parents have warned that plans to extend free nursery sessions for toddlers will fail to help working families.
They say lack of flexibility at city council nurseries may even force busy mums and dads to forego 125 extra hours of free care each year rather than squeeze sessions into the working day.
While welcoming the principle of a childcare boost, parents fear yawning gaps between council nursery and primary school start times will leave them facing disruptive and unmanageable drop-off schedules.
The concerns come after ministers increased free nursery provision for every child from 475 to 600 hours under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act, which was passed in March.
Education chiefs have outlined a range of measures to meet the pledge, from a recruitment drive for dozens of new childcare workers to a hike in pay-outs to private nurseries offering council-funded places.
But fears are growing that the arrangement will be of little use to working parents, particularly those with children at both council nurseries – where flexibility is limited – and primary schools. Mum Lucy Brett, 34, who has a three-year-old daughter in Stockbridge Primary’s nursery as well as two children in P1 and P3, said: “It won’t make any difference from my point of view and that would be the case for the majority of parents with children at primary and nursery who do the school run themselves.
“You have really got to be a stay-at-home parent with no school-age children or someone who has flexible working hours to benefit from the new provision.”
In line with other Scottish councils, education bosses in Edinburgh will offer free nursery sessions of three hours and ten minutes over 38 weeks to ensure the 600-hour entitlement is met. They will be held from 8.30-11.40am and 12.15-3.25pm, with council nurseries set to offer some flexibility on start and finish times. But parents warned much more variability would be needed.
“For me, I don’t think the half-hour flexi-time at the start and end of the day [at Stockbridge] will make any difference,” said Ms Brett. “I won’t do anything differently to what I did with my other children. I will take her to nursery at nine o’clock. Older children don’t start until 8.55am and I’m not going to wait 25 minutes until the P1-2s and the other classes start. If the council is trying to increase the nursery provision for children then they’re not particularly doing that.”
The concerns have been echoed by Antonis Giannopoulos, chair of Bruntsfield Primary parent council, who said: “It’s a welcome change but I don’t think it will make such a huge difference to many parents.”
City bosses have described the new sessions as a “win-win” for families.
Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “It’s great news for parents right across the city as it means having to spend less money on childcare, and it also allows us to provide parents with more options.”