Update (September 2015):
Almost exactly a year ago the newly formed FFFOK committee met Glasgow City Council’s Director of Education, Maureen McKenna, to discuss the problems that parents were having in accessing their Early Years funding.
Although our campaign has broadened since then as it became clear that this was a nation-wide issue, Glasgow still remains a primary concern as it’s the area which appears to have the largest number of families affected.
A lot has changed in Glasgow since that first meeting; The Council has recognised and acknowledged the problem. The Education Department has carried out a review of it’s early years services and committed to increase the number of flexible, extended hours places available in council nurseries and the number of funded places in partnership nurseries.
The fruit of this labour should become apparent as GCC puts in place it’s provision for 2015/16 and beyond.
Last year there was an 10% reduction in funded partnership places in Glasgow. This year, we have been told that partnership places have been increased by approximately 500: this is a 24% increase. This is good news.
We also know, however, that there was a shortfall of over 1000 partnership places last year in Glasgow so, although we welcome an increase, we would like to see this go further and will continue to campaign for an end to the practise of capping places in partnership nurseries so that all children attending can access their entitlement to 600 hours of free childcare.
The problems faced by families in Glasgow remain a priority for us. Campaigners based in the city want to work with Glasgow City Council to address the issues – but we firmly believe the first step has to be identifying, and tracking, the scale of the problem.
We petitioned the council in February 2015 to request that they guarantee a funded place for every eligible child in a partnership nursery. We felt this was a reasonable measure that could be taken immediately to ensure that the Early Years entitlement is made available to all Glasgow’s children without disrupting their care, or their parent’s ability to work.
A motion was carried forward that there should be further action on this, not to fund the places but to work on the problem. You can read the minutes from that meeting at the bottom of this post.
While we wait for action from the council and government, families in Glasgow continue to miss out.
Glasgow City Council nurseries have a total capacity for 5,839 3 to 5 year-olds and provide 11,794 free places within this capacity. The majority of these funded places are made up from 3-hours-and-10-minutes long sessions (either morning or afternoon) and are only available during term time.
Across the whole of Glasgow there are only 1,948 council nursery places that offer the option of ‘extended hours’ to cover a full working day.
In these circumstances a private nursery is a necessity, not a parental choice. The Council caps the number of funded places it will purchase in private nurseries (‘partnership nurseries’) and there is a shortfall of places in those nurseries.
Nurseries without enough places are forced to either distribute the funding by drawing lots, through a priority allocation system (e.g. by age), or they split the funding between all eligible children. Some ‘partnership’ nurseries have no funded places at all.
As it is the Council’s intention to fund places annually, a child may be expected to move nursery three times by the age of 5 in order to chase the funding. Glasgow City Council does not take into account affordability when allocating funded places, so parents may find that the only nursery able to offer them a funded place is too expensive to consider.
Many parents travel into Glasgow from other local authorities to work and choose to place their children in partnership nurseries in the city. This causes financial difficulties for Glasgow City Council because the Scottish Government funds provision for children resident within Glasgow only. For children who live outside Glasgow but whose parents work in the city there is some suggestion that this places them lower down the priority list for a funded place.
There are parts of the city (eg East Pollokshields and Dennistoun) where parents of three-year-olds are told their children will not get a council nursery place until the pre-school year because of nursery closures or high demand. While Glasgow has recently made improvements to the way it presents information on early years provision online, it is still difficult for parents to establish where and when places are available.
The Council has previously stated an aim that nursery places are available within ‘buggy pushing distance’ from a child’s home. It is not helpful or environmentally responsible to suggest that there are enough funded places in the city when these are not accessible by families without a car.
The council has told parents that it provides a higher volume of flexible childcare than any other local authority in Scotland – yet it is not enough.
PUBLIC PETITIONS AND GENERAL PURPOSES POLICY DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE’S MINUTES.
Glasgow, 10th February 2015.
Public Petitions and General Purposes Policy Development Committee.
Present: Frank Docherty (Chair), Judith Fisher, Bill Butler, Stephen Dornan, Jahangir Hanif, Rashid Hussain, John Letford, Billy McAllister, Norman MacLeod, Helen Stephen, Fariha Thomas and David Turner.
Also present: Stephen Curran.
Apologies: Frank McAveety and Sohan Singh.
Attending: A M Carr (Clerk); and A Connolly (for the Chief Executive).
Fair Funding for Kids – Public petition dealt with, after division – Instruction to Executive Director of Education Services.
1 There was submitted a report by the Executive Director of Corporate Services advising of a petition, containing 291 signatures, 25 of which had been validated, which had been submitted by Jenny Gorevan which sought funding to guarantee nursery places for every eligible child of working parents attending a partnership nursery in the city owing to the absence of Council nursery places, as detailed in Appendix 1 of the report, and which highlighted the petitioners’ concerns and the outcomes sought by them in relation to their petition.
The committee heard Jenny Gorevan, principal petitioner, Alison McIntyre and Fiona Mills in support of the petition, which stated the petitioners’ views and the aim of their petition to achieve access to 600 hours of free childcare annually for every 3 and 4 year old child, as detailed in their petition.
Councillor Butler, seconded by Councillor Fisher, moved that the committee agree that
(a) there was widespread support across the Council in respect of the provision of flexible and affordable childcare, and that the petition deserved further action; (b) this was a complicated and complex area of policy which involved government at both local and national level, and would support parents’ desire, should they so wish, to raise the issue at Scottish Parliament level; (c) the Executive Director of Education Services be instructed to work with all elected members to provide the degree of flexibility which would allow the city’s nurseries to offer the maximum possible wrap-around service for every 3 and 4 year old, and to do so in a consistent manner; and (d) a report be submitted to a future meeting of the Children and Families Policy Development Committee.
Councillor MacLeod, seconded by Councillor Turner moved as an amendment that the petition be referred to the Children and Families Policy Development Committee. On a vote being taken by a show of hands 6 members voted for the amendment and 6 for the motion, there being an equality of votes, the Chair exercised his casting vote in favour of the motion, which was accordingly declared carried.