All three and four year olds in Fife will be entitled to an additional 125 hours per year in nursery from August next year.
Fife Council hopes the increase in hours from 475 to 600 will have positive benefits for young children – particularly vulnerable youngsters – and provide extra support to working parents.
Initially, the additional hours will be delivered by extending the nursery session from two and a half hours daily to three hours and 10 minutes, but more flexible options are expected to be available from August 2015.
Councillor Bryan Poole, spokesperson for education, children, young people and families, said: “One of our top priorities as a Council is early years and early intervention and we believe that by providing the right kind of support for children and families as early as possible we can prevent some of the problems which can escalate later.
“We want to break the cycle of deprivation by providing young families with the help they need as soon as possible.
“High-quality early learning has been proven to have an impact on children’s future life chances and is an area where we are targeting resources.
“We have already invested in early years provision and this extra 125 hours provision will help provide children with the best start possible in their learning journey.
“For working parents the extra hours will help to reduce child care costs. For many this could be the opportunity they need to get back into work.”
The 600 hours early learning provision will be provided to three and four year olds from the term following their third birthday. It will also be available to two year olds who are looked after by the local authority or are cared for under a kinship care order.
Carrie Lindsay, area education officer, said: “Our challenge is to build on the existing very good practice that exists in all of our nurseries to try to provide a service which better meets the needs of working parents and supports vulnerable families.
“Initially, we will extend our normal morning and afternoon sessions by 40 minutes per day but we will continue to develop a more flexible model which will better meet the needs of parents.”