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By Colin Smeeton
A private Arran nursery has expressed concern over what ambitious £13 million plans to develop and expand early years centres across North Ayrshire could mean for them.
All island parents will also have to wait more than two years before they see any benefits as Arran is in the last phase of a scheme which will see early years provision nearly double to 1,140 hours a year – but not until August 2020 at the early years classes around the island.
The additional childcare provision has been welcomed but there are also concerns that Brodick Nursery, which is private and voluntary, but whose children are funded by NAC, about the impact of the major shake up.
Currently accommodating 16 children, and staffed with two early years practitioners, the facility is housed in the village hall where have to make use of the public toilets and prepare meals in a tiny coffee canteen.
While providing a commendable service according to many parents, the teachers have to set up and dismantle the nursery facilities every morning and evening, going as far as replacing the children’s artworks on the walls every day. However, it has an excellent reputation which sees children coming from as far afield as Shiskine, and the nursery continues to attract children from across the island, will be expanding by eight pupils by August.
Manager Aileen Brand said: ‘Representatives from NAC have been over to discuss these changes with us and while we do feel that our concerns are being listened to, we are worried about our future. We rent the village hall and fundraise for all of the facilities. The parents and community have been incredibly supportive as have the other early years providers on Arran.
‘Our future is uncertain but we will continue our communications with NAC in the hope of working with them to find solutions that work for them, us, and the community of parents and childminders’.
Ann MacKay, who has been an Early Years Practitioner at the nursery for 13 years, said: ‘We voiced our concerns with NAC which are that there are no plans in place for us to deal with these changes. Solutions which have been collated from data obtained on the mainland might not necessarily reflect on the needs on Arran so we will need to be employing some innovative thinking on the ways to cope with the changes.’
Aileen added: ‘On a positive note, good quality childcare on Arran and across the region will be expanded and there will be a huge increase in opportunities for childcare professionals which is always welcomed.’
North Ayrshire Council’s cabinet has approved the redevelopment of the early years centres across the council area.
Councillor John Bell, cabinet member for education, said: ‘By August 2020, all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds can access 1,140 hours of free early learning and childcare each year – that’s nearly double the current amount of 600 hours.’
The increase to 1,140 hours in early learning and childcare means that early years centres will operate from 8am till 6pm over 49 weeks of the year.
A council spokesman confirmed that consultation was ongoing with both private and public sector providers and that no decision had been taken on future provision of early years services on the island.
Pupils and teachers at the Brodick Nursery this week. 01_B19nursery01