School age childcare delivery framework

Sets out our commitment, action areas and the approach we will take over the next two to three years to deliver a system of affordable and accessible school age childcare which will be funded for those families who need it most.

4. Action Areas

Creating a new system of school age childcare involves designing both school age childcare services and the system structures which support and connect the services together, such as legislation, the regulatory environment, and the mechanisms by which funding is distributed.

We will do this by:

  • Building the system, and
  • Testing the change.

By Building the system, we will make sure that the national system structures which support delivery of a funded school age childcare offer meet the needs of those who use school age childcare, and those who provide it.

By Testing the change, we are already commissioning and funding work in communities to provide school age childcare to families who need it most to learn what works at a local level and identify the changes needed at a national level to deliver accessible and affordable services.

Our action areas are being supported by an initial £15 million investment in 2023/24. This includes:

  • £1 million of continued support for our nine Access to Childcare Fund Projects;
  • £3 million to expand and deliver services in our Early Adopter Communities;
  • £4.5 million ‘Inspiring School Age Childcare Spaces (ISACS) Fund’ to improve indoor and outdoor spaces in school estates for the purpose of supporting provision of school age childcare;
  • £4 million to Local Authorities to support with costs related to the delivery of pre- planned summer 2023 programmes; and
  • £2 million to support local football clubs to provide after-school and holiday football clubs, in a joint project with the Scottish Football Association.

Using our people-centred and place-based approach (outlined in section 3 of this framework) to progress our action areas, we will deepen our understanding of how the school age childcare system works by understanding people’s experiences of it, whether those people are using school age childcare services, providing services, or supporting them.

We will include the existing school age childcare sector as we develop a new system - recognising the diversity, expertise and wealth of experience that already exists. We understand the challenges which the childcare sector faces, particularly relating to financial sustainability as highlighted in the Financial Sustainability Heath Check published in July 2023. We know that a thriving sector is critical so that we can build on solid foundations.

Case study 1: Access to Childcare Fund – Supporting Families Clyde Gateway


Supporting Families (SF) is a holistic project focused on employability, skills development, accessing childcare and addressing elements of wellbeing (financial/mental/physical). It targets unemployed, low-income families, specifically aimed at the six tackling child poverty priority family types. It involves a collaboration of delivery partners in and around Stonelaw High School in Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire.

Supporting Families is a 'whole family' approach that supports children to access subsidised or free out of school childcare, combined with family support services relating to their families' general wellbeing, including fuel and food vouchers, as well as employability and leisure opportunities.

It's an established model, focused on improving and integrating with existing services, designed to be flexible to meet different family needs.

Parent Testimonial

Mrs Gough was referred to the Access to childcare Supporting families through St Columbkille's Primary School. She has three children and was struggling to balance work and childcare, particularly due to affordability. Supporting Families were able to provide places for her three children at the existing school breakfast club and at the after school club free of charge, reducing barriers to accessing childcare for the family. The children were also provided free places in the Summer Hub during the school break which supported Mrs Gough to continue to work.

Ms Gough made the following comments in terms of the support provided to her, being able to access school age childcare provision and how this has positively benefitted her family circumstances:

"Since receiving the supports offered of free extra hours childcare this has greatly reduced my anxiety and provided me with a much more manageable family life, as I could not afford any extra childcare".

"The summer hub was a God-send as during the school holidays I used to have to work through the night to free up time to look after the children during the day, again no more juggling work and family commitments."

Building the system

Supporting growth and expansion to create additional capacity

  • Legislative requirements
  • Designing a delivery mechanism
  • Regulation and registration
  • Qualifications
  • Eligibility
  • Supporting improvements to the existing system

Legislative Requirements

At present there is no general statutory duty on local authorities in Scotland, to provide school age childcare during term time or holiday periods. However, the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 does place a statutory duty on local authorities to provide such day care for school age children in need as is appropriate, before and after school and during holidays. It also provides a power for authorities to provide such day care to children who are not in need. In addition, the Act places duties on local authorities to:

  • consult with parents about their out of school care (school age childcare) needs every two years: and to
  • prepare and publish plans in relation to the provision of appropriate care.

We will consider any legislative requirements which may be necessary to ensure year- round school age childcare is accessible nationally to those families who will benefit most, including those with additional support needs, and to support appropriate data sharing between relevant agencies and professionals to facilitate accessibility.

Designing a Delivery Mechanism

We know that the current school age childcare system can create access and financial barriers for many families, particularly those on the lowest incomes. We have begun scoping work on possible options for delivering a future school age childcare offer to families – looking closely at the benefits of different delivery models (such as voucher or payment systems) and how they fit with what families have told us will work best for them. We will assess options and agree the best method of delivering a future offer working closely with parents and carers to design this.

