Five new Edinburgh nurseries due to open this August will be delayed until early 2022
Five new nurseries due to open at Edinburgh primary schools in August to meet the increase in funded childcare will not be ready on time after the contractors went into receivership.
The city council has written to parents at Craigentinny, Granton and Nether Currie primaries and St Mark’s and St John Vianney’s RC primaries, warning them of the delay, which means the nurseries are now not expected to open until early 2022.
But the letters insist that although there will be fewer nursery places at the five schools, the council will still meet its legislative duty to provide 1140 hours of early learning and childcare to all eligible children within the city from August.
Central Building Contractors (CBC), who were building all five nurseries, went into receivership during the first Covid lockdown. Another company was employed to make the new nursery buildings wind and water tight and the council said that work had now been completed.
But education chiefs have told councillors: “Unfortunately, the cost estimates received to see these contracts through to completion are far beyond the original contract values and the implications of this for all five of these projects and the remaining Early Years investment programme need to be worked through and new approvals sought before we can proceed.”
The Scottish Government’s promised increase from 600 hours to 1140 hours of funded childcare for all three- to five-year olds and eligible two-year-olds was originally due to come into effect in August last year, but was delayed until August 2021 because of Covid.
Labour backbench councillor Scott Arthur said the extra cost should be borne by the Scottish Government.
He said: “This situation will be hugely disappointing to parents, many of whom will have had their plans for their child's transition into primary school destroyed.
"The funding shortfall is also a significant concern, and I hope the Scottish Government will recognise that it has a duty to provide the funding needed to complete the construction of these nurseries.”
And Tory councillor Jason Rust said: “This is extremely disappointing news for the school communities. The time which has elapsed is really frustrating and the reduction in places and choice will have an impact.
"We hear constant boasts about nursery provision, but the reality of delivery is sadly very different. It is a matter of real urgency for the council to now get these projects back on track.”
Education convener Ian Perry said construction delays were being experienced across the UK. “We’re working really hard to secure a new contractor but need to make sure that we’ll be getting best value given the increased costs involved.”
Vice-convener Alison Dickie said: “Here in Edinburgh we’re well prepared for the increase in the funded childcare to 1140 hours despite the impact of the pandemic. We started gradually providing this increase as early as 2017 and already 72 of our settings and 96 partner provider ones are offering the full entitlement.
"We’ll be able to meet the 1140 target by changing our model of delivery so some settings will go from term time to full year provision, making use of our excellent relationships with partner providers and other options such as childminders.”