NEARLY £2 million is set to be ploughed into building two nurseries to alleviate chronic childcare shortages across the Capital.
Education chiefs said the money would be spent on dedicated nursery classes at Wardie in the north and Fox Covert in the west, creating around 160 morning and afternoon places in time for the 2015-16 session.
The £1.85m plans, which will see nurseries built in the grounds of the existing primary schools, will be taken forward amid a boom in demand for services at nearby nurseries.
Many have waiting lists of several months – and a 17 per cent jump in the number of three and four-year-olds from 9400 in 2009-10 to 11,000.
Councillor Paul Godzik, the city’s education leader, said: “We know that there is a huge, and growing, demand for early years places across the city.
“We are currently consulting on proposals to establish new nursery classes at Wardie and Fox Covert primary schools.
“Our plans will boost nursery places in these areas of the city, where we know there are particularly high percentages of under-fives, and are part of our aim to ensure that every community has access to integrated, flexible early years services.”
Mums and dads living close to the schools have welcomed the plans, but Wardie parents voiced concern over the loss of playing fields to make way for a new nursery.
Peter Moir, chair of Wardie Primary parent council, said: “Overall we would welcome what a new nursery would bring – we think it’s a good idea to have a facility on site to make the transition between nursery and primary school as smooth as possible. And from my understanding, the north area of Edinburgh has one of the fastest growing populations within the city.
“But people have serious concerns about the impact of losing further green space within the school, and there are questions over the effect this could have on other nurseries in the area. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss with the city council ideas around alternative ways of developing the school site.”
Parents at Wardie were backed by opposition leaders, who said the new investment would help address “long-term needs” but called on education bosses to protect green space at schools.
Cllr Melanie Main, education spokeswoman for the city’s Greens, said: “There is a shortage of playing field space across the city, and this gem of a green field site is also well used at weekends by community clubs.
“The parent council has put forward constructive alternatives which leave the playing fields free for everyone to use, and I hope council officials will engage with them and consider these suggestions seriously.”
Tina Woolnough, Edinburgh rep for the National Parent Forum, said: “The creation of new pre-school places is very welcome.
“We have a terrible shortage of places in the west of the city.
“Many parents are not currently receiving their statutory entitlement for three-year-olds in particular.
“Younger children, particularly those with birthdays in January and February, are often the last to be offered places and this is obviously detrimental to their development.”
She added: “The 600-hour childcare entitlement that’s coming on stream in August will put more pressure on places and families not receiving their statutory entitlement of 475 hours will experience an even greater shortfall in provision.”
Education chiefs said investing in early years education for youngsters across the Capital would remain a “priority”.
Cllr Godzik said: “It’s central to our commitment to providing the best start in life for every child.”
‘We had to get Anna on the list early’
FOR Cathy Tingle, 42, soaring demand for services at Trinity nursery, based in Wardie Church, led her to apply for a place when her daughter, Anna, now three, was 16 months old.
Ms Tingle, who edits the Edinburgh For Under Fives guide, has already applied for a place for son James, who turned one three months ago.
She said: “Trinity is a smaller nursery with about 20 places a day – we knew there was a big waiting list.
“We felt we had to get Anna on the list really early and it was the same for her brother. There’s a lot of chat among parents about where to put your kids and I know some have put them on multiple waiting lists. More nurseries in the area would help.”