Regulation and Registration

Recognising the many different elements that make up the year-round provision of school age childcare sector in Scotland, we will work closely with our partners – in particular the Care Inspectorate and the Scottish Social Services Council – to consider what a robust regulatory framework for school age child- care, that supports quality, innovation and growth within the sector, should look like.

We will work together to identify new options and consider how we might deliver this. We will look closely at how the formation of the National Care Service and the regulatory reform of Education Scotland interacts with existing childcare frameworks to ensure that there is an appropriate and effective regulatory system to support the expansion of school age childcare. We will also review any relevant findings from the consultation analysis on inspection reform in ELC.


We know from previous consultations with partners and childcare practitioners from across the sector that there is a lack of consensus on the type and level of qualification most appropriate for the school age childcare workforce. A holistic school age childcare sector needs a varied workforce to meet the differing needs of children and families. A workforce which brings diverse experience from across the childcare, youth work and activity sectors, rich with knowledge and skills, provides a solid foundation for a future school age childcare system which includes supporting families who have a child with a disability or an additional support need.

We are working with partners and professionals to address the needs of the workforce now and in the coming years. This includes consideration of regulation, qualifications and professional development which support the workforce to thrive and provide the best possible care. As part of this work, and with our partners at the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC), we will look closely at the varied workforce that deliver existing school age childcare services and consider how we might support better recognition of a wider range of school age childcare relevant qualifications.

This work will explore the value of other complimentary qualifications and skills that enrich children’s experiences and will link to developments being progressed by the sector’s registration body, the SSSC, and other partners.

Working with stakeholders, including regulatory bodies, schools and colleges, we will ensure the qualification framework for school age childcare is fit for purpose, embeds quality, is responsive to the needs of all school age children, and will ensure a sustainable workforce across the sector over the longer term.


As set out in Best Start, Bright Futures: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan 2022-26, we will be conducting an eligibility review. We will consider how to develop a consistent approach to determining eligibility for any future funded school age childcare offer to maximise the opportunities to support children and families out of poverty. This will be based on evidenced need. Our first step will be to map our current approaches to eligibility and to develop a set of overarching eligibility principles for all our childcare offers, from ELC through to school age childcare.

Supporting improvements to the current system

We know that there are improvements which can be made to the existing system of school age childcare in Scotland. Our design and engagement work has shown that improving the quality and availability of information about school age childcare is an important first step in this. We will ensure that parents, carers and providers can easily access information about school age childcare and will continue to consider where further improvements can be made, including supporting the sector to be more sustainable and for the value of the sector to be more widely recognised.

Testing the change

Exploring the delivery of services and their impacts in different communities

  • Early adopter communities, testing:
    • Specialist Services
    • Food Provision
    • Assessing your round capability and demand
    • Targeting funding
    • Rural provision

Community Tests of Change

Between 2020 and 2022 we funded 18 projects through our Access to Childcare Fund, and wider pilot funding, to test how to deliver school age childcare and activities for low-income families through a range of individual services across Scotland. This included regulated childcare, organised children’s activity services and childminders.

These projects have demonstrated the important role school age childcare services play in supporting children’s health, wellbeing and relationships; how funded childcare can reduce household costs and enable an increase in household income, and how services can provide dedicated family support which helps improve family wellbeing. A report of the 2020-22 Access to Childcare Fund projects was published by Children in Scotland in October 2022 and an evaluation of the Access to Childcare fund has also been conducted by the independent research company Ipsos Mori.

The report sets out the impacts of projects for children, parents and families as well as key lessons for a future system of School Age Childcare across Scotland.

In 2021 and 2022 we provided funding to local authorities to deliver an enhanced holiday programme for children and families experiencing barriers to accessing food, childcare and activities during the holidays.

Evaluation from 2021 showed that the range and choice of activities; food provision; inclusion of children and young people in development of the offer; reduction of access barriers and support with key transitions were key benefits of the programme. The evaluation of the summer 2022 programme was published in April 2023.

Building on this service-level work to support priority families, we have expanded into community-level tests of change projects to build and deliver an effective all year-round school age childcare offer for parents and carers in targeted areas. These areas form our Early Adopter Communities.

Through targeted investment in Early Adopter Communities across Scotland, we are working with local children, families, providers, employers and support agencies to understand the childcare needs within each community.

