A Scottish Government plan to extend early years provision has been praised.
Nearly all nurseries in Aberdeenshire are ready to provide increased hours for children under the plans.
The state childcare provision has increased from 600 hours to 1,140 hours for three- and four-year-olds, as well as eligible two-year-olds.
The new system was due to be rolled out at all facilities for youngsters last August, but the government suspended the statutory duty on local authorities to provide the hours at the end of March 2020.
Extension delayed due to Covid
The move followed the closure of schools and construction works on new nurseries and extensions being halted due to the Covid-19 outbreak.
Across Scotland, up to 130,000 children will be able to benefit from 1,140 hours of free early learning and childcare each year from this month.
Aberdeenshire Council has been busy on 70 refurbishment programmes with many of those in the final stages.
One of those includes a £412,000 revamp at Buchanhaven School Nursery in Peterhead.
It has been modernised inside and a fully accessible outdoor play space has been created in the school’s courtyard.
Other refurbishment projects have taken place at Strichen, New Deer, Clerkhill, Portsoy, Portlethen, Banchory, Ellon and Kellands school nurseries.
Brand new building projects undertaken as part of the wider programme include Fishermoss School Nursery, Gordon Primary School Nursery and New Machar School Nursery which are complete, and Dales Park School Nursery which will open later during this academic year.
Rhona Hopkins’s four-year-old son Hartley attends Buchanhaven nursery and the extension of early years provision means he can stay on instead of his parents having to find additional care.
‘One less worry’
The 34-year-old from Peterhead said it also means continuity for her young son and both she and husband can continue to work full-time.
Rhona said: “I am a supervisor for Starbucks but my store is yet to open so I am based in Forfar.
“The 1,140 hours means we don’t have to go searching for childcare and it also means my son gets to keep a routine with people he knows.
“There is continuity for Hartley, which is really good.
“By having this opportunity he has care during the holidays and he is already in Buchanhaven so he gets contact with teachers he knows.
“It is one less worry as we know he is safe and happy and it means myself and my husband can work full-time.”
More time for activities
Ellon-based childminder Zoe Sadler said the extra funded hours mean more of the youngsters she looks after can stay with her for longer rather than go elsewhere.
She operates from 7.15am to 5.30pm four days a week and it allows her to easier plan activities rather than youngsters leaving.
Zoe, who works alongside Aberdeenshire Council, said: “Some of the children I have had with since babies and they are able to access that with me now.
“Now we can really go where we want to and do not need to rush back for nursery drop-offs.
“The extra hours means parents are able to decide what they want their children to do.”
Ellon councillor Gillian Owen, chairwoman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Education and Children’s Services Committee said: “To all of our wonderful early years colleagues, both in council-run settings and our funded partners, who have achieved a tremendous amount during a difficult time in preparing for the full roll-out of 1,140 – thank you.
“I know many families are already benefiting from the increased flexibility this brings and appreciate all of your hard work.”