A WORKING group will review the allocation of nursery places in Fife following complaints by parents.

Dunfermline councillor Helen Law, who has been critical of Fife Council’s handling of the process, hopes new priorities will be established that are “more suitable” to the needs of families.

She said: "There may be places available but that doesn’t mean they are accessible. Even the greatest nursery provision in the world is no use if it’s not going to work for families so let’s try and get it right next year.

“However, it is still disappointing that it wasn’t right the first time because it has caused a lot of upset and that is unacceptable.”

As previously reported, many parents were left upset after being offered placements for their child that were not their preferred choice or were considered unacceptable.

Last week's policy and co-ordination committee was told that out of 5,901 applications, 135 families were still without a place to start in August at a Fife Council nursery, after refusing what had been offered or choosing to go with another provider.

Education chiefs are continuing to help families without a place and a group of councillors will evaluate priorities for next year’s allocation process.

Cllr Law said: “We need to look at the whole situation and I suggest we establish a link between where children go to nursery and school.

“It doesn’t need to be legally binding as catchments are for school provision but we need to some degree recognise where a child will be going after nursery.

“COVID has exaggerated the fact we need to work locally and it must be helpful to have children going to the same school and nursery. I accept Fife Council cannot satisfy everyone but there should be the expectation that you go to your local nursery. There has been a concentration on the directives of the Scottish Government and we need to come up with something more suitable to the needs of families.”

Back in May, 385 children were told they didn’t have a place for August while others were informed they could not return to the nursery they were attending and must now go elsewhere.

More families have accepted place as the process has gone on but there was criticism that priority was not given to youngsters attending a nursery where there was an elder sibling at the attached school.

Cllr Law said: “It’s a broken concept that needs to be reviewed. Since the start of the year, I have been saying that this is not going to work and I tried to do something but unfortunately the meeting was cancelled. Some of the original folk that were not happy, they've been able to accommodate but it hasn’t worked for everyone."

Due to COVID-19, councils are no longer obliged to offer 1,140 hours of free childcare provision to three- and four-year-olds, and eligible two-year-olds, from August.

However, the council has already allocated the nursery places for the new system and will offer a mix of 600 and 1,140 hours during the changeover.

The committee was told that 14 nurseries will provide 600 hours from August and Cllr Law said there should be an increase in the number of places at these premises.

Education chiefs have repeatedly stressed that the high number on the waiting list did not reflect dissatisfaction with the process.

Shelagh McLean, head of education and children’s services, said the position will change over the summer, with all applicants kept up-to-date of their situation.