Thousands of nursery staff needed to meet childcare target

Audit Scotland said around 4000 nursery workers were required to cope with the increase in free hours.

Thousands of nursery staff needed to meet childcare target iStock

More than 4000 extra nursery staff are needed for this year’s increase in free early learning and childcare (ELC) hours, Audit Scotland has said.

Reviewing the Scottish Government’s promise to increase free childcare hours from 600 to 1140 a year from August, the watchdog said there had been “steady progress”.

But it warned the success or failure of the policy is “critically dependent on achieving much in a short time”.

Councils, which have been given £567m to deliver the pledge, have recruited the equivalent of 4310 full-time staff – approximately half the amount required.

Caroline Gardner, auditor general for Scotland, said: “The Scottish Government and councils have worked well together to increase early learning and childcare hours, and we’ve also seen improvements in how the project will be evaluated.

“But the timeline remains tight and there are big risks around infrastructure and workforce.”

The Scottish Government has said staffing levels in the sector have now reached a record-high of 40,000.

Children’s minister Maree Todd added: “The quality of ELC provided is absolutely key.

“That is why we are investing in the workforce and developing improved learning opportunities for them to increase their skills and share best practice.

“With a passionate and dedicated workforce across all parts of the sector, and fantastic places for children to learn and play in a nurturing environment, there has never been a more exciting time for our childcare sector”.

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