Calls have been made to introduce a new nursery premium to support children in Scotland’s most deprived areas in their early years.
The proposals, made by the Scottish Liberal Democrats, would mirror the Scottish Government’s pupil equity funding, in which schools are provided with additional funds to spend on measures which will boost attainment among pupils from more deprived backgrounds.
The policy for school-age children was announced by the Scottish Government in December 2016 after years of pressure from the Lib Dem’s education spokesman Willie Rennie and campaigners.
The call comes as recent analysis by the party revealed more than half of two-year-olds from the most disadvantaged backgrounds are not receiving the free childcare they are entitled to.
An estimated 14,500 children aged two are eligible for free childcare, but figures from the Improvement Service show that as of April this year, 7,157 were taking up the offer – around 49% overall.
Rennie said: “Ensuring that everyone achieves their potential is the great liberal goal. It’s good for our young people and good for our economy too.
“On results day it was again clear that Scots from poorer backgrounds are still more likely to exit education with lower qualifications than their richer classmates.
“Scottish Liberal Democrats have already persuaded the Scottish Government to expand nursery provision and introduce a pupil premium for those from disadvantaged backgrounds.
“This policy, rebadged as Pupil Equity Funding, is one of the few concrete steps the government has taken to try to close the gap.
“While this is a step in the right direction, extensive academic research has identified that though the gap widens throughout school years, it actually starts well before formal schooling begins.
“A nursery premium – funding that follows the child and is managed by providers – would make sure pre-school children from poorer backgrounds are better equipped when they start school.”