A local authority’s retiring education chief has said help will be needed from the private sector if it is to avert a potential childcare crisis.
The warning from Maria Walker, head of education and children’s services at Aberdeenshire Council, comes as concerns were raised about the rollout of a Scottish Government scheme to provide 1,140 hours of free early learning and childcare by 2020.
Ms Walker, who stepped down this week, said nurseries face a “big challenge” to meet the target in two years’ time.
It is understood staff have raised fears about new nursery opening hours, staff contracts and demand from parents.
One senior nursery source said she had been told opening times would move from 9am to 3pm and from 8am to 6pm and there would be no more closures during school holidays.
Those proposals have sparked worries that longer hours could be detrimental to children.
Ms Walker said: “It is a big, big challenge, but it is not any different in the north-east compared to anywhere else in Scotland.
“We are working a lot with the Northern Alliance on this as well and we are taking it stage-by-stage.”