NICOLA STURGEON visited the Wee County last week to see first-hand how the government’s childcare provisions are helping families in the area.

The first minister called into Sauchie Nursery to speak with staff and children to find out how the new programme was working in practice.

More than 46,000 children across Scotland are benefiting from extra hours of high-quality early learning and childcare almost a year before the full rollout of 1,140 funded hours of care for every eligible child.

By August next year children will be eligible for more funded hours of early learning and childcare than ever before and families will have more choice over how they access those hours.

Lynsey Graham, Sauchie Nursery head, said: “Sauchie Nursery has had the excellent opportunity to phase in the delivery of the 1,140 hours of free early learning and childcare over the last two years.

“This has ensured the expansion has been developed with the needs of the children and families at the heart of the project.

Marie McMeechan, whose daughter attends the nursery, added: “The introduction of the 1,140 hours at Sauchie Nursery has been excellent and very beneficial to me and my family.

“As a single mother with school and nursery aged children the introduction of this has made a massive difference enabling me to go out to work without the added cost of childcare”

Figures show that one third of three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds are already accessing more than the minimum 600 hours to which they are currently entitled.

Furthermore, since March 2018, 214 nurseries have been either extended, refurbished or built, while the number of three to five-year-olds receiving more than 600 hours is 6.6 per cent ahead of forecast.

The first minister and children’s minister Maree Todd celebrated the positive impact expansion is already having during a visit to Sauchie Nursery where they met new recruits to the sector and children receiving 1,140 hours of childcare.

Ms Sturgeon said: “From August 2020 all three and four-year-olds across Scotland, and around one-quarter of two-year-olds, will benefit from the most generous early learning and childcare offer in the UK.

“High quality learning and care in the early years is the foundation from which every child can develop and reach their full potential and it also makes a key contribution to closing the attainment gap.

“Our ambitious £2billion programme will give children access to almost twice as many funded hours annually. It will also give parents and carers more flexibility to explore work, education or training opportunities.

“With less than one year to go many local authorities are making good progress. We know the next ten months will see a big effort from everyone to make sure we deliver on time in August.”

Cllr Graham Lindsay, spokesperson for education at Clackmannanshire Council, added: “I am delighted that the first minister and minister for children and young people have visited Sauchie Nursery.

“This policy will be truly transformational for our children and families.”