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Calls for a national strategy on pre-school charges

Education conveners met in South Lanarkshire last week to learn from the experts, reports Neil Munro

Pre-school charging is inevitable, according to Alan Dick, who chairs the education committee in South Lanarkshire. The council was likely to charge for "add-on services", such as full-day sessions and provision for the youngest children, in order to fund the core half-day attendance by four-year-olds five times a week.

Danny McCafferty, education chairman in West Dunbartonshire, said one consequence of universal provision for four-year-olds would be that "they will no longer be out of sight, out of mind", Mr McCafferty said. "Identification of their needs will expose shortages of speech therapists, educational psychologists and social work provision."

Alec Thomson, convener of the education forum of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, promised to highlight the issue at Cosla's forthcoming meeting with the Education Minister.

The call for a national strategy was part of a seven-point agenda for action presented by Andrea Batchelor and Barbara Hughes, who have responsibility for the under-fives in South Lanarkshire and Dundee.

They said authorities will require to take decisions on partnerships with other providers and with parents, on the best system for integrating the "patchwork" of different services, on flexible opening, charging policies, the "corporate perspective" linking education to other areas such as parental employment, and the development of quality standards which are consistent "within councils, across councils and between providers".

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