Publication - Research and analysis

The expansion of early learning and childcare: evaluation report 2017

Published: 22 Dec 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

79 page PDF

1.2 MB


1. Scottish Government, A Blueprint for 2020: Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland Consultation, 15 October 2016,

2. In this report the shorthand 'parents' is used, but this is meant to include any principal carers of children.

3. This includes two year olds who are looked after by a local authority, the subject of a kinship care order, or have a parent-appointed guardian.

4. See the Blueprint consultation document (footnote 1) but also A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland 2017-18 Action Plan, 23 March 2017,

5. The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD) identifies small area concentrations of multiple deprivation across Scotland, and ranks them from most to least deprived. It combines indicators of deprivation across 7 domains: income, employment, health, education, skills and training, housing, geographic access and crime. For more information see

6. NHS Health Scotland, Evaluability assessment of the expansion of early learning and childcare, 2017,

7. See NHS Health Scotland, Evaluability assessment of the expansion of early learning and childcare, 2017,

8. Scottish Government, Financial review of early learning and childcare in Scotland: the current landscape, 2016,

9. For more information see

10. Information on capacity has been derived by using data provided by the Care Inspectorate of all operating settings in Scotland as at 31 December 2016 and extracting data for settings providing funded ELC as identified in the Scottish Government ELC census in September 2016. Some of the data in the ELC census and Care Inspectorate data could not be matched, but this method provided the most accurate information possible.

11. There are also local authority settings that provide unfunded places, or additional 'wrap-around' hours to funded children, but likely to a smaller extent than happens in private partner providers.

12. The analysis is limited to local authority settings because the registration data includes only children receiving the funded entitlement and thus provides only a partial picture of registrations in partner providers.

13. For example, parents might buy additional 'wrap around' hours on top of the funded hours.

14. This data is based on settings which self-identified as providing the funded entitlement when responding to the Care Inspectorate annual return, and workers categorised as C2, C3, C4 by the Care Inspectorate.

15. See

16. This excludes home visiting teachers.

17. Scottish Government, Early Learning and Childcare Summary statistics and additional Early Learning and Childcare Tables,

18. This includes local authority settings and local authority partner providers who offer the funded entitlement, but excludes any childminders (who might also be providing the funded entitlement).

19. Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework ( SCQF) level 9 or above.


21. This includes both funded places and any non-funded places that local authority settings which offer funded ELC might offer to children not eligible to the funded entitlement.

22. This information is based on data from the Care Inspectorate on the proportion of funded places in local authority, private partners and voluntary settings with operating hours outside of school hours. As with some of the information in the previous chapter, it should be noted that this does not necessarily mean that all funded places are available at these hours. Moreover, as there is no information on how many places are available at different times, the capacity is taken as uniform over the stated operating hours as this captures the maximum potential places available at any one time. Moreover, many settings will have more children registered than available capacity places, which is due to a capacity referring to 'a place' in the setting. For example if the setting is operating for 8 hours, then one place may be shared by two children in separate 4 hour sessions.

23. The wording in the Care Inspectorate's annual return for early morning provision changed in 2015 from 'Breakfast or pre-school' to 'Breakfast or before school hours', which led to a reduction in services ticking this option. Hence, the figures for 2015 and 2016 cannot be accurately compared to 2013 and 2014 for early morning provision.

24. For more information see Care Inspectorate, Early Learning and Childcare Statistics 2016 For the calculations in this report, the annual ELC Census has been used to derive the list of settings providing funded ELC. This has minor differences to the Care Inspectorate list of settings and therefore the figures cited here do not exactly match the figures in the Care Inspectorate publication.

25. The number of parents in the survey who do not take up their ELC entitlement and gave these reasons were too small to determine whether these reasons are more often given by parents in urban or rural areas.

26. The 2017 ELC survey asked parents about their employment status. What is here called 'no parents in employment' covers a range of situations: parents who indicated in the survey to be unemployed, to study, and a small proportion who chose 'other'. It is possible that some of the parents who chose 'other' are in fact in some form of paid employment that they do not classify as full-time employment, part-time employment or self-employed.

27. Because the survey asked for the travel time to parents' current main ELC provider, it does not capture situations in which parents do not use ELC or do not use their preferred provider because the travel time would be too long. Any differences in this between different areas or different groups of parents are thus also not measured.

28. In the ELC parent survey, parents' eligibility for two year old entitlement was estimated in two ways: by asking parents if they were eligible, and on the basis of household income. The latter was done because a substantial number of parents said they didn't know they were eligible. This means that the results of this analysis may not be exact but it should be broadly indicative.

29. See Scottish Government, Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland and additional Early Learning and Childcare Tables

30. Children can be registered with more than one type of additional support need.

31. Ipsos Mori, Cost of Early Learning and Childcare in Partner Provider Settings, 2016

32. Family and Childcare Trust, Childcare Survey, FACT annually collect data on childcare prices from local authority Family Information Services.

