Shortfall in nursery places is a major headache for parents as schools reopen – Angus Robertson

It’s a big week for children across Scotland returning to school for the first time in five months.

Nursery administrators are overwhelmed by the demand for places for toddlers (Picture: PA)

Schools have been given the go-ahead to reopen from today, but some are phasing in the return with the expectation that all pupils will be at school full time from 18 August at the very latest.

In Edinburgh pupils with phased arrangements will be returning between tomorrow and Friday. This will come as a huge relief for pupils who can’t wait to get back to being with their pals and a relief for parents who have struggled, balancing work commitments with childcare and home learning.

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Many parents, pupils and teachers will still, however, have concerns about the risks of returning to schools while we still face the threat from coronavirus.

Major efforts have been made to offer reassurance and introduce special precautions at schools and nurseries. Extra-cleaning, hand hygiene routines and speedy testing access has been introduced for anyone who develops symptoms. It is hugely welcome that an additional £75 million has been provided by Scottish ministers for councils to hire 1400 extra teachers, as well as extra resources for cleaning, management of facilities and school transport. Like most other parents I have questions and concerns, but was pleased to find many answers on ‘Parents Club’ the online resource from the Scottish Government about children’s health and education. The website also has advice to help you look after your own wellbeing and to point you in the direction of the support available. Hundreds of articles across dozens of topics provide valuable information, assurance and reassurance. If you haven’t taken a look yet, check it out at www.parentclub.scot

Not only are pupils returning to primary and secondary schools but toddlers and pre-school children are going back to nursery schools as well. Younger kids, of course, require more intense parenting, so having some childcare support will come as a massive relief to mums, dads and carers across the country.

Unfortunately serious problems exist in securing new nursery places for toddlers. Efforts to arrange a place for our 13 month-old daughter have been frustrating and as yet unsuccessful. She is on eight waiting lists! Administrators at nurseries seem to be overwhelmed.Promises of visits, virtual tours, phone calls and even potential open places have failed to materialise. We can’t be the only parents in Edinburgh on the unsatisfactory application merry-go-round to get a toddler into a nursery. Our energetic daughter can’t be the only child missing out on the chance to play and learn with her own age group.

I appeal to the managers of nursery schools to urgently review their admission arrangements. Having had the same poor experiences with so many nurseries across Edinburgh, it is not an isolated problem. In fact, the similarities are striking. Understandably the challenges to reopen nurseries and schools after the Covid lockdown are considerable. Please spare a thought for parents and their children who can’t even get in.

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