Inspectors have charged education authorities with "inconsistencies" in their approach to one of the Scottish Government's key education commitments - giving every pre-school access to a teacher.
An HMIE report, Positive Start, Positive Outcomes, published last week, claims there are still "inconsistencies in whether teachers are deployed, the extent to which each child has access to a teacher and how teachers' skills and expertise are used to support other staff in centres".
It found that some councils had removed full-time teachers from pre-school settings in order to spread their expertise. This had led to "much reduced access" to a teacher in some centres. Others had only "limited or inconsistent access" to a teacher and there was "much variability in the contribution and impact of the teacher when present".
The report also highlights the need to provide high-quality training for pre-school staff, particularly those working with children from birth to age three.
"The reality is still that many of our youngest and most vulnerable children are looked after in services with the most inexperienced and least qualified staff," it adds, although it does acknowledge the development of improved qualifications for the early years workforce.
Implementation of the Early Years Framework by councils is patchy, less than a year after its launch last December, HMIE found.
But Graham Donaldson, the senior chief inspector of education, acknowledged that the framework's approach of shifting from "crisis management" to early intervention would take time, and much good work was being done already within existing budgets and services.
In the report, inspectors provide a series of examples of how the lives of children and families have been transformed by dedicated staff.
But it stresses the need for better inter-agency working and warns: "The financial situation for councils is challenging and likely to remain so for the next several years. The relevant partnerships present a number of challenges in that they do not always link to the strategic planning frameworks such as single outcome agreements or community plans."
The report urges the various agencies to join forces in order to reduce the impact on children of parental substance misuse, through preventative work and early intervention.