Fife Council’s rollout of free childcare has come under fire again after it was revealed no local authority nurseries in the East Neuk will be offering full day sessions from August.
Cellardyke mother of two Chloe Milne, 31, said the nearest nursery offering full days, under the Scottish Government’s 1,140 hours of funded childcare, was in Cupar.
She said: “The way Fife Council have amended provision in the East Neuk, and across Fife, makes it even more complicated and difficult for working families to juggle childcare and their careers.”
The council has defended its handling of the rollout, and given an assurance that options are available to ensure that the 1,140 hours would be available to all in rural areas.
But parents say there will be no priority for returning pre-school children, which could lead to youngsters who are already settled in nursery being moved.
Ms Milne, who works part-time as a marketing professional, is concerned that her three-year-old daughter Robin will not regain her place at Anstruther Primary School nursery.
She continued: “In the East Neuk, we face different challenges when it comes to childcare compared to our counterparts in larger towns. We live in a more remote area, with poor public transport links and only one private nursery accepting funding.
“No local authority nurseries in the East Neuk will have full-day sessions available, forcing working parents to go elsewhere to have their children looked after. But where?
“With one playgroup and one private nursery already at capacity, and minimal childminders – none of whom are under any obligation to accept the funding – where is the childcare provision for working families in the East Neuk?”
Local Lib Dem MSP Willie Rennie recently met local parents to discuss the issue.
He said: “While lots of parents are pleased by the option of extra hours, and a huge reduction in childcare costs, the changes will not be good for some.
“There remains only one full time option in the whole of north east Fife. This is in Cupar and will not serve certain communities, such as the East Neuk, which is roughly a 30 minute drive.
“I would urge Fife Council to review the decisions on the options available and the lack of guarantee for returning children.”
Shelagh McLean, Fife Council’s head of education and children’s services, said: “We must be realistic and acknowledge that for every parent who may want to see the 1,140 hours provided in one form, there will be as many parents who are looking for something different.
“In the north east Fife area, some of the Fife Council settings are providing a range of models within the same setting to help offer parents a variety within their geographical area. For example in the East Neuk and St Andrews areas, there are six Fife Council nurseries offering full year models, with three of these also offering the term time models.
“We are also aware of concerns that places will be given on a first come, first served basis. This is not true. We prioritise children with any additional needs first and then try, where possible, to allocate to children locally.”
She said returning children would not have to re-apply for places beyond August 2020, unless they wish to change provider or model.
“Under the new admissions policy, all parents have been asked to apply for nursery places for their children due to attend nursery in session 2020-21, including those with children already in nursery this year,” said Ms McLean.
Councillor Fay Sinclair, the SNP convener of the council’s education and children’s services committee, said: “It’s disappointing that Willie Rennie has focused on this rather than the massive positives of this expansion.”