11 New Sites To Trial Flexible Childcare Options

New sites for the Scottish Government's pilot projects on different models of childcare have been announced as part of its bid to double free provision.

All three and four-year-olds in Scotland, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds, are entitled to 600 hours of free childcare every year, up from 412.5 hours when the SNP came to power.

The Scottish Government plans to increase this to 1,140 hours a year by 2020, but has faced criticism that some parents struggle to access the existing free hours due to a lack of flexibility.

A total of 11 new locations have been chosen, in Argyll and Bute, Dundee, Glasgow, the Western Isles, the Shetland Isles, North Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway, East Ayrshire, South Lanarkshire, Midlothian and Angus.

They will test different models of childcare aimed at increasing flexibility, including using local childminders linked to nurseries to provide care before and after nursery hours, linking childcare to local employability services in areas of high deprivation, and integrating nurseries and out of school care.

The new sites announced on Thursday are the second round of trials and will start in the summer, following on from three initial pilot schemes unveiled last month which start in January.

These include extended days and cover over holidays in the Borders, a ''stay and play'' scheme for two-year-olds in Aberdeen allowing parents to stay, and extending access to a woodland play area in Edinburgh.

The Scottish Government is paying #950,000 for the 14 trial schemes.

Minister for Childcare and Early Years Mark McDonald announced the new locations on a visit to Larkhall Family Centre in South Lanarkshire.

He said: "We know the early years are a crucial time in every child's life and evidence shows that access to high-quality early learning and childcare (ELC) is key to improving attainment. By giving Scotland's young people the best possible start in life we can ensure they develop the skills and confidence they need to reach their full potential.

"I particularly welcome this pilot because it will involve a blend of different types of childcare. This is a more flexible model that we know parents want to see more of.

"Parents and carers also benefit from a high quality, flexible system of ELC as it helps to support routes into work, training or further study which may not have previously been accessible.

"That is why this Government is committed to almost doubling the free entitlement to 1,140 hours per year by 2020, while delivering the flexibility that families need. By trialling different delivery models in partnership with local authorities we will be better able to understand what parents and children need and want.''

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