End fragmentation of children's services

Children in Scotland welcomes the consensus among Scotland's political parties on improving services for children and young people. But the parties involved in the post-election partnership agreement must prioritise early years investment.

We understand that the main parties are pledged to improving the lives of children and share a commitment to investing in the early years, promoting the concept of using schools as a "hub" for services and reducing class sizes.

We are pleased to see consensus among the parties. We welcome Jack McConnell's commitment, as Labour leader, to piloting nature kindergartens, and the SNP's proposal for a minister for early years.

However, all parties' proposals fall short of the need for radical policies to end the fragmentation of services for young children. We want simple and affordable services to which all parents have equal access. Nursery fees in Scotland are increasing at almost double the rate of those in England.

Children in Scotland's manifesto asks for entitlement to integrated whole-day services for three and four-year-olds by 2009, free to low income parents and with progressively reduced costs to all parents. We would like to see that entitlement extended to all two-year-olds by 2011.

I urge whoever is elected to consider again the report published late last year by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development on early childhood education and care, Starting Strong II, which found that most western countries need to double the amount invested in young children.

The author of the report is visiting Scotland after the election for a Children in Scotland conference discussing the implications of the report for Scotland.

Bronwen Cohen

chief executive, Children in Scotland

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