Glasgow has been accused of "throwing the baby out with the bathwater" in ditching a proposed network of community nurseries, a key policy of the former Strathclyde Region. Councillors accept parents do not want a single type of nursery.
But Eric Wilkinson, head of the education department at Glasgow University, said community nurseries with their all-year-round provision, catering for babies to four-year-olds, had shown they could combine excellent childcare and high quality nursery education. Dr Wilkinson has carried out research into their effectiveness.
"This is a backward step that has been foisted on us by the Government focus on nursery education. Certain views about nursery education are given more priority than good quality childcare for families in need," he argued.
Glasgow now admits parents and nurseries do not want a "tightly structured" pre-five blueprint, similar in each area. The original intention was to place community nurseries at the centre of local networks. Glasgow currently has 127 nursery classes, schools and centres.
Margaret Dobie, senior education officer, pointed out: "One model used city-wide will not necessarily meet the needs of all client groups." A major drawback to community nurseries was the low numbers of children attending during the summer months. Despite that, the council had to retain a full staff. Ms Dobie emphasised that parents' needs and choices change yearly and many combine different forms of provision across the city. A study revealed demand is often where the carer is and not necessarily where the children live.
The council suggests an option for year-round provision could be to keep nursery schools open during the holidays by employing nursery nurses or teachers on a sessional basis. This would be an alternative to expanding community nurseries.
The revised policy reiterates the Roman Catholic Church concern about non-Catholic children entering a nursery class attached to a denominational primary. The Church views this as back-door entry to popular Catholic schools.
Nursery classes, traditionally attached to schools, could be housed in other buildings with surplus accommodation, according to the council. Many primaries had no room for even a small nursery class.
Comment, page 21.