Publication - Research and analysis

The expansion of early learning and childcare: evaluation report 2017

A report exploring the impact of the expansion of government-funded early learning and childcare after 2014.

79 page PDF

1.2 MB

79 page PDF

1.2 MB

The expansion of early learning and childcare: evaluation report 2017
Annex 2: The 2017 ELC Parent Survey

79 page PDF

1.2 MB

Annex 2: The 2017 ELC Parent Survey


In summer 2017 the Scottish Government appointed independent researchers Craigforth to undertake a nationally representative survey of parents and carers with children under the age of six, as part of the wider monitoring and evaluation strategy for expansion of the ELC entitlement to 1140 hours by 2020. The overall aim of the survey was to provide up to date information on parents and carers' use of and views about early learning and childcare and its impact. This included gathering views across the following key areas:

  • Use of early learning and childcare for eligible children including use of funded/paid/informal provision, types of provider used, number of hours used per child per week, and parents' reasons for using ELC;
  • The motivations that influence parents' choice of early learning and childcare provider;
  • Attitudes towards and likely future uptake of the expanded 1140 hours entitlement, and the factors that may influence these choices;
  • The experience and views on accessibility of early learning and childcare, including for parents of children with additional support need ( ASN);
  • How much parents pay for early learning and childcare, and any experience of affordability difficulties;
  • Views on the flexibility of early learning and childcare provision; and
  • Views on the quality of early learning and childcare provision.

Survey fieldwork and response

The survey sought the views of any parents or carer of children aged under 6, irrespective of their experience of early learning and childcare. Survey fieldwork ran from late August to the end of September 2017, and involved two main strands:

  • Telephone interviews with a sample of parents and carers drawn from the re-contacts database of the Scottish Household Survey which provides a comprehensive sampling frame for families with dependent children
  • A public websurvey promoted via early learning and childcare providers and other non-childcare related networks to maximise the reach of the survey.

In addition, paper surveys and foreign language translations of the survey were made available on request.

A total of 10,526 valid survey responses were received by survey close on 30 September 2017. [60] This very positive response means that the survey dataset is sufficient to produce highly reliable results which we can say are representative of the general population of parents with children under six in Scotland at a 95% confidence level. Confidence intervals are the standard way of describing the robustness of survey results, and the survey response is sufficient to produce a 95% confidence interval for a 50% result of ±1.0%. This means that if 50% of respondents say they would make use of the expanded early learning and childcare entitlement, we can be 95% confident that the true result is between 49% and 51%.

This has also permitted more detailed analysis of survey findings to consider variation in views and experiences across a range of parent/carer groups. This has included analysis to identify any variation in views across the following parent subgroups.

  • Groups linked to use of early learning and childcare such as:
    • Those with or without eligible children;
    • Use of funded/paid/informal provision; and
    • Parents of children with Additional Support Needs.
  • Socio-demographic and geographically defined groups such as:
    • Those living in deprived areas (as defined by 2016 SIMD);
    • Urban/rural areas (as defined by the Scottish Government 6-fold categorisation);
    • The number of adults in employment;
    • Household income;
    • Parent age; and
    • Households with school age children.

In addition to the level of response, the robustness of results also depends on the extent to which the profile of respondents is representative of that of the wider population - in this case, representative of parents/carers with children aged under 6. Responses included a good cross-section in terms of use of funded/paid/informal provision, and household income. The survey also received responses from all 32 local authority areas, with most areas showing a level of response broadly consistent with the share of the wider population. However, several rural areas are over-represented and a small number of urban areas under-represented, such that the balance between urban and rural areas is not representative. The distribution across more and less deprived areas also shows some element of response bias. Survey weighting has been used to adjust for this bias in relation to deprived and urban/rural areas.


The key findings from the survey are reported for the first time in this evaluation report. A full survey report will be published in 2018, together with findings from qualitative research which Craigforth will undertake in 2018 to explore in more detail some of the survey's findings.