We know an effective system will look different in different communities, and we are committed to supporting the development of innovative solutions that continue to put children and families at the heart of services. Our desired outcome is a local system of school age childcare that delivers change for families who want to access it and also supports the organisations and workforce who deliver services.

Our Early Adopter Communities are the forerunners for a future targeted school age childcare offer for Scotland – providing an opportunity to adapt and implement this offer as we learn from the children, families and communities involved. They are early adopters rather than pilots to ensure that families and communities have a reliable and continuous childcare offer which will provide the security needed to enable them to consider options and make changes to their circumstances.

Early Adopter Communities

In October 2022, we invested £1 million to begin school age childcare provision in four communities across Scotland, targeted to support families most at risk of poverty. These areas are all supported by existing tackling child poverty initiatives, including the Child Poverty Pathfinder projects in Dundee and Glasgow; a whole family wellbeing approach supported by the Social Innovation Partnership in Clackmannanshire; and new childcare service delivery for low income families through the Access to Childcare Fund in Inverclyde.

In these areas work had already begun to understand childcare needs. Through targeted investment we are delivering funded school age childcare for families who would otherwise struggle to afford it. Combining provision of school age childcare with wider supports for families will maximise benefits for families.

Our People Panel, Children’s Charter and provider engagement work will support co-design within these areas.

Figure 6: Existing School Age Childcare Early Adopter Communities

Early Adopter Communities

Providing a place-based, people-centred school age childcare system, free for those families who could benefit most

Dundee Linlathen (up to 60 children)

  • Building on existing services, funded childcare will be provided through Rowantree Primary
  • Working with DWP, SG and SSS Dundee Pathfinder to support parents/carers into work
  • No additional cost for transport/ food to ensure accessibility
  • Working with Kings Park school and The Yard to develop provision for children with complex ASN

Inverclyde Port Glasgow (up to 35 children)

  • Building on the learning of the Access to Childcare Fund
  • Establishing a new service with local PVI partners
  • People-centred approach- engaging with families early to build a system that works for them
  • Taking a whole systems approach understanding the role transport and local employers have to play

Clackmannanshire Alloa South East (up to 217 children)

  • Before and after school and holiday activity provision
  • Scoping of regulated childcare provision
  • Local Authority wide support, including Employability and Adult Learning Services
  • Aligning with the Family Wellbeing Partnership

Glasgow Drumchapel & Carntyne (up to 122 children)

  • Supporting existing school age childcare providers to deliver funded places for families on low incomes
  • Initially working with services to identify existing users who could benefit from funded SACC
  • Aligning with the DWP, SG and SSS Glasgow Pathfinder project - Glasgow Helps
  • Supporting families all year round, including Christmas
Figure 7: Locations of School Age Childcare projects
This diagram outline of Scotland which sets out the locations of our Existing Early Adopter Communities, our new Early Adopter communities and our Access to Childcare Fund Projects

Case study 2: Linlathen


Situated in the East End of Dundee City, Linlathen sits within the 10 most deprived areas in Scotland.

Through close engagement and consultation with the community, accessing childcare was identified as a challenge which was affecting families within the Linlathen community.

Test of change

By testing new ways of working, sharing learning and building on what works in Dundee, the project team seeks to:

  • Gather and analyse information to illustrate how school age childcare (SACC) can contribute to reducing child poverty and some of the associated challenges.
  • Work in partnership with Kids Fun House (a regulated service and parent-led charity) providing Out of School care for children living in Linlathen in the East Campus and Ballumbie areas, to develop a new SACC offer in Rowantree Primary School, located in the heart of the Linlathen Community
  • Co-design a process involving Linlathen families to unlock improvements for both parents and their children by wrapping discrete services provided by individual partner agencies around the family so that support feels integrated and relevant to each family.
  • Listen closely to families to identify gaps in service provision and to use their lived experiences to drive change and create opportunities to resolve any barriers in a person-centred way.

"Receiving the Early Adopter Communities Fund has allowed Kids Fun House to run a wonderful provision which has afforded families from our school the opportunity to work, study, pick up extra shifts, and receive support. Parents know at KFH their children are safe and have great social experiences. The Early Adopter Communities Fund has allowed for a truly valuable services for our families and we look forward to building on our partnership" - Head Teacher

"The staff (Kids Fun House) were great with my son. They were great with me, dead good at communication. E has a ball. He got on fine with them all. It takes the stress off me, trying to find child care. They (Kids fun House) were dead good at getting him to share. He is a single child and it was a great experience to meet new children and do different things." - P4 single mother whose son attended the Kids Fun House

Testing School Age Childcare in Communities

In 2023-24 we will invest in our test of change projects, by continuing to support and expand our Early Adopter Communities and Access to Childcare Funded services. In addition to the four existing Early Adopter Communities in Clackmannanshire, Dundee, Inverclyde and Glasgow, we will expand into new areas in Fife and the Shetland Islands. We will ensure that these community projects are linked to wider initiatives – such as employability support, help with transport costs, holistic family support, tackling population decline, and community regeneration – and that we can demonstrate impact for families.

