THREE-YEAR-OLDS could wait up to six months before starting nursery under a new shake-up of early years education.

Currently children in North Ayrshire start nursery a few weeks after their third birthday.

However education bosses at North Ayrshire Council have changed the intake process to “align with statutory guidance from the Scottish Government” which means there will now only be three intakes a year.

The change means children who have their birthday in March will not be allowed to start nursery until August - meaning some children could go six months without early years education.

For instance if a child’s birthday falls between March 1 and August 31 they will not start nursery until August. If they have a birthday between September 1 and December 31 the child will not start until January and if their birthday falls between January 1 and February 29 they will start in March or April.

A North Ayrshire Council spokesperson said: “We are aligning our procedures with the statutory guidance from the Scottish Government in relation to Early Learning and Childcare.” One early years worker said she feared the changes would be “detrimental to all children”.

Speaking exclusively to the Times, she said: “It’s really concerning to think what effect this change will have on the children. At the moment children are staggered coming into the nursery and a lot of the time they can become attached to a particular member of staff because they don’t have their parents with them so that takes time to ease them into their new environment. But with this new system we will be getting blocks of children in at the same time which could be chaotic and unsettling for the new children and the existing children who are already settled.”

The Scottish Government want every nursery to offer 1,140 hours of free childcare for three to fiveyear-olds by Agust this year. In July the Times told how “heartbroken” staff had finished for the summer holidays after being told they would not be returning to the same centres after the school break.

In April last year Trade Unions warned NAC that they would enter into dispute if they mismanaged the expansion. Our source told us the expansion is still not free from chaos.

She said: “It feels like NAC just have not been able to properly manage this expansion. It all feels so uncertain and my fear is that the people who are going to ultimately suffer are the kids - yet they are the ones who are supposed to be benefitting from it.”

Have you been affected by the early years expansion? call 01294 447521.