This Government's Purpose is to make Scotland a more successful nation from which all of Scotland's people can benefit. To achieve this and enhance our ability to compete, we need to tackle some of the significant inequalities which persist in Scotland. Tackling risks early and building the resilience of children, young people and families will improve the educational, health and employment outcomes of our people.
Our aim is to develop high quality, flexible early learning and childcare (ELC) which is affordable and accessible for all.
From August 2014, free entitlement to ELC increased to 600 hours per year, equivalent to around 16 hours per week if delivered during school term time. However, we are committed to increasing the early learning and childcare entitlement to 1,140 hours per year by 2020. This will continue to cover all 3 and 4 year old children, and eligible 2 year olds. High quality will be at the heart of ELC provision, as will providing the flexibility parents need to work, train or study.
This commitment by will transform the lives of families across Scotland. It is during our very earliest years that a large part of the pattern for our future adult life is set. This is true in terms of educational outcomes, health outcomes, and future life prospects. Evidence shows that disadvantages experienced from birth onwards can impact adversely on the life chances of our children.
Improving access to affordable ELC also helps to reduce barriers to participating in the labour market which parents with small children face. For example the OECDs Doing Better for Families report highlights that childcare constraints often play an important role in parents' work decisions, and that provision of more comprehensive childcare helps remove barriers to employment. We have observed that, as ELC in Scotland has expanded, levels of female employment have risen.
The expansion to 1,140 hours per year will require substantial increases in the workforce and investment in infrastructure as well as new and innovative models of delivery.