More than 170 Fife children are yet to be given a place at a local authority nursery, with less than eight weeks until they are due to start.
Fife Council has adopted a new policy for allocating places as it works to introduce the increased provision of 1,140 hours a year for each three and four-year-old.
However, many parents are angry that their child has been offered no place at all or failed to get a place or suitable time slot at their local nursery.
Dr Heather Graham, of Kelty, reluctantly agreed to send daughter Nuala to Cardenden nursery, her sixth choice location.
She said: “It isn’t ideal because it is fair distance away from our house and has no links with our local primary school but we have accepted it.
It isn’t ideal because it is fair distance away from our house and has no links with our local primary school but we have accepted it.”
Dr Heather Graham
“We are lucky we are a two-car household but if you didn’t have a car, it would be impossible.”
Siobhan Carson’s four-year-old son Finn was one of several youngsters at St Kenneths Primary School nursery, in Ballingry, who had been offered slots at other nurseries or none at all.
She said she and other parents felt let down by the council and said: “We have been asked to either accept or decline the offers we have been given or look for an alternative Fife Council-funded childminder.
“Our kids have been put on a waiting list, my son is 17th on the list.”
Chloe Milne, of Cellardyke, was angry that there none of the full-day sessions offered at Anstruther Nursery which she wanted for daughter Robin.
At an online meeting of the policy and coordination committee, Kirkcaldy North Labour councillor Neil Crooks said staff had done a “miraculous” job in the face of Scottish Government restrictions and to meet parents’ demands would need “a lot more space, a lot more staff and a lot more money”.
But fellow Labour councillor Helen Law, for Dunfermline North, said: “I know year on year the council can’t accommodate every family in their nursery of choice but this year has really been exceptional.
“A lot of people have not got into places at all and others are getting a fifth choice they can’t take.
“This should have been a good news story for the council but it’s turned into a bad news story.”
In a report to the committee, Carrie Lindsay, executive director of education and children’s services, said places had since been found for some of the 351 youngsters initially not allocated a place but 172 were still without a slot.
Of the 5,885 applications made, she said 85% had resulted in first choice places being allocated and 9.7% second choice, with work ongoing to allocate places.
She said: “For those children who were not allocated a place in their preferred settings, there are still spaces available in Fife Council nurseries in all nursery areas in Fife, as well as a range of playgroups, private nurseries and childminders working in partnership with Fife Council.”
Children not returning to their original nursery would be supported by staff to settle into new nurseries, she said.
It is not always possible to provide the preferred nursery places requested.”
She added: “It is not always possible to provide the preferred nursery places requested and it is necessary, at times, for families to travel to the nursery and to make new arrangements around this, if they wish to take up the nursery places they have been offered.
“It will be necessary, at times, for families to travel to more than one setting to drop off and collect children.
“This is already the case for families whose children attend a school that does not have a nursery or where they access a private nursery, playgroup or childminder.”
Building and refurbishment of nurseries for the increased provision was halted by the coronavirus pandemic and the Scottish Government revoked its requirement for 1,140 hours to be delivered from August.
Some children will get the increased provision while others will remain on 600 hours until 1,400 hours is phased in over the academic year.
Children attending Fife nurseries from August will not be expected to physically distance and will continue to learn through play. They will only attend for half their time, to limit numbers, and will be grouped into bubbles.