33. Based on analysis of data from the Growing Up in Scotland ( GUS) study. GUS is a large-scale longitudinal survey tracking several cohorts of Scottish children from the early years, through childhood and beyond. This analysis was conducted with GUS data from birth cohort 2 (children born between March 2010 and February 2011 ) taken just before the introduction of the 600 hours funded entitlement in 2014. This means that the data involved children who were slightly younger than most of the children eligible for ELC. For more information see

34. Bradshaw, P., G. Lewis and T. Hughes, Growing Up in Scotland: Characteristics of pre-school provision and their association with child outcomes, 2014,

35. Knudsen, L., E. Currie and P. Bradshaw, Growing Up in Scotland: Changes in early learning and childcare use and outcomes at age 5: Comparing two Growing Up in Scotland cohorts, 2017 (forthcoming).

36. Scobie, G. and E. Scott, Rapid evidence review: Childcare quality and children's outcomes, 2017 ,

37. See Scobie, G. and E. Scott, Rapid evidence review: Childcare quality and children's outcomes, 2017 ,

38. Education Scotland also inspects funded providers of ELC in Scotland. They only inspect a relatively small number of settings each year, which means that their statistics are representative of funded settings in Scotland as a whole only when combining several years and thus not ideal for monitoring changes over time. For that reason this report and the evaluation will focus on the Care Inspectorate's quality statistics, which are published annually and include enough inspections to be nationally representative.

39. More detail can be found in the Care Inspectorate's Early Learning and Childcare statistics 2016, published 19 September 2017,

40. That is: this excludes other types of providers that may be providing funded ELC, such as playgroups, children and family centres or childminders.

41. Full details on the eligibility criteria for 2 year olds can be found here:

42. The percentage uptake figures for 3 and 4 year olds are calculated based on the number of children eligible at term one for early learning and childcare under the statutory requirement using NRS population projections. For 2 year olds, uptake percentages are given as a percentage of the entire 2 year old population.

43. Scottish Government, Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland, Additional Early Learning and Childcare tables

44. Scottish Government, Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland

45. Knudsen, L., E. Currie and P. Bradshaw, Growing Up in Scotland: Changes in early learning and childcare use and outcomes at age 5: Comparing two Growing Up in Scotland cohorts, 2017 (forthcoming).

46. This includes any time the child spent at their main ELC provider (including both funded and unfunded hours) but does not include time spent with any other provider.

47. This is based on parents' self-reported average use of regular ELC, and includes funded, privately paid and informal regular childcare in the 2017 ELC parent survey. It is not possible to establish with this data to what extent these average hours only include daytime provision or also include, for example, children staying overnight with grandparents.

48. As described above, the ELC census figures indicate that around 1% of eligible 3 and 4 year olds are not registered for funded ELC, and it is estimated that just under two thirds of eligible 2 year olds are not. The estimates from the parent survey are comparable for 2 year olds (64% of parents do not use the entitlement for their eligible 2 year old) but differ for 3 and 4 year olds with the survey suggesting that 10% of parents with an eligible 3 or 4 year old do not use the entitlement. This could be due to a number of differences in methodology, including that the parent survey assumed that all 3 year olds were eligible, whereas in reality 3 year olds become eligible at the start of the term after their third birthday (although some local authorities allow them to access ELC before then), except for children born in August who are immediately eligible. The parent survey took place in September which may have led some parents of children who turned 3 in September to be wrongly classified as eligible for funded ELC for this question. As a result, the parent survey estimate of 10% of parents with eligible 3 and 4 year olds not taking up the entitlement is very likely an overestimate.

49. Parents could give more than one reason.

50. Ipsos Mori, Drivers and barriers to uptake of early learning and childcare among two year olds, 2017,

51. When asked about 3 or 4 year old children 5% of parents answered 'I don't know' or 'not applicable' and when asked about 2 year old children 14% of parents did so.

52. This is based on regression analysis, and the factors are presented in descending order with those with the strongest association with future uptake presented first.

53. Scottish Government, Getting it right for every child ( GIRFEC)

54. See NHS Health Scotland, Evaluability assessment of the expansion of early learning and childcare, 2017,

55. The Growing Up in Scotland Report 'Changes in Early Learning and Childcare Use and Outcomes at Age 5: Comparing two Growing Up in Scotland Cohort' (publication forthcoming) shows no evidence that children attending their main ELC provider for a relatively small number of additional hours per week (e.g. up to 16 hours instead of 12.5) had an impact on their development, yet the analysis did not compare for example children who don't use any ELC to those who do. It was also not able to take account of the hours children spent at other providers than their main provider, and we know that many children attend multiple early learning and childcare providers.

56. Including for example Getting it Right for Every Child, Family Nurse partnership, expansion of the Health Visitor Pathways, continued implementation of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill, Baby Box, National Improvement Framework for Scottish Education, Scottish Attainment Challenge and Pupil Equity Fund.

57. Knudsen, L. and P Bradshaw, Growing Up in Scotland: Patterns of Maternal Employment and Barriers to Paid Work, 2017,

58. The study looked at employment up to the time children turned 5.

59. The Parent Survey data collected does not enable us to assess to what extent parents' difficulties accessing suitable provision relates to difficulties accessing information about suitable provision or difficulties accessing provision itself.

60. A further 971 responses were received from parents/carers who do not have children aged under 6, or where responses were insufficiently complete to permit analysis.