Where we understand the dynamics and challenges of a community, we can work with families to understand what will make a difference to them. Our work will build on existing investment, particularly in relation to place, and will also consider how we might improve outcomes for families who we know struggle with accessing childcare and employment.

Testing School Age Childcare in Communities

We will also continue to consider the role all school age childcare providers can play at a local level in, providing options for children and families. This will include private, voluntary and third sector providers of both regulated childcare and children’s activities, enabling choice and improving access to enriching activities for those children who will benefit most.

Building on our learning from the Access to Childminding service, the Scottish Childminding Association will work with our Early Adopter Communities to support the inclusion of childminders as an equal partner in the delivery of school age childcare. As we continue to invest in communities, we will create a network of support between projects to share learning, enabling communities to interact and engage and consider how the story of building capacity in one area relates to that of another. Through ongoing monitoring and evaluation, careful gathering of qualitative and quantitative data and understanding how the conditions have been created for successful delivery and change, we will look to share and grow our change programme.

We are currently evaluating our four initial Early Adopter Communities, including Dundee, Glasgow, Clackmannanshire and Inverclyde.

The work will include user research, developing local and national-level theories of change and a monitoring and evaluation framework.

Research will be conducted between August 2023 and May 2024.

Assessing year-round demand and capacity

Insights from our People Panel and Children’s Charter, alongside evaluations from the Access to Childcare Fund and the Summer 2022 programme, are helping us to better understand demand for school age childcare and how this varies throughout the year. We know that demand for services changes at different times of the year with many people requiring before - and after - school childcare during term-time but often requiring full day childcare options during holiday periods.

We also know that the summer holiday period can create significant challenge for families, not just in relation to childcare but also related to access to food and activities to support their children during this period. Through engagement with the existing childcare and activities sector, and through our Early Adopter Community projects, we will consider how best to design and deliver sustainable services which can support families all year-round, responding to their need to continue to work in the summer, and for children to have access to food, activities and trusted relationships.

Our programme of work starts from a position of utilising all of the existing childcare and activities services within communities who work together to provide childcare solutions for families. This includes utilising and investing in existing infrastructure, resources and services. We will consider the demand for childcare services and the existing capacity within the system so that we can determine where and how best to build any additional capacity required. This is supported by our CivTech project to create a digital solution to mapping supply and demand for childcare across Scotland.

We also know that we cannot deliver good outcomes for children and families without a sustainable, diverse and thriving childcare sector. Childcare services and professionals across the public, private, third and childminding sectors have provided vital support to families and children during the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that businesses and individuals are still experiencing real challenges as a result, and that these pressures are being compounded by economic upheaval that is impacting people, businesses, public services and the third sector across Scotland.

Services for children with disabilities or additional support needs

All children and young people should receive the support they need to reach their full potential. We recognise that more needs to be done to improve the experiences of children and young people with additional support needs throughout their childhood, including any additional support needed before and after the school day within school age childcare settings.

In 2020, Angela Morgan’s review of implementation of additional support for learning was published. This included analysis of views from children and young people across Scotland on how they want to be included within schools and their communities. They expressed a need for primary, secondary and other organisations (this can include school age childcare providers), which provide support in a child or young person’s life to communicate better and provide them with a choice on how information is shared about them. Across Government we have been working closely with local government partners to implement the review’s recommendations. In 2020, we published an action plan in response to the Morgan Report, in 2021 an updated plan was published and a refreshed action plan and report published in November 2022. We will be working closely with the Additional Support for Learning Project Board to review the current plan, how it interacts with and impacts school age childcare and to agree priorities for the future to ensure that meaningful change is realised for children and young people.

We know that accessing school age childcare is challenging for families across Scotland with a child with a disability or an additional support need, as highlighted in recent research and our Out of school care - draft framework: consultation analysis. We will utilise existing research and experience, from those accessing and delivering high quality specialist services, to be clear about the funding, staffing models and high-quality environments required to deliver a school age childcare offer for children, whatever their needs.

