Section 32 – Provision of education for pre-school children etc.
69.As currently drafted, section 1(2) of the 1980 Act empowers an education authority to make provision for nursery education for its area, but does not require it to do so. Section 32 of the Act now imposes a duty on the authority in relation to nursery provision, in terms of requiring it to secure the provision of pre-school education for such categories of children as may be prescribed by the Scottish Ministers. In practice, the categories that will be prescribed under this new provision will broadly be 3 and 4 year olds.
70.The policy intention is that authorities should work in partnership with providers in the voluntary and private sectors to ensure that adequate and appropriate provision is made. Specific provision is made in section 35 to enable an authority to contract with third parties for the provision of nursery education that would be paid for by the authority. Effectively, the authority would commission places in private and voluntary pre-school centres to ensure that adequate and appropriate provision was available for all children coming within the prescribed category. Provision would therefore be a mix of local authority and voluntary/private sector provision, but the exact mix would be determined by the authority on whom the duty to secure provision is imposed in the first place.
71.Section 32(3) adds three new subsections after section 1(1) of the 1980 Act. Subsections (1A) and (1B) require local authorities to secure pre-school education for such categories of children and duration as may be identified by the Scottish Ministers by order.
72.Subsection (1C) gives local authorities the power to secure additional provision for all pre-school children beyond the requirements of the pre-school duty – for example – full-time provision for four year olds or provision for two year olds.
73.To help clarify the effect of these provisions, they have been incorporated into section 1 of the 1980 Act for illustrative purposes, as shown in the annex.