Families in Argyll and Bute are set to benefit from an increase in the number of hours of pre-school provision provided by the local council.
From August this year the council will provide six hundred hours of pre-school provision per child - up from the present total of 475 - and will extend the service to children aged two and three.
The improved provision is being funded by an investment of £1.345 million from the local authority during the 2014-15 financial year, and will provide extra flexibility and choice for families.
Free early learning and childcare will be extended further to include children aged two who are, or have been, looked after by the council, and for households where no-one is working.
From August 2015, free pre-school provision will be further extended to include two-year-old children who are eligible to receive free school meals.
Argyll and Bute Council’s policy lead for children and families, Councillor Mary Jean Devon, said, “We are working to provide every child in Argyll and Bute with the very best possible start in life and to allow their parents and families the flexibility to provide pre-school and early learning as successfully as possible.
“We have listened to what parents want, and taken into consideration the views of providers.
“Consultation has shown that for busy parents the benefits are obvious; the difference is simply that during term time, free childcare and pre-school provision will be increased from 12 and a half hours to over 15 hours a week – with each session being increased by 40 minutes.
“There are further far-reaching benefits, however, in that increased provision may lead to increased employment both within the private sector and the council itself in order to cover the flexibility.”
The council is making these changes in line with the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill which was published in April 2013, and which seeks to improve the way services work to support children, young people and families.
As part of the Bill’s provisions the Scottish Government is making an extra £842,000 available to help provide more free and flexible childcare in the Argyll and Bute area.