Petition launched after Falkirk Council Tweet reveals nursery hours expansion is on hold

Parents are seeking answers from the local authority

Jodie Barron is angry about changes to nursery plans and way it was communicated. She is pictured with her son Fallon (3).    Pic: Michael Gillen
Jodie Barron is angry about changes to nursery plans and way it was communicated. She is pictured with her son Fallon (3). Pic: Michael Gillen

A Tweet sent at tea-time on Friday sparked confusion and worry for parents of children going to nursery this year – and revealed Falkirk Council’s aim to deliver 1140 hours of nursery education has been put on hold.

The now-deleted Tweet asked parents to submit a form by June 12 with their preferred option for allocation when Covid restrictions are lifted.

But, crushingly for many parents, it soon became clear that even in “post-Covid” plans the offer will be for 600 hours of nursery education, offered over two and a half days a week.

Now furious parents are demanding answers and have started a petition urging Falkirk Council to think again.

They want to know why nurseries that had already been offering 1140 hours – which works out around 30 hours in nursery per week – will go back to the 600 hours.

On Monday afternoon, Falkirk Council’s website was updated – but many are still angry that the change which will have a massive impact on families was communicated so poorly.

Jodie Barron, who lives in Stenhousemuir and is mum to three-year-old Fallon and seven-year-old Finn, was 
furious when she spotted the news on social media.

She said: “I had asked for a split place between Larbert Day Nursery and Stenhousemuir nursery, and I was told in April this would still be happening as Stenhousemuir was already offering the extra hours.

“Now, they’ve totally u-turned on it and to find out in a Tweet on a Friday night just isn’t good enough.

“Falkirk Council have rushed this out the door – the communication has been dire,” she said.

Jodie, a hairdresser who works part-time, was 
expecting her childcare bill to go from £400 a month to £100 a month.

Up until the pandemic hit, the early years expansion had been a real success story for Falkirk Council with several centres already up and running and winning praise for their innovative approach to feeding their ‘wee people’.

The authority was well on track to meet the Scottish Government’s deadline of 
August 2020 for completion.

Jodie and Kinnaird resident Gary Wilson have now launched a petition asking Falkirk Council to reconsider their decision – or at least explain it better.

They say: “For its seemingly open-ended delay to have been communicated in this manner is completely 
unacceptable and has caused substantial worry and 
distress for parents.”

An email seen by The Falkirk Herald reveals that a senior education official agreed the announcement had been badly handled, 
saying: “We wholly accept that the communication 
surrounding the gathering of additional information was not good enough and fell 
below our usual high standard.”

We asked the council to clarify the changes that were being made to early years provision; why the changes have been necessary; and if they accepted the changes had not been well communicated.

In a statement, they said: “The Covid-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown meant that the original implementation date of August 2020 for the 1140 hours for all was revoked by the Scottish Government.

“Falkirk Council is committed to offering flexibility for parents where possible and this has been a feature of our expansion plans. Our aim, as far as is possible, is to allocate parents a place at their preferred location.

“The Covid crisis has made this complex task even more challenging.

“Our priority right now is to provide what we can, so that children can come back to nursery as soon as possible.

“We use a variety of communication methods to keep parents and carers informed and regularly engage with our parents, to seek their views and to provide reassurance, during these uncertain times.”

The petition can be found here