The number of nursery teachers in Scotland has declined for the third year in a row, despite the SNP's pledge to stem the flow of teachers out of pre-school education.
There were 1,613 whole-time equivalent nursery teachers registered with the General Teaching Council for Scotland in January this year, 25 fewer than last year and 73 fewer than in 2007, the year the SNP came to power.
However, 74 per cent of children had access to a nursery teacher, a 4 per cent increase on last year, the Scottish Government stressed, after the latest pre-school and childcare statistics were published this week.
A spokesman said: "Over 5,000 more children have had access to teachers in pre-school since the previous survey in January last year."
However, over a quarter of nursery children still had no access to teachers, argued Karen Whitefield, Labour's children's spokeswoman and convener of the Parliament's education committee.
Edinburgh had the highest number of whole-time equivalent nursery teachers - 127 - followed by Fife with 120 and Glasgow with 106.
West Dunbartonshire was one of the authorities with the lowest number of nursery teachers, with just three whole-time equivalents. Renfrewshire had just six and Moray and Stirling eight - the same number as tiny Orkney.
The 2007 SNP manifesto promised access to a nursery teacher for every child. The party was "concerned" at the removal of nursery teachers from nurseries, it said.
The figures also show:
- There were 4,125 registered childcare centres, a decrease on the 4,274 last year.
- There were 2,615 local authority pre-school centres, 30 fewer than in 2009.
- 74 per cent of the childcare workforce had a childcare qualification at SVQ level 3 or above, an increase of 1 per cent on 2009.
- 94 per cent of local authority pre-school centres had teachers who provided pre-school education, compared with only 36 per cent of partnership centres.
Meanwhile, a leading children's campaigner has called for a "truly transformed" early years service. Bronwen Cohen, chief executive of Children in Scotland, suggested in this week's TESS that this would bring not only social benefits, but immediate economic benefits by supporting employment and enhancing productivity.
Emma Seith email@example.com