NURSERIES are “leading in Scotland” with the expansion in hours for young children.

West Dunbartonshire Council’s education services committee is regularly updated as the area moves from offering 600 hours of childcare to 1,140 hours a year by 2020/21.

Linnvale ELCC and St Mary’s ELCC in Alexandria will pilot the new target for three and four year olds, while Ferryfield ELCC will reopen next month as a “hub” to provide 1,140 hours to two year olds.

Committee convener Councillor Karen Conaghan said: “It’s fantastic what we’re doing. Other authorities are quite envious of what we’re doing. We seem to be streets ahead.”

Laura Mason, chief education officer, said the national expansion of childcare provision was “hugely complex” but that, “we think we have got it in place”.

Councillor Martin Rooney said: “We are really well placed. We are leading in Scotland on early years and it’s all down to the hard work of our staff.”

Children at the St Mary’s and Linnvale pilots are being offered 30 hours a week of free childcare as well as a free hot meal every day.

In a press release issued after the meeting, the council said the Andrew B Cameron ELCC in Bellsmyre will reopen over the coming year to three to five–year-old children with parents having the choice of whether to take the childcare over 38 weeks as is currently offered or 50 weeks of the year.

A new ELCC is also set to open within Levenvale Primary before the end of the school session in 2019 and will offer 38 or 50 weeks care for three to five-year-olds.

A recent survey found 81 per cent of parents wanted extra hours at a local authority nursery, 17 per cent at private nurseries and 1 per cent with a childminder.

A council spokeswoman stated: “The council is set to work in partnership with external nurseries and childminders to ensure the smooth delivery of the increased hours.

“To assist providers, the council has reinstated the West Dunbartonshire Childminder Forum, where members can openly discuss plans, and access training, advice and support.”

An estimated 98 more early education and childcare workers, and eight more managers, will be needed to meet the expansion plans.