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Caithness News Bulletins June 2005

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Keiss Nursery Action Group Thrumster Nursery Action Group

2 June 05
The Convener of The Highland Council, Councillor Alison Magee, has made it clear that in reviewing pre-school education, the Council intends to continue the very successful development of nursery classes and playgroups across the Highlands.

She said: “This is one of the most important services the Council provides for its communities and I have asked for a full report on nursery and playgroup provision to come to the Council in the autumn. We will then ask our Area Committees to take the matter forward.”

Councillor Magee was speaking ahead of a briefing of all councillors on Friday on the Council’s Early Years Review and in the wake of concerns in some areas of the Highlands, notably Caithness, about future provision.

She gave an assurance that, other than in very exceptional circumstances outwith the control of the Council, such as the unit failing to meet health and safety or other standards, the current network of pre-school provision in Highland, involving 150 nursery classes and 100 playgroups, will operate at the current level of service following the summer holiday break in August.

Councillor Margaret Davidson, Vice-Chair of the Highland Joint Committee on Children and Young People, said: “I am aware of concern about the future of some pre-school provision. I would like to take this opportunity of reassuring parents and local councillors that there will be no decisions taken on the future of nurseries and playgroups until the Council considers the matter in the autumn.  The contribution of local members, through Area Committees, will be critical in the process of review.”

Councillor Andy Anderson, Chairman of Education Culture and Sport Committee, said the expansion of pre-school provision was a success story but the time had come to reflect and review how services were best provided for children and families.

He said:  “This review needs to take account of projected changing population trends, with significantly lower number of children in many communities, and increasing numbers in some others. The review also needs to take forward the aspirations of families for out of school care and wrap-around provision – from 8am to 6 pm.  We need to ensure a sustainable network of services at the heart of communities that we can be confident about into the future, and that meet the diversity of needs that families have in a joined up way.”