Free childcare expansion ‘need up to 800 new staff’

Up to 800 extra staff would be needed.
Up to 800 extra staff would be needed.
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UP to 800 extra members of staff will be needed to support an expansion of free childcare in the Capital, latest documents reveal.

The recruitment drive would come as council chiefs press ahead with work to meet the Scottish Government’s commitment to expanding the provision of early learning and childcare by 2020.

Under the current system, all three and four-year-olds in Scotland, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds, are entitled to 600 hours of free childcare every year.

However, this is set to almost double to 1,140 hours and education bosses have now set out how they intend to bolster Edinburgh’s existing early years workforce of around 650 people. Papers due to go before the council’s education committee show proposals include increasing the number of settings which are open 50 weeks a year.

Education convener Ian Perry admitted that recruiting up to 800 new staff members posed a “significant challenge” but that the council had a number of initiatives in the pipeline to help meet the target.

He said: “We have a range of plans in place like increasing the number of early years settings that are open for 50 weeks a year.

“The longer opening hours will create opportunities to recruit new staff and offer existing staff the opportunity for different working patterns and locations.

“We have our own dedicated early learning and childcare academy for staff development and we are working with other training organisations to provide more qualification routes to a career in early learning and childcare in the city.

“We have also started a pilot project in the north-west of the city involving childminders to deliver increased access to 
early learning and childcare.”

And he said additional funding from the Scottish Government was helping colleges to increase their number of training places, while a nationwide recruitment campaign was targeting school-leavers.

It comes as the Scottish Government allocated £1.7 million revenue and £2.5 million capital funding to the Capital to support the phased implementation of the expanded hours from August 2017.

Mary Campbell, education spokeswoman for the city Greens, said the recruitment and training needs of hundreds of new childcare workers was both a “challenging and exciting opportunity”.

She said: “We already see the problems caused by critical shortages of staff in the NHS and education, so planning needs to be underway in earnest, with existing employers and Edinburgh College playing a major part.

“If I were giving advice to a young person at, or approaching, school-leaving age just now, I’d say look into a career in childcare and early years education. You are going to be in high demand.”

florence.snead@jpress.co.uk