Scores of refurbished or newly-built nursery facilities have opened across Aberdeenshire amid a dramatic expansion of childcare.
As children across the north-east enjoy their first day of the new school term, many are beginning their learning journey at one of the local authority’s 70 revamped or new buildings.
The works coincide with the so-called 1140 expansion of early learning and childcare (ELC).
From this week, the statutory childcare entitlement in Scotland increases from 600 hours a year to 1,140.
30 hours a week statutory childcare
This equates to 30 hours a week if taken during term time.
The near-doubling of hours was originally intended for August 2020, but was paused to allow local authorities to focus on responding to the pandemic.
The expanded hours are available at both council settings and funded providers, such as private nurseries, childminders and playgroups.
Fishermoss Primary School in Portlethen is one of four Aberdeenshire Council schools to benefit from a brand new nursery building.
The new facility cost £1.8 million. It meets the highest standards of ELC worldwide.
Fishermoss head teacher Margaret Ferguson said: “We’re really looking forward to welcoming the children back to school and nursery as the new term begins.
“The state-of-the-art nursery is a fantastic place for children to learn and play, and for staff to work in.”
As part of the design process, a dedicated project team looked at examples and research from across the globe.
40,000 Shire kids back at school and nursery
Laurence Findlay, director of education and children’s services at Aberdeenshire Council, liked the work.
He said it was “brilliant to see children now enjoying these facilities.”
He added: “We are really pleased to be welcoming more than 40,000 children and young people back to our schools and early years settings today.
“The Aberdeenshire Primary School Building Brief has set a standard for all new primary school building projects across the local area. It is an ecited as xample of best practice across Scotland.
“This work builds on that, with specific emphasis on ensuring our early years settings provide the best possible environment.”
Gillian Owen, chairwoman of the council’s education committee, said: “Colleagues across our early years settings have been raring to go with the 1140 expansion of early learning and childcare.
“It is fantastic to see it in action now, right across Aberdeenshire.
“The facilities here at Fishermoss are second-to-none and testament to our world class estates team and their close working with staff, families, contractors and of course feedback from children themselves.
“We’re really pleased with all of the work done through this extensive programme. This will continue to benefit children across Aberdeenshire for generations to come.”
Brand new buildings have also opened at Gordon Primary School Nursery, New Machar School Nursery and Dales Park School Nursery.
A host of refurbishments have also taken place, with transformational upgrades at Strichen, New Deer, Clerkhill, Portsoy, Portlethen, Banchory, Ellon and Kellands school nurseries among others.