More than half of the eligible two year olds in West Dunbartonshire are benefitting from the Scottish Government’s 1,140 hours early learning programme each year.

Funded early learning and childcare (ELC) was made available to all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds last August, with parents entitled to 30 hours a week of free childcare during term time. 

The expansion of funded ELC, which aims to improve learning outcomes for children, was originally intended for August 2020, was paused in April to give local authorities the flexibility to focus on responding to the Covid-19 pandemic.

An update on the scheme in West Dunbartonshire was brought before the education committee on Wednesday where members were told that the increased hours of early learning and childcare was having a positive impact on children’s learning.

Councillors were advised that 38 per cent of two-year-olds in the area were deemed eligible for the scheme, with 60 per cent currently benefiting from the programme.

Questions were raised about the figures and what more the council could do to encourage parents entitled to the 1,140 hours to sign onto it.

Councillor Karen Conaghan said: “I noticed that we are providing a service to about 60 per cent of eligible two year olds.

"I wonder how that compares with other local authorities and what plans we have to try and reach those who would benefit from this service because I know some of them are quite hard to reach or appreciate the benefits of the ELC.”

Councillor Conaghan was informed that West Dunbartonshire was doing better than other local authorities in Scotland. 

Kathy Morrison, Senior Education Officer, said: “We compare quite favourably to other local authorities in Scotland and we have had a continuous focus on increasing the numbers and ensuring that our on ELCs get the message out there to the families in the communities.

“We are continuing to do that. We work closely with health visitors and social work has also helped.”

As part of the nationwide scheme, the local authority will also continue its plans to include vulnerable one year olds in the scheme, which has been delayed.

Plans will also provide early intervention to support our most vulnerable families.