East Ayrshire Council’s early years’ expansion programme continues apace as works to construct a new Early Childhood Centre at Loanhead Primary School in Kilmarnock get under way.
These works will contribute to the Council’s overall preparations for the introduction of 1140 hours of early learning and childcare from August 2020. In addition to the increase in the number of hours available, parents and carers will also benefit from having greater choice in relation to the patterns of delivery Scottish Government’s Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland Action Plan.
Council officers and elected members were joined by school children and staff to mark the start of the £4.15 million works, which will see the creation of a 600 sq m single storey extension constructed by local company Ashleigh Building.
The new extension will house an Early Childhood Centre and a light, bright and modern flexible dining/activity area. In addition, a significant programme of refurbishment will be completed in the primary school.
The Early Childhood Centre has the capacity to provide 1140 hours of early learning and childcare for 42 children. A new fully glazed structure will provide a link from the primary school through to the extension. Other works within the primary school include the installation of a new lift rising through the school atrium, and external ramps which will ensure inclusive access to all main levels of the existing school.
The existing two storey extension and toilet block has already been demolished and new toilets will be installed on all levels, including accessible facilities and a new changing facility. The former janitor’s house, which was previously used as the school kitchen/dining hall, will be refurbished to provide accommodation for the PEACE Group (Breakfast Club and After School Club). Externally there will be new play areas and landscaping together with dedicated off street parking accessible from Loanhead Street.
For the Leader of the Council, Councillor Douglas Reid, it was an opportunity to reminisce about his own childhood as he visited his former primary school.
He said: “For East Ayrshire, the Scottish Government’s expansion of early years in 2020 has given us the opportunity to re-think facilities at all of our existing Early Childhood Centres, as well as the creation of some new ones to meet expected demand.
“This development is particularly signifcant as it will offer the most modern, dedicated early learning facilities for the youngest learners in this community for the very first time, with the creation of the brand new Loanhead Early Childhood Centre as part of the primary school establishment.
“This is such a fabulous old building and I’m delighted it’s being preserved and restored as part of our Early Learning Expansion plans.”
Councillor Fiona Campbell, Cabinet Member for Skills and Learning, East Ayrshire Council also attended the event. She said: “It’s great to see these works getting underway. The expansion of Loanhead Primary is part of an extensive redevelopment programme for our early learning provision, and it’s one of approximately 20 projects getting underway across East Ayrshire at the moment.
“The new Early Childhood Centre and the refurbished indoor and outdoor facilities elsewhere in the school, will ensure these children experience the very best possible start in life.”
The works at Loanhead Primary School and new Early Childhood Centre are scheduled for completion by July 2020, with children returning for the new term in August 2020.
The new extra hours provision will make a big difference for parents, with more flexibility in the system, meaning they can choose either to use up to 30 hours a week through school term time or take advantage of up to 22 hours a week, every week, throughout the year. This will be available to all three and four year olds and some two year olds.
The new system allows parents or carers to choose between full days, part days, term time or year round or even mix and match providers. For those who are working, studying or caring for others, it will help with work/life balance and open up new possibilities, knowing children are being well looked after in a safe, stimulating educational environment.