Concern over private nursery cash

children at a nursery Pre-school children qualify for free hours of nursery education

Ministers have been asked to clarify government policy on part-time funded nursery places after claims councils may be "ignoring" official guidelines.

Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith is seeking assurances that funded places have not been withdrawn from private nurseries.

If this happens, parents need to find another partner nursery or risk losing a part-time funded place.

In some cases this can be worth up to £1,550 per year for each child.

Children aged between three and five in Scotland are entitled to 12.5 hours a week free nursery education during school term time.

Start Quote

This choice must not be compromised because of confusion over what obligations are required of local authorities”

End Quote Liz Smith MSP Scottish Conservatives

The cash, which comes from the Scottish government, is distributed by local authorities.

The free hours can be provided in a council-run nursery, a nursery class in a primary school, a playgroup or a private day nursery which has "partnership status" with the local council.

When partnership status is withdrawn from a private nursery, parents must move their child to continue qualifying for funding.

This can be to another private nursery or one of the other providers.

Official guidelines on how this scheme operates state that councils should secure enough places locally to meet demand.

It also states councils must reflect parental choice to use private nurseries, and facilities in other authority areas to reflect their working lifestyle.

Parliamentary questions

Ms Smith has tabled questions at Holyrood after worried nursery owners contacted her about a number of private nurseries losing partnership places.

She believes ministers have to clarify how official guidelines are interpreted to ensure parental choice is not being stymied.

She said: "I am very clear that parents both want and have a right to be able to send their child to a nursery of their choice.

"This choice must not be compromised because of confusion over what obligations are required of local authorities when it comes to the provision of places within partnership nurseries or by the fact that Scottish Executive guidelines are being ignored.

"It is very important to establish what the facts are and that is why I have laid parliamentary questions on this issue."

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