FIFE COUNCIL have insisted there is "no shortage" of nursery places in the Kingdom despite 385 children being told they haven't got one.

The allocations system has come under fire from parents and politicians but the council's education manager, Jacqueline Price, said: "There is a high level of success in the process that is not being widely reported: 5,885 applications for Fife Council places were received from parents and over 90 per cent of applications received have been offered a placement (based on their initial preferences).

"Of those allocated a placement, 85 per cent received their first-choice nursery and session, 9.7 per cent were offered their second choice and 3.1 per cent were offered their third choice.

"A small minority have not been successful in gaining their preferred choices.

"These cases are generating much publicity which we are currently trying to manage."

She continued: "It is normal that we receive a number of concerns about placements at this point in the process.

"With COVID-19, a completely new model and the new model being reshaped with the relaxation of statutory requirement for 1,140 hours, we did expect more concerns.

"The situation has not been helped with communication issues, such as the timing of receiving letters and the ability to speak easily with their headteacher about issues or concerns, as schools are currently closed.

"Nursery places have been allocated in Fife in line with the council-agreed policy and in the best way possible given additional challenging circumstances at this time.

"We understand it is difficult for families who did not get their preferred choice and we can provide reassurance that individual concerns will be responded to as quickly as we can, in accordance with our policy and through the Early Years team."

Although more than 350 children have not been offered a place, she insisted: "There is no shortage of places in that there is still capacity to place all children in ELC settings in all nursery areas in Fife.

"As is always the case each year, depending on parental choice, there are some nurseries full to capacity as they have had more applications than spaces available.

"The admissions policy has been followed in order to allocate all places and work is now being done to help families select from the remaining places."

She continued: "It’s important to say that the allocation process is not yet complete, as there will be movement across nurseries as parents accept or refuse a place.

"When the process is complete, we will make sure that we take account of concerns raised to make sure any revisions are put in place for next year."

She added: "For those children who were not allocated a place in their preferred settings, there are still spaces available in Fife Council nurseries in all nursery areas in Fife as well as the range of private playgroups and nurseries and childminders working in partnership with Fife Council."

The council maintained their allocation policy was "the fairest way" to proceed and said they were asking parents to make choices from "a completely new menu".

Ms Price said: "Therefore, it is not possible for any child to 'return' to the existing model. Providing children who will be accessing their second year of nursery provision with an additional priority would have create increased inequalities within the admissions procedures."

She added that priority was not given to children who already had siblings at a primary school as nursery provision is allocated on a different basis from school catchment areas.

Ms Price said: "It is recognised that the changes ahead may provide some challenge for some families, particularly in this year of transition.

"If a child moves to another setting, staff will work within best practice to ensure that a full transition of a child’s needs and learning is made to any new setting."

In his letter to the minister, Alex Rowley MSP said he had been "inundated" and added: "I cannot state enough the sense of anger that there is about the way Fife Council are dealing with this.

"I think the government must have a look at how Fife Council have dealt with this matter."