Funding follows the child and the national standard for early learning and childcare providers: interim guidance - update March 2021

This update sets out the requirements on early learning and childcare (ELC) settings and local authorities from August 2021.


Since the publication of the Interim Guidance on Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard in July 2020 public health measures introduced in response to the global COVID-19 pandemic have continued to require education authorities and early learning and childcare settings to adjust and respond to outbreaks, new restrictions and the priorities within the recovery process.

We want to extend our thanks for the resilience and flexibility that the early learning and childcare (ELC) sector have demonstrated in their response to these challenges. This has been characterised by the professional, passionate and dedicated delivery for children and families by all those involved.

Keeping the interests of families and children at the forefront of our minds as we’ve progressed through the recovery has led to the decision to reinstate the duty to provide 1,140 hours of funded ELC a year for all 3 to 5 year old and eligible 2 year old children in Scotland from August 2021. In addition to which education authorities and ELC settings have sought to start expanding provision towards that objective wherever they have been able to since August 2020.

It has not been without set back, and in late December 2020 and early 2021 the ELC sector again responded resiliently to the pandemic when new restrictions were placed on who could attend settings. Those restrictions were lifted from 22 February with caution, as we continue to seek to suppress community transmission, follow the public health guidance and be led by the scientific evidence. We welcome the continued support of all partners, parents and children in helping to keep our people and communities safe.

In the journey to the reinstatement of the 1,140 hours duty from August 2021, we cannot forget that there remains a threat of disruption as a result of the pandemic, and that its impacts to date continue to be felt.

We also understand that the sector requires clarity as to what is expected regarding delivery against Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard. This document provides an update to the Interim Guidance published in July 2020. It is recognised that as the impact of the pandemic continues some of the flexibility that the Interim Guidance previously afforded will need to remain in place, or for a limited number of areas increased, for delivery from August 2021. However, it is important to note that the changes from the July 2020 Interim Guidance are not extensive and we have aimed to keep the update as light touch and as clear as possible.

Going forward we will ask the Joint Delivery Board to undertake a review of the timetable for moving to full implementation of Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard following the national roll-out of 1,140 hours. This will take account of the need for sufficient notice required for both education authorities and ELC providers.

We are also committed to working with the sector in the months ahead to consider what information and support through events, training and good practice would be helpful to support implementation of Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard.

Delivery of high quality funded early learning and childcare

A revised date for full implementation of the expansion to 1,140 hours of August 2021 was agreed by Scottish Government and local government. This was based on a recommendation made by the Joint Delivery Board on 4 December 2020 taking full consideration of the factors impacting on delivery and readiness of the sector. The Scottish Parliament approved a Scottish Statutory Instrument on 3 March which gives this implementation date a legal basis.

Quality is at the heart of the delivery of funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) entitlement.

Despite the challenges in delivering services during these unprecedented times there remains a continuing strong and shared commitment to deliver the expansion of funded ELC by the Scottish Government and local government.

The universal funded entitlement to high quality, nurturing early learning and childcare for all 3 to 5 year old and eligible 2 year old children in Scotland remains in place. That entitlement will increase to 1,140 hours across Scotland from August 2021, with many families already benefiting from access to expanded hours. Funded ELC helps every child to develop socially, emotionally, physically and cognitively, supporting them to have the best start in life.

We will continue to ensure that the funded ELC entitlement is delivered in high quality settings across Scotland. The ELC sector remains committed to working towards delivering in full the Funding Follows the Child principles and the National Standard.

Funding Follows the Child

Funding Follows the Child is ‘provider neutral’ and is underpinned by a National Standard that all settings – regardless of whether they are in the public, private or third sector, or childminders – will have to meet in order to be able to deliver funded ELC.

For families this means that they will be able to access high quality funded ELC with the provider of their choice – in the public, private, Third Sector or a childminder - if that provider meets the criteria set out in the National Standard, wishes to deliver the funded entitlement, has a space available is able to offer the funded hours in-line with their local authority’s ELC delivery plan (subject to the capacity of the setting), and is in contract with their local authority to deliver the funded hours.

The National Standard

The criteria of the National Standard focus on what children and their families should expect from their ELC experience, regardless of where they access their funded entitlement.



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