Early years consultation findings discussed by East Dunbartonshire councillors

Findings to be discussed next week v.1
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Councillors will soon discuss the findings of a consultation on early years education in East Dunbartonshire.

The papers for Tuesday’s session of the council’s education committee contain the results of the consultation, which took place between August and September last year and saw parents and carers invited to give feedback on these services.

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This took place a year after the council met its target to provide 1140 hours of funded early learning and childcare for all 3 and 4 year-olds and eligible 2 year-olds – around 2,700 children in total.

Consultation responses were received from around 16 per cent of service users, with a further 13 per cent of the council’s early years staff completing a questionnaire.

About one in three respondents said their children used out-of-school care. During the consultation the council also hosted 13 focus group meetings involving staff, parents and care providers.

The main reasons parents gave for using these services were to allow them to work, and to benefit their children’s social and educational development.

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Respondents said they wanted clearer advance notice of charges for places beyond the 1140 hours of funded service, and more information on the available options and the application process.

The main differences felt by respondents using these services were reduced childcare costs, more social and educational opportunities for their children, and easier time management for work or study.

Commonly requested improvements to service planning included term-time options, more flexible hours, funded places for children under 3, greater choice of provision and reduced costs especially if more than one child. Extended provision of Gaelic language services were also mentioned.

One in three respondents said recent changes in legislation meant they would defer the date their child entered school.

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The most common mode of attendance (over 48 per cent) was using funded hours in combination with a wrap around service for the extended year.  Three quarters of responses expressed satisfaction with their chosen method.

Those who said they were not satisfied wanted more flexibility in the available hours, the option to choose the nursery associated with the primary school their children would attend, funding for two year olds, and more affordable childcare for wrap-around services, as the cost of these sometimes forced changes to working patterns or created reliance on family members.

Among the focus group participants were parents who used the additional support needs playschemes at Merkland and Campsie View. The Merkland feedback was very positive but the Campsie View Group, while welcoming numerous benefits, also indicated desired improvements in areas such as communication, flexibility, and the provision of after school care.

With the consultation concluded, the various findings are now undergoing reviews which will lead to several future reports.

The next meeting of the education committee will take place on Tuesday, January 24, from 5.30pm. It will also be broadcast live on the East Dunbartonshire Council YouTube channel.