More than half the nurseries in Aberdeenshire are ready to provide increased hours for children under Scottish Government plans to extend early years provision.
The current state childcare provision will increase from 600 hours to 1,140 hours for three and four-year-olds, as well as eligible two-year-olds under the plans.
The new system was due to be rolled out at all facilities for youngsters from August, but the government suspended the statutory duty on local authorities to provide the hours at the end of March.
The move followed the closure of schools and construction works on new nurseries and extensions being halted on the back of the Covid-19 outbreak.
It is not yet known when all nurseries will need to provide the additional hours.
A new report, due to go before Aberdeenshire Council’s education and children’s services committee on Thursday, outlines the progress the local authority has made so far.
According to the report, which will be discussed by councillors, 48 out of 88 facilities have yet to deliver the extended service.
There are 88 nurseries across Aberdeenshire and 45 of these indicated they will be ready to provide the extra hours once schools are open, while 17 nurseries said they might be ready.
A total of 26 settings said they would not be in a position to provide the hours.
The report, prepared by early years service manager James Martin, on behalf of director of education and children’s services Laurence Findlay, said: “The early years service within ECS has focused all required resources and efforts on the coronavirus pandemic response. Where there has been capacity, the early years service has continued to ensure that there is progress in relation to supporting 1140.
“Currently 48 out of 88 settings were yet to transition into delivering extended hours, in preparation for August, 2020.
“Early Years staff have been carrying out an audit by contacting all the schools with an ELC setting to determine ‘readiness’ for providing extended hours post-lockdown. As part of this audit, the following have been considered: staffing, demand for places from this August, capital works and quality of provision.”
A total of 72 projects are scheduled as part of the investment in early learning and childcare, a value of around £9 million.
The report added that as of March, roughly 60% of the overall refurbishment programme involving new build nurseries and also extensions had already been delivered.
It said: “There was feedback and evidence of a significant transformation of learning and play spaces available to children in our estate, as a direct result of the capital investment.
“There has also been investment in the independent childcare sector, with £1 million of funding allocated to support expansions and improvements.”