National Standard for early learning and childcare

Please note that the ELC expansion has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. Updated interim guidance on Funding follows the child and the National Standard was published in March 2021. Please visit the Parent Club for the latest news and answers to some of the questions you might have.

Funding Follows the Child ensures that the funded early learning and childcare entitlement is delivered in high quality settings. It is underpinned by a National Standard that all settings – regardless of whether they are in the public, private, third or childminding sectors – that wish to deliver early learning and childcare have to meet.

Due to the continuing impact of the pandemic, and the need for some flexibility, Interim Guidance on the Implementation of Funding Follows the Child from August 2021 is currently in place.

It means that parents and carers – including those of eligible two years olds – will be able to choose to use their child’s entitlement at any ELC provider that:

  • meets the National Standard
  • has a place available; and
  • is willing to enter into a contract with the local authority

The National Standard sets out what children and families should expect from their early learning experience regardless of where they access their child’s funded hours.

All ELC providers will be required to meet the Standard before they can access funding to deliver the free hours, whether they are in the public, private or third sectors or childminders.

Local authorities will be responsible for assessing and monitoring compliance with the National Standard in all funded providers.

Read more about our approach and the National Standard in: Funding follows the child and the national standard of early learning and childcare providers: principles and practice

Helping ELC providers meet the National Standard

We have published operating guidance detailing how settings delivering the funded entitlement can meet the National Standard.

We have also published a frequently asked questions document for local authorities and funded providers.

Supporting technical guidance is also available covering business sustainability, sustainable rates and transition options guidance on contracting.

How the new approach and National Standard were developed

 We developed ‘funding follows the child’ in partnership with COSLA and local authorities, through a Service Models Working Group, with the final approach informed by a consultation, and a supporting programme of engagement with stakeholders, in 2018.

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