Early years expansion

Thousands of children already benefiting from additional hours.

More than 46,000 children across Scotland are already benefiting from extra hours of high quality early learning and childcare almost a year before the full roll out of 1,140 funded hours of care for every eligible child.

By August next year children will be eligible for more funded hours of early learning and childcare than ever before and families will have more choice over how they access those hours.

New figures show that one third of three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds are already accessing more than the minimum 600 hours to which they are currently entitled.

The figures also reveal:

  • 214 nurseries have been built, extended or refurbished since March 2018
  • the number of three to five-year-olds receiving more than 600 hours is 6.6% ahead of forecast
  • capacity for 1,140 hours in local authority nurseries is 2.8% ahead of forecast
  • the private sector will make a larger contribution than previously forecast, up 4% to 26%
  • overall, all indicators are broadly in line with or ahead of the forecast national position, albeit with significant variability at a local level

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Children’s Minister Maree Todd celebrated the positive impact expansion is already having during a visit to Sauchie Nursery in Alloa where they met new recruits to the sector and children receiving 1,140 hours of childcare.

The First Minister said:

“From August 2020 all three and four-year-olds across Scotland, and around one-quarter of two-year-olds, will benefit from the most generous early learning and childcare offer in the UK. 

“High quality learning and care in the early years is the foundation from which every child can develop and reach their full potential and it also makes a key contribution to closing the attainment gap.

“Our ambitious £2 billion programme will give children access to almost twice as many funded hours annually, worth up to £4,500 per child every year. It will also give parents and carers more flexibility to explore work, education or training opportunities.

“With less than one year to go many local authorities are making good progress with more than a third of eligible children now accessing expanded childcare and nearly half of additional staff needed in post. That’s major progress but we know the next ten months will see a big effort from everyone to make sure we deliver on time in August. We are confident but we do not underestimate the hard work ahead.”

COSLA President Councillor Alison Evison said:

“Local authorities have been working hard to ensure that the expansion of this bold and ambitious policy is implemented effectively to achieve the best outcomes for our youngest children.

“The most effective way to achieve this is to continue to work in strong partnerships across sectors. This collaboration to deliver for children and families is what we will all remain focussed on in the coming months.”

Marie McMeechan, whose daughter attends Sauchie Nursery, said:

“The introduction of the 1,140 hours at Sauchie Nursery has been excellent and very beneficial to me and my family. As a single mother with school and nursery aged children the introduction of this has made a massive difference enabling me to go out to work without the added cost of childcare.

“My daughter can be a fussy eater but introducing her to lunches has encouraged her to try different foods that she sees her friends eating – so now her diet is much more balanced and healthy. I have so much to thank for the 1,140 hours and hope this continues to support families for many years to come.”


All three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds in Scotland are currently entitled to 600 hours of funded early learning and childcare hours. Information about the expansion to 1,140 hours from August 2020 is available.  

The Early Learning and Childcare Expansion Delivery Progress Report is the latest in a series of data collections which track the progress towards delivering the expansion.

The report finds:

  • the number of three to five-year-olds receiving more than 600 hours of funded early learning and childcare is ahead of the figure predicted for August 2019.  The forecast uptake for three to five-year-olds accessing more than 600 hours funded early learning and childcare was 40,643 children at August 2019.  The actual figure was 6.6% higher than predicted at 43,309 children
  • 214 nurseries have been built or refurbished and the predicted total capacity for 1,140 hours funded early learning and childcare in local authority settings was 42,188 children at August 2019.  The actual figure was 2.8% above the forecast at 43,359 children
  • councils now report that the total number of additional staff required for the expansion is 8,458 full time equivalent which reflects more efficient and effective business models and makes more use of the private and voluntary sector

Sauchie Nursery head Lynsey Graham said:

Sauchie Nursery has had the excellent opportunity to phase in the delivery of the 1,140 hours of free early leaning and childcare over the last two years - this has ensured the expansion has been developed with the needs of the children and families at the heart of the project.

“By offering a variety of different models that include longer learning days, extending the year, and working with childminders and private nurseries - we can test each model, evaluate at each stage and aim to develop a service that suits the needs of every family. We continue to strive to improve outcomes and deliver a quality service for all.”


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