Early Learning Centres on Course to Open in 2021Neil Hardie
Multi-million pound Angus early learning construction projects are back on track as contractors play Coronavirus catch-up with the Forfar and Carnoustie schemes.
The new facilities on the site of the former Forfar Academy and at Pitskelly Park in Carnoustie are being built to accommodate the near doubling of early years’ provision for Scottish youngsters from 600 hours to 1,140.
The Scottish Government has delayed the implementation of the uplift due to the coronavirus crisis, but Angus committed to being able to offer it from August and council chiefs say they are hopeful the purpose-built centres will be welcome their first arrivals early next year.
Carnoustie has a 205-child capacity and Forfar will have room for 155 youngsters.
A council spokesperson said: “Since the resumption of construction on both sites in June, progress has been positive and we are optimistic that the completion dates may be sooner than first anticipated.
“The contractor has maximised productivity while updating working practices to ensure adherence to physical distancing requirements on site.
“This has resulted in an accelerated programme, with the Forfar centre on track for completion in December and the Carnoustie centre on track for completion before the end of January.
“Opportunities to increase productivity and further reduce the timescales are continually reviewed.”
The spokesperson added: “Children are already able to access the new service in Carnoustie through the use of temporary alternative accommodation.
“In Forfar, there is a range of private, voluntary and childminder providers working in partnership with the council to ensure that every applicant for funded ELC in the early months of session 2020/21 can be provided with a high quality service.
“A decision will be made in the near future regarding the most appropriate time to open the Forfar centre for applications.”
Angus children and learning convener, Councillor Derek Wann said: “The progress is very welcome, as Angus Council committed to offering the 1,140hrs from August 2020, even though the Scottish Government provided local authorities with a year’s grace, but to do so would not have been fair to the parents who were relying on the provision.
“It was only with great foresight that our officers very quickly discussed utilising private providers.”
The Arbroath East and Lunan Conservative added: “The buildings are coming along greatly and whilst Covid-19 has slowed everything down, it is great to report that the centres will be open very early next year, a great achievement under current circumstances.”