Pre-school reshuffle to save cash

27th August 2010 at 01:00
`Mixed economy' model that hands responsibility for early years provision to not-for-profit firm could save Glasgow pound;200k

Glasgow is pioneering a new "mixed economy" approach to pre-school education to save money.

It is to close a council-run nursery at one school campus and transfer responsibility for its early years provision to a not-for-profit firm operating on the same campus.

The blueprint, which would save the council an estimated pound;200,000, was revealed in a report to the city council's executive committee yesterday by Jean McFadden, its new education convener.

She said the plan was consistent with the council's early childhood and extended services strategy of improving access to childcare and working towards parents being able to access childcare 52 weeks a year, from 8am until 6pm and beyond.

The plans envisage the closure of Ardencraig Nursery and its transfer to the "social economy" sector at St Martin's extended day centre; both are located in John Paul II Primary in the Castlemilk area of the city.

"The over-riding case is based on there being improved access to extended, flexible childcare services that will support access to training and employment," the council report stated. "It would also allow a continued commitment to a partner provider which has demonstrated that it provides a quality education and care experience for children."

A public consultation will follow committee approval before the plan can be executed. This would involve an "educational benefits statement" by HMIE - the new requirement under school closure legislation passed by the Scottish Government this year. Scottish ministers have the right to "call in" the plan if they are not satisfied on various grounds.

Ardencraig Nursery provides pre-school education and childcare for three to four-year-olds from 8.30am until 4.30pm, during term times. In the same building, St Martin's extended day centre, run by Castlemilk Childcare, is "a business with social objectives with our roots embedded in the community". All its income goes directly into the organisation, and in turn into the community. Ardencraig and St Martin's share some administrative staff and laundry facilities.

But Ardencraig's usage was at 50 per cent last year and its projected level this year is 38 per cent, based on 46 children occupying 23 full time-equivalent places.

St Martin's provides pre-school education and childcare for children aged 0 to five years, 8am-6pm, 52 weeks of the year. It is registered with the Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care to provide up to 88 places at any one time, including 48 places for three to five-year-olds. Glasgow City Council is currently in partnership with St Martin's to provide commissioned pre-school education places.

By closing Ardencraig Nursery, St Martin's could extend its provision by up to 60 full time-equivalent places, the council says. "Through this proposal, parentscarers would have the opportunity to access more flexible childcare to support them in accessing training or employment," said Bailie McFadden.

Council employees at Ardencraig are expected to be redeployed or offered voluntary severance, subject to consultation with the unions.

Elizabeth Buie elizabeth.buie@tes.co.uk.

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