Early learning and childcare expansion

Please note that the ELC expansion has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Please visit the Parent Club for the latest news and answers to some of the questions you might have.

Funded early learning and childcare (ELC) is available to all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds.

Currently 600 free hours are provided to each child per year – we are increasing this to 1140 hours from August 2020.

This will be high quality, flexible ELC that is accessible and affordable for all families.

The main aims of the expansion in ELC are to:

  • improve children’s outcomes and help close the poverty-related attainment gap
  • increase family resilience through improved health and wellbeing of children and parents
  • support parents into work, study or training
If you are a parent or carer you can get information on early learning and childcare at: https://www.mygov.scot/childcare-costs-help/ and https://www.parentclub.scot/

Support for local authorities

Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that funded entitlement is available for all eligible children in their area.

We are supporting them to build the capacity needed in their communities to phase in extended entitlement.

We have reached agreement with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA) on a multi-year revenue and capital package which will fully fund the expansion in funded entitlement.

This will see annual revenue investment increase by £567 million on 2016 to 2017 levels by 2021 to 2022.

It includes funding to enable the payment of sustainable rates to funded providers delivering the funded entitlement – including funding to enable payment of at least the real Living Wage to all childcare workers delivering the funded entitlement.

We will also provide councils with capital funding of £476 million to support associated building projects.

Support and guidance for ELC providers

We are supporting providers to prepare for the expansion of funded entitlement and the introduction of a new national standard in August 2020.

To find out how to become a funded provider you can contact your local authority’s ELC team or visit their website to find out more.

We published a delivery support plan for providers in December 2018, outlining our support in four areas:

  • financial sustainability
  • partnership working
  • workforce recruitment and training
  • communications with parents and carers

ELC providers can also find out about support for their business by contacting their local Business Gateway office.  

We have worked with COSLA to set up an ELC Partnership Forum to promote joint working with and across the ELC sector. Funded providers can register an interest in joining the forum by emailing: elcpartnershipforum@gov.scot

We have also developed a 12-step guide for ELC providers to support them with recruitment and training.

Progress of the ELC expansion programme

Governance of the ELC expansion programme is being led by the Early Learning and Childcare Joint Delivery Board.

This is jointly chaired by the Minister for Children and Young People and COSLA spokesperson for children and young people.

In addition, the Early Learning and Childcare Strategic Forum ensures that stakeholders are involved in developing our vision for high quality and flexible ELC.

See our monthly updates on the ELC expansion programme and progress reports published by the Improvement Service.