STIRLING parents are encouraging other to take advantage of expanded early learning and childcare provision in the area.

With the Scottish Government nearly doubling the number of free childcare hours available from 600 to 1,140 by 2020 for three and four year olds, as well as some two year olds, Stirling Council has already expanded the provision.

Phase one saw it start in Bannockburn and parts of Callander areas in August and admissions are now open for the second phase, which will get underway at the end of summer in 2019.

It will see a further 16 public nurseries, five from the private and third sector and 20 childminders join the initiative.

Parents who had a positive experience at Doune Nursery are encouraging others to sign up.

Fiona Miller said: “I feel the 1,140-hour expansion is working well.

“I think Ruth (daughter) is happier when I pick her up now because she has had her lunch! She enjoys going down to the school to have lunch with her friends and sometimes she sees her older brother Hugh, which helps with the transition to Primary One.”

Nicola Horsburgh added: “I love this set up. My daughter Alice has so much fun going into the school.

“It breaks up the day, especially for children staying after lunch. She also loves seeing her big sister for a cuddle.”

Councillor Susan McGill, convener of the Children and Young People Committee, explained the phased introduction means families can benefit before 2020.

She added: “It’s fantastic to see such a positive response from parents to the scheme and we expect to see this continue as more nurseries and childminders join the expansion.

“To support provider nurseries, we are increasing the hourly rates for funded places to one of the highest offered to any local authority.

“We have also put in place training opportunities for staff, dedicated quality support officers, a speedy payment system, along with grants to support projects within their nurseries.”