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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced funding of nearly £1.5m to boost nursery staff numbers in less affluent parts of Scotland.
The funding is the first step towards realising the commitment to ensure nurseries in the most deprived areas benefit from an additional graduate by 2018 – either a teacher with early years expertise or a graduate practitioner with the BA Childhood Practice award.
While visiting the nursery at Gorebridge Primary School, The First Minister said: “Increasing the number of teachers and graduates in nurseries is absolutely crucial to tackling the attainment gap right from the start of a child’s education.
“By providing the best possible start in life we can ensure our young people develop the skills and confidence they need to reach their full potential. We know this is particularly true for children who face the greatest disadvantage.
“Targeting these additional resources in Scotland’s most disadvantaged areas, we can improve attainment and make sure every child born in Scotland has an equal chance to succeed, regardless of their background.”
An extra 435 graduates are needed for the Scottish Government to meet a commitment for nurseries in the most deprived areas to have an extra graduate by 2018.
Around £1m will support 126 additional teacher training places, with 100 extra staff expected to be ready to enter childcare by next year.
The funding will also support 270 extra places on BA Childhood Practice courses from August at a cost of about £400,000.
The Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), the country’s largest union for teachers and lecturers, has welcomed the announcement.
EIS general secretary, Larry Flanagan, said the extra staff were “essential” in closing the attainment gap.
He said: “A good start to education in the nursery phase is essential to ensure that all young people have the opportunity to reach their potential. The deployment of sufficient numbers of GTCS-registered teachers across the sector is a vital component in guaranteeing a high-quality education experience for all young children in our nursery schools and classes.
“This investment in the training and deployment of additional qualified teachers, together with graduate specialists in childhood practice, demonstrates a continuing commitment to tackling the impact of poverty on educational experience.
“In recent years, the number of teachers employed in the nursery sector has been declining across Scotland so the renewed commitment to employing teachers in this vital sector of education is clearly a very welcome development.”