Funded early learning and childcare

Funded early learning and childcare (ELC) is delivered by a wide range of providers, including nurseries and playgroups, from across the public, private and third sectors and by childminders.

Since August 2021, all local authorities have been offering 1,140 hours of funded ELC to all eligible children.

Flexibility and choice are fundamental to the ELC offer and local authorities are working hard to ensure families can access high quality, funded ELC that meets local needs.

Scotland is the only part of the UK to offer 1,140 hours a year of funded ELC to all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds, regardless of their parents’ working status.

Census data from September 2023 showed that 92,182 children were registered for funded ELC, and estimated that 97% of eligible 3 and 4 year olds were accessing funded ELC. The estimated uptake rate for eligible 2 year olds was 52% in 2023.

Early learning and childcare funding

The local government settlement provides funding for local authorities to deliver funded ELC to all eligible children. Local authorities are responsible for ensuring that the funded ELC entitlement is available for all eligible children in their area.

Early learning and childcare expansion programme

In March 2017, following a public consultation, we published an action plan for the expansion of ELC: a blueprint for 2020: the expansion of early learning and childcare in Scotland.

The main aims of the expansion in ELC were to:

  • Ensure children's development improves and the poverty-related outcomes gap narrows
  • Improve family wellbeing
  • Increase parents' and carers' opportunities to take up or sustain work, training and study

Secondary legislation was passed in 2019 amending the 2014 Act, so that from 1 August 2020, the amount of funded ELC eligible children are entitled to would have increased to 1,140 hours a year.

When the extent of the COVID-19 pandemic became clear, the Scottish Government took the decision to suspend the statutory duty on local authorities to provide 1,140 hours of ELC from August 2020.

During the pandemic local authorities, private and third sector providers and childminders made incredible progress to ensure that 1,140 hours could be offered to all eligible children from the start of the new term in August 2021, allowing us to reinstate the expanded entitlement legislation.

Information on ELC for parents and carers

Information about ELC is available on or on the Parent Club website.

Becoming a funded ELC provider

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

Back to top