The Scottish Government will invest £35 million in Moray’s nurseries over the next four years, as the local authority makes massive improvements to early years education.
The authority has already built one new nursery and a second is in the pipeline in the face of rising demand.
It will also be making significant investment in existing sites with a programme of refurbishment planned.
A number of nursery facilities will also be expanded in the coming months to cater for the region’s growing population and changes in legislation.
At present, parents in many of the region’s towns face a challenge to secure nursery care, with many full to capacity and operating waiting lists.
From August 2020, the Scottish Government will fund 1,140 hours of ELC for all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds – almost double the current entitlement.
In Moray, the demands that change will place upon facilities means an overhaul is urgently needed.
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In addition to the building work, there will also be recruitment of nursery managers and around 300 more staff throughout the region.
The biggest project to date for Moray was the complete refurbishment of the Lady Cathcart building in Buckie, which now houses a 50 place nursery downstairs and a family and community space planned upstairs.
A Moray Council spokeswoman insisted that this change was vitally important to the town.
She said: “Creating extra capacity in Buckie was a priority for the expansion, with existing nurseries full and operating a waiting list.
“Similarly, the new standalone nursery planned for Keith will add over 60 places to nursery provision in the town alongside the existing primary school nursery and St Thomas’ Nursery.”
Both Pilmuir and Cullen nurseries will be moved into new buildings in the latter part of 2019.
Other local authority locations will also be brought up to standard to provide all-day care, with other minor refurbishments allowing for more rest areas and access to outdoor space.
Councillor Sonya Warren, chairwoman of the Children and Young People’s Services Committee, said she was excited about the upcoming improvements.
She said: “This is an extremely exciting time for Moray families with young children.
“There’s a lot more choice now for parents, which gives more options to work, train or study without the burden of full day childcare costs.”
Rachel Grocutt from Buckie has been using her 1,140 funded hours at Lady Cathcart Nursery.
She said: “Having the increased hours has meant I’ve been able to go back to work full-time more speedily than I expected. That has been such a boost for my son and I.
“Being self-employed means I can work round the nursery hours and my son has developed so much from having quality time in nursery.
“He comes home proud of what he has achieved himself and can’t wait to go back and see his friends.”