Highland Council position on 1140 hours ELC provision

The Highland confirms that its actions on the provision of Early Learning Childcare (ELC) provision are in line with Scottish Government Guidance and directions issued.

With implications of COVID-19 the Scottish Government chose - following a Scottish Parliament decision - to remove the Statutory Duty for provision of 1140 hours from August 2020. 

Cllr John Finlayson, Highland Council’s Chair of Education said: “The Scottish Government has specifically given flexibility to Councils in relation to ELC funding to address critical childcare and education recovery costs.

“I am pleased to confirm that Highland Council’s decision to hold a ‘status quo’ position, sustaining service levels at those pre-COVID (a mix of 600 and 1140 hour settings), means the Council is meeting its statutory obligations relating to 600 hours provision, and is going beyond what is legally required with 50% of Highland settings delivering 1140 hours.”

In Highland education settings where there is capacity, and only after providing for statutory ELC 3 and 4 years old/eligible 2s/vulnerable/keyworkers, families are offered any remaining hours on a paid-for basis.  This has been the practice in place for some time, pre-dating COVID-19. 

The Council is reviewing its ELC and 1140 hours arrangements, with a report due to be taken to the 30 September Education committee.

Cllr Finlayson added: “Highland Council looks forward to progressing further expansion to 1140 hours, when it is practical to do so. We also look forward to further clarity from Scottish Government in relation to its plans for a revised timeline for the Statutory Duty to deliver 1140 hours.

“Highland Council has delivered the expectations of it, and responded to local needs, in relation to keyworker and vulnerable young people childcare provision during lockdown. The Council has also delivered upon Scottish Government expectations in relation to ELC partner funding and sustainability during lockdown.

“While the flexibility around ELC funding provided by Scottish Government is welcome, it has also been essential, given the additional and exceptional costs upon this Council as a result of Covid-19.”

Additional and exceptional Covid-19 relates costs in relation to ELC and Schools in Highland include:

  • £799k estimated additional quantifiable costs of keyworker provision during lockdown period;
  • £11m estimated additional full year costs at Q1 related to schools re-opening, including additional staffing, PPE, cleaning and school transport costs as main elements;
  • Unknown additional costs and risks around Covid-19 implications for schools and ELC provision in relation to further:
    • localised cases, lockdowns and responses required;
    • requirements for keyworker and vulnerable young people provision in light of any further lockdowns;
    • costs associated with ELC partner sustainability funding;
    • costs as a result of new or emerging national directions e.g. change in position regarding face masks in schools and on transport.

Councillor Finlayson added: “Further additional Scottish Government funding in relation to schools recovery and Covid-19 has been announced.  Not all of which has been allocated to Councils as yet.  The Council welcomes additional funding and is assessing the implications, and in light of the costs and risks as outlined.”

He added: “It would be imprudent of the Council to commit to further ELC expansion without due assessment of the practicalities of doing so, and the financial implications, and significant risk and uncertainties still being faced.  These matters are being considered and will form a report to the Council’s Education Committee on 30 September.”

28 Aug 2020