NURSERY owners are "stunned and dismayed" after East Lothian Council announced that four nurseries were losing their funding for 1,140 hours of early learning and childcare, meaning many parents will be hit with large bills if their children remain there.

The council has told Bright Stars Nursery Group Ltd that it will stop providing the funding to its four nurseries in East Lothian – Pear Tree West Road, Church Street and Meadowpark in Haddington, and Pumpkin Patch Nursery in North Berwick – from October 7, affecting 151 children aged three and four across the four settings.

The owners, who only acquired the four nurseries in June and July, have told parents they will make up the missing funding until the Christmas break, at a cost of more than £362,000 to themselves, while they urge the council to re-consider.

Earlier this summer, Pear Tree Church Street and Meadowpark were both named in the top 20 in Scotland by, while the Church Street branch was named Scottish Nursery of the Year at the National Day Nurseries Association's award ceremony in June.

However, the council claims that the nurseries have "not been meeting the national standards of early learning and childcare as set by the Scottish Government".

READ MORE: Nursery crisis: Council explains decision to withdraw funding

The Scottish Government funds up to 1,140 hours of early learning and childcare a year for every child aged three or four in Scotland. These hours are available for parents at all council nurseries, as well as at each council's funded providers.

In a letter to parents, the council said that its agreement with the owners expired on July 31 and it continued to offer funding for a period of discussion "but has decided not to enter into a contract with Bright Stars Nursery Group Ltd and the company will not be eligible to offer 1,140 hours funded by East Lothian Council".

The council has told parents they can either keep their children at the nurseries without the 1,140 funding or move them to a different nursery where they are eligible for the funding.

In a message sent to parents at the nurseries, Nicky Davis, managing director of childcare and operations west at Bright Stars Nursery Group, said the owners were doing "everything in our power to resolve this situation" and added that they were holding a parents' meeting in Haddington on Thursday evening to discuss the situation.

She said: "We are stunned and dismayed by this decision, which we believe is not supported by sound evidence and is not in the best interests of your children attending our nurseries.

"The Scottish Government provides generous funding for early years education, funding your children are entitled to by law, which helps parents like yourselves to meet the cost of your childcare. That is why the council’s sudden decision to withdraw this funding is so disappointing.

"I would like to reassure you that our number one priority is your children: our organisation is 100 per cent focused on providing quality early years education and care for the children you entrust us with.

"We take pride in the strong reputation of all our nurseries across Scotland and England, and this is supported by external experts: the vast majority of our 79 nurseries are rated highly by the Care Inspectorate and Ofsted.

"We acquired the four nurseries in East Lothian in June and July and we are excited about the ambitious investment plans we have in place amounting to more than £300,000 to further develop our teams and transform our facilities to guarantee we can provide the highest quality environments, ensuring your child’s safety, wellbeing and development.

"We are now doing everything in our power to resolve the situation with East Lothian Council so your child can continue to receive Government funding to attend our nurseries. We are urging them to re-consider."

She added that funding the places until Christmas would "offer sufficient time for the council to see what quality of care and education means to us, giving them confidence that the safety, care and education of the children they are funding could not be in better hands".

The three Pear Tree nurseries in Haddington have all recently been closed after children at two of them caught E. coli, and Ms Davis acknowledged the challenges that had placed on parents.

She added: "We recognise the past few weeks have been particularly difficult for families whose children attend our three Haddington nurseries, following their temporary closure due to an E. coli outbreak affecting a number of children and staff.

"There is no evidence to suggest that one of our nurseries was the source of the outbreak; however, we undertook deep cleans to help reduce the risk of any further spread of the infection.

"It is extremely frustrating that, having gained permission from the council and the Public Health Department in Lothian to re-open, we now have to inform you of another unsettling development."

An East Lothian Council spokesperson said: “Our priority at this time is to support parents and carers who have enquiries regarding their next steps for early learning and childcare.

“Following careful consideration, the council’s view is that the Bright Stars Nursery Group has not been meeting the national standards of early learning and childcare as set by the Scottish Government in its four East Lothian-based settings.

"We have been engaging with Bright Stars Nursery Group for some months on this issue to find a suitable resolution.

"However, unfortunately we have been unable to enter into a new contract with them and 1,140hours funding will not be available from October 7.”

The council said that parents could email if they needed information and support, while they can also go to for more information.