STIRLING has earned bouquets rather than brickbats from SINA. "Its partnership arrangements should be seen as a blueprint for the other 31 councils," Mairi Maciver-Clark said.
The council's approach involves funding places in independent nurseries and playgroups for four-year-olds on a sliding scale according to whether centres meet six criteria.
These are a successful quality assurance system, a development plan, staff training, a children's profiling system, teacher involvement in curriculum planning and an early years qualification for all permanent staff.
The innovative element is that Stirling will pay the partner centres who meet all six criteria the top rate of pound;1,075 a place (minus pound;100 for administration and education authority support).
Five criteria earns pound;975 and fewer than five the minimum pound;880 recommended by the Scottish Office.
The council has not yet determined the private and voluntary rates for the 50 per cent of three-year-olds planned to have a nursery place from August next year.