Publication - Advice and guidance

Early learning and childcare: statutory guidance - July 2021

Statutory guidance to education authorities to support them in exercising their functions in relation to the delivery of early learning and childcare from 1 August 2021.

Early learning and childcare: statutory guidance - July 2021
Starting and stopping dates for eligibility

Starting and stopping dates for eligibility

53. Section 47(2)(c)(ii) and (4) of the 2014 Act gives Scottish Ministers the power to specify and expand eligibility for funded early learning and childcare through secondary legislation subject to affirmative procedure before the Scottish Parliament. Taken together with the description of an 'eligible pre-school child' in Sections 47(2)(a) and (b), and 47(3) of the 2014 Act, the 2014 Order further specifies when eligibility for funded early learning and childcare starts and stops.

54. Starting and stopping dates for funded early learning and childcare depend on the date of the child's birthday, local school term dates and, where relevant, whether the parent has chosen to defer the child's start at primary school for a year.

Starting dates

55. In terms of starting dates, under the 2014 Order, eligible 2 year olds and all 3 year olds are eligible for funded early learning and childcare from the beginning of the first term after the child's 2nd or 3rd birthday.

Where a child's birthday falls on or between the following dates, the child will become eligible from the terms set out below:

Child's birthday: 1 March – 31 August
Eligible from: August (autumn term) occurring in that year

Child's birthday: 1 September – 31 December
Eligible from: January (spring term) following their birthday

Child's birthday: 1 January – last day February
Eligible from: March/ April (summer term) following their birthday

56. Some education authorities use their discretionary powers under section 1(1C) of the 1980 Act, to provide funded early learning and childcare to 2 and 3 year olds earlier than the statutory start dates. For example, from their 2nd or 3rd birthday, from the month after their 2nd or 3rd birthday, or to certain children before they are 2 or 3 years old. Arrangements to commence closer to the child's birth date are encouraged.

Stopping dates

57. In terms of stopping dates for funded early learning and childcare, and as set out in paragraph 35, the 2014 Act defines an "eligible pre-school child" as a child who:

  • is under school age;
  • has not commenced attendance at a primary school (other than at a nursery class in such a school); and is either:

(i) aged 2 or over and is or has at any time since their second birthday been looked after[9], is the subject of a kinship care order, or who has or has had a guardian by virtue of an appointment under section 7 of the 1995 Act (a parent-appointed guardian).

or

(ii) within such age range, or is of such other description, as Scottish Ministers may specify by order. This provides Scottish Ministers with the power to specify and expand eligibility through secondary legislation subject to affirmative procedure before the Scottish Parliament. This has been done through the 2014 Order.

58. The 2014 Order further defines when eligibility for some children will stop. The 2014 Order provides that those children whose 5th birthday falls in the period beginning on 1st August and ending on 31st December are no longer eligible for funded early learning and childcare. An amendment has been made to the 2014 Order to remove this additional definition[10], but does not come into force until 1 August 2023.

59. Stopping dates until 31 July 2023, and those that apply from 1 August 2023, are therefore summarised separately below.

60. Stopping dates until 31 July 2023 (as defined under section 47(2)(a) and (b) of the 2014 Act and the 2014 Order and subject to the exceptions described in paragraphs 77 and 78) are summarised as follows:

Where a child's birthday falls on or between the following dates Stopping funded early learning and childcare and starting school Eligibility for funded early learning and childcare when deferring school entry
1 March – the school commencement date[11] in August Children's entitlement to funded early learning and childcare stops from the August (autumn term) following their 5th birthday, at which point they will start school. As these children will be 5 years old on the school commencement date, parents cannot defer entry to school[12].
After the school commencement date in August – 31 December Children's entitlement to funded early learning and childcare stops from the August (autumn term) in the year they turn 5, at which point they can start school or parents can defer their child's entry to school to the August (autumn term) of the following year. Children's entitlement to funded early learning and childcare has ceased but parents can request that the education authority provide an additional year of funded early learning and childcare using their discretionary power under section 1(1C) of the 1980 Act.
1 January – last day in February Children's entitlement to funded early learning and childcare stops from the August (autumn term) following their 5th birthday. Children can start school in the August (autumn term) before they turn 5, or parents can defer their entry to school until the August (autumn term) after they turn 5. Children's entitlement to funded early learning and childcare continues to the August in the year of their 5th birthday so they are still entitled to funded early learning and childcare if they defer school entry.

61. Stopping dates from 1 August 2023 (as defined under section 47(2)(a) and (b) of the 2014 Act and subject to the exceptions described in paragraphs 77 and 78) are summarised as follows:

Where a child's birthday falls on or between the following dates Stopping funded early learning and childcare and starting school Eligibility for funded early learning and childcare when deferring school entry
1 March – the school commencement date[13] in August Children's entitlement to funded early learning and childcare stops from the August (autumn term) following their 5th birthday, at which point they will start school. As these children will be 5 years old on the school commencement date, parents cannot defer entry to school[14].
After the school commencement date in August – last day in February Children's entitlement to funded early learning and childcare stops from the August (autumn term) following their 5th birthday. Children can start school in the August (autumn term) before they turn 5, or parents can defer their entry to school until the August (autumn term) after they turn 5. Children's entitlement to funded early learning and childcare continues to the August in the year of their 5th birthday so they are still entitled to funded early learning and childcare if they defer school entry.

62. Powers under section 1(1C) of the 1980 Act allow education authorities to provide discretionary early learning and childcare after a child's statutory 'stopping date'. This allows education authorities to:

a) Until 1 August 2023, provide an additional year of funded early learning and childcare to children born after the beginning of the autumn term, in August, and before 1 January whose parent has chosen to defer the child's start at primary school for a year.

b) In exceptional circumstances, provide an additional year of funded early learning and childcare to children with a birth date on or between 1 March and the school commencement date, where the education authority considers that a further year in early learning and childcare would be more appropriate than providing the child with education in primary school. Further information is outlined in paragraphs 77 and 78.


Contact

Email: ELCPartnershipForum@gov.scot