Holyrood 2016: Labour manifesto pledges childcare ‘revolution’

Kezia Dugdale says Labour's goal is a new revolution in childcare. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
Kezia Dugdale says Labour's goal is a new revolution in childcare. Picture: Steven Scott Taylor
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LABOUR’S manifesto for the Holyrood elections, being unveiled in Edinburgh today, will pledge to fund a breakfast club in every primary school in Scotland.

Other manifesto pledges will include a Fair Start Fund, paid for by the 50p top rate of tax on those earning more than £150,000 a year, to invest in cutting the attainment gap; protecting the education budget in real terms; scrapping charges for exam appeals; protecting free university tuition; reversing cuts to bursaries for the poorest students in higher education; and guaranteeing support for students in further education.

Labour says the new money for breakfast clubs will average £6500. For schools which already have a breakfast club it would fund an expansion; for those currently without a breakfast club it would allow one to be established.

Labour’s manifesto will also protect existing plans to increase pre-school entitlement to 30 hours of free childcare a week, but will emphasise the need for flexible and affordable wrap-around childcare.

Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said: “We have high ambitions for how we care for our children. For years parents have been offered guarantees on childcare that are not worth the manifesto paper they are written on.

“We want childcare that fits around the lives of parents, that is flexible, affordable and accessible. So we will start on a new revolution in childcare, beginning with funding for a breakfast club in every primary school.”

She said breakfast clubs not only ensured children started the day with a healthy meal, but also provided the childcare so many parents desperately needed.

“To grow our economy and help women in particular thrive in their jobs, parents need access to flexible childcare. Promises about the number of hours of free childcare are meaningless unless parents and children can make use of them. Labour will begin the move toward the flexible, wrap-around affordable childcare that families in Scotland need.

“Our vision is of a Scotland where parents can drop their kids off to get a good breakfast and pick them up from an after-school sports club. That’s good for working parents but it’s also good for the health of the nation.”

Ms Dugdale said SNP cuts to local services like schools and nurseries risked holding back the next generation. “Cuts will mean fewer classroom assistants, nursery staff and 
opportunities for extracurricular activities. It doesn’t have to be this way. We can reject Tory austerity by using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to make different choices.”

Labour will also pledge to reform the senior phase of school with a Scottish Graduation Certificate involving vocational courses, work experience and traditional exams. The party said the move would allow formal recognition for young people with fewer traditional qualifications.

And the manifesto will also promise funding for primary school teachers to go on a basic coding course so they can introduce the skill to pupils as early as possible.

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com