Scottish parents face £2,000 childcare bills as nurseries pull out of council deals

Parents are facing hefty additonal costs for childcare.
Parents are facing hefty additonal costs for childcare.
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Nurseries have started to pull out of council funding agreements for three- and four-year-olds, claiming the new extended hours scheme offered by the Scottish government is not financially viable.

Parents who opt for private kindergartens over state-run nurseries will face soaring childcare costs if their provider withdraws from the agreement – worth up to £4,000 a year per child.

Alex Hems, head teacher of St George's school, which from next year will not take part in the nursery partnership with Edinburgh council.

Alex Hems, head teacher of St George's school, which from next year will not take part in the nursery partnership with Edinburgh council.

Some nurseries have already told parents that they will pull out of funding agreements with their local council from next year, saying that the money offered under Scottish Government plans to increase childcare provision does not cover their staffing costs – and bars them from charging parents “top up fees” to plug the gap.

The nursery at the private St George’s school in Edinburgh has told parents that from the school year beginning in August 2020, it will no longer take part in the partnership with the council, meaning that families will not be able to use their state funding if they send their child there. Instead, parents will have to pay the entire bill themselves, leaving them around £2,000 worse off than under the current regulations.

Head teacher Alex Hems said: “The Scottish Government 2020 proposal is designed to give parents greater choice in childcare. Their blueprint document would increase the current funded provision from 600 hours to 1,140 hours per child, but stipulates that partner providers may not charge fees at the point of entry in addition to the funds provided by the government, which will amount to £5.31 per child per morning or afternoon session. We do not believe that this figure will allow us to offer the quality of experience that we value and therefore have advised our parents that we will withdraw from the partnership unless there is a change in approach.”

Under previous rules, parents could use a child’s “funded” hours to pay part of a private nursery bill, paying the rest of the cost of childcare out of their own pocket.

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government said: “It is unlawful to charge top up fees on statutory early learning and childcare hours. This is the long-standing legal position and is clearly laid out in statutory guidance.”

Edinburgh Council confirmed that two nurseries had announced their intention to end the partnership from 2020.