children in Scotland have a basic equal entitlement to government-funded nursery provision.

“That can change today. Liz Smith’s proposed amendments are a simple solution – just as all children are entitled to seven years of primary education irrespective of their date of birth, they should be entitled to a basic two years of government-funded nursery provision.  To achieve this, Reform Scotland believes that nursery provision should start at a fixed point in the year, probably in August, just as it does for school.

“These amendments are also necessary to ensure that disadvantaged 2 year olds receive a full additional year of nursery.

“I hope the members of the Education and Culture Committee will take today’s opportunity to ensure that all children in Scotland have the same basic right to nursery provision.”

ENDS
 
NOTES TO EDITORS

1. Figures highlighting the scale of unfairness in the legal entitlement to government-funded nursery provision.

Child’s birthday

Entitlement to government funded nursery provision begins

Total nursery entitlement before beginning school

Approximate entitlement in hours, under current 475 hours per year1

Approximate entitlement in hours, under 600 hours per year2

Approximate financial entitlement for partnership provision under 475 hours3

Approximate financial entitlement for partnership provision under 600 hours4

Number   and percentage of births registered in 2012
– provision starts in 20155
Number and percentage of births registered in 2011
– provision starts in 20146
1 Mar to 31 Aug August/ Autumn Term 2 years 950 hours 1,200 hours £3,100 £3,916 28,980
50.0%
29,374
50.1%
1 Sept to 31 Dec January/ Spring Term 18 months 792 hours 1,000 hours £2,583 £3,263 18,627
32.2%
18,560
31.7%
1 Jan to 28 Feb
(Assuming child starts school at 4)
April/
Summer Term
15 months 633 hours 800 hours £2,067 £2,611 10,300
17.8%
10,658
18.2%

1 We have approximated the hours based on an each of the three terms being equal, therefore 158.3 hours per term
2 We have approximated the hours based on an each of the three terms being equal, therefore 200 hours per term
3 The figures for partnership funding are an estimate and based on Edinburgh Council’s pre-school funding for 3 and 4 year olds of £1,550 per year/£516.65 per term: http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/file/8809/pre-school_funding_leaflet
4 We have used the figures from Edinburgh Council’s pre-school funding for 3 and 4 year olds of £1,550 per year/£516.65 per term for 475 hours, which works out at £3.26 per hour to estimate figures of £1,958 per year/ £652.67 per term
5 Taken from the weekly birth registrations from the National Records of Scotland http://www.gro-scotland.gov.uk/statistics/theme/vital-events/general/weekly-monthly-births-death-data/weekly/index.html.

What the table shows:

  • Only 50 per cent of children are guaranteed the legal entitlement to two full years of government-funded nursery provision.
  • According to the Growing up in Scotland research, Early Experiences of Primary School, published in 2012, just under 50 per cent of children born in January or February deferred entry for starting school in 2009.  If the deferral rate remained the same, only 59 per cent of children born in 2011 and 2012 would in practice receive the full two years, or 1,200 hours provision.  However, the children who are not deferred would receive 400 hours less than the Scottish Government’s 600 hours a year policy, or their parents will receive about £1,305 less towards a partnership nursery.

2. You can download the July bulletin here and An Equal Start here.
3. Children in Scotland has supported Reform Scotland’s calls to end birthday discrimination.  Its press release from January 2013 can be viewed here.
4. Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility. Further information is available at www.reformscotland.com
5. Media enquiries to Andy Maciver 07855 261244 or andy@messagematters.co.uk or Peter Duncan 07740 469949 or peter@messagematters.co.uk