Highland is asking the Scottish Office for additional pre-five funding because the Pounds 2 million cost of providing 800 nursery and playgroup places in remote villages is more than double the cost of urban provision. The council believes the cost would be just under Pounds 1 million if places were established in a nursery class of 20 or more pupils in an urban area.
Thirty-five per cent of the council's target pupils live in small rural communities and officials admit it will have to rely on playgroups to fulfil Government policy of universal provision for four-year-olds. About 80 new pre-five units will have to be established.
Nursery teachers are expected to tour playgroups to offer advice and ensure quality.
Sandy Russell, Badenoch and Strathspey area education convener, said pupil access to qualified teachers was essential.