Through our community tests of change work, we will fund services that specifically support families with a child with a disability or an additional support need, supporting co-design with children and families. We will review inequalities in access to a range of activities for children with disabilities and/or additional support needs and look at how school age childcare can reduce barriers and support positive outcomes.

Case study 3: SHIP


SHIP, (Support, Help & Integration in Perthshire) are a charity who support children and young people with Additional Support Needs (ASN). SHIP have been providing funded/subsidised childcare for a total of 175 children from 171 families in the Perthshire area through after school clubs and holiday clubs. They are focused on improving the quality of life for families with children with complex ASN. 95% of families stated that they had no other form of childcare available therefore would not have been able to either work or have any respite (the other 5% said they would have had to rely on family and friends). Without after school club and holiday club families have stated they would have been financially disadvantaged. Families stated that receiving respite over the holiday period and accessing after school clubs increased their mental wellbeing and improved family relationships. The children have benefited from the routine of the clubs and felt less isolated over holiday periods.

Parent Testimonial

Hailey Revill is a parent who uses the SHIP shares her views on how the service has supported her family.

Did it improve your finances? Job prospects? Opportunity to study? Ability to retain employment? If so how?

"It has meant that I am able to work full time, so has increased our household income. It's also meant I've been able to apply for new roles as I can now commit to full time employment, whereas before I needed a role that would fit in with school hours. Without SHIP after school care this would not have been possible."

What would you and your child do without SHIP? How would it affect your lives?

"I really don't know what we would do - life would be hard! ... Mainstream after school club is not suitable for our daughter, so it would mean I would have to give up work and look for a role that fitted in with school hours - this would affect our income, which would then affect our ability to pay our bills."


Due to the complex needs of the children, SHIP require a child:adult ratio of 1:1 or 1:2, resulting in very high staffing requirements. To tackle this challenge and maintain quality, SHIP recruit and maintain a high-quality mixed workforce made up of permanent staff, 30 sessional staff and over 90 volunteers aged 14+. To promote their volunteering opportunities, SHIP employ a volunteer coordinator who works closely with the Duke of Edinburgh award scheme and local schools.

Creating an inclusive food offer

Food provision can often be a challenging aspect of service, especially when trying to cater for any special meal requirements such as food sensory issues or blended food. Because of this, SHIP felt that the food provision on offer wasn't as inclusive as they would have liked it to, so they looked at innovative ways to make meal times more inclusive by ensuring they included cooking as an activity. This is a great learning opportunity as it is something that all children and young people can get involved in no matter their ability. It boosts and promotes positive food confidence, it also promotes positive food relationships.

Food Provision

Integrating food provision within a targeted school age childcare offer, wherever this is appropriate, can help to address food insecurity in a rights-based, dignified and stigma-free way. The evaluation of our Summer 2021 programme showed that the inclusion of food as part of activities was viewed positively by children and young people and their families. It helped reduce worries about getting hungry during physical activities, and for some helped ‘re-set’ relationships with food. Delivery partners also viewed the free food offer as important for supporting participation among lower income families.

We placed a strong emphasis on food provision and promotion of healthy relationships with food through our Access to Childcare Fund, Summer 2022 programme and our Early Adopter Community projects. We will continue to monitor and evaluate the demand for food and the outcomes for children and families as a result of our investment in community tests of change.

We will continue to work with members from across the childcare and food insecurity sectors, to further understand how food provision can be successfully integrated with school age childcare to help reduce food insecurity and the effects of poverty; and to promote healthy relationships with food.

Rural and Island Communities

Our Draft Framework (2019) and Progress Report (2021) highlighted the challenges of providing childcare services in remote, rural and island areas. It also highlighted that demand for provision may be different in these areas due to the seasonal and sectoral nature of employment. Challenges that impact the entire childcare sector are often exacerbated in more rural locations, as indicated in the Accessing school age childcare in Scotland’s rural and island areas report which noted challenges school age childcare providers face with inconsistent demand; lack of funding; lack of facilities and transport; and issues with attracting and retaining qualified staff. It can be very difficult to deliver sustainable services where there may only be a small number of families with varying demands, and where those families are geographically dispersed.

We are also aware that “hidden poverty” can be an issue in rural areas. The types of employment most commonly found are often lower paid, while costs of living are higher. There is also increased risk of stigma in accessing free services in small communities, with low numbers of children. A Scottish Government (2021) report estimated that the minimum cost of living in remote rural Scotland is between 15% and 30% higher than urban parts of the UK. The research suggests that this is on account of significant additional costs, such as food, clothing, household goods and holidays.

We recognise that many of our rural and island communities face specific challenges and barriers to designing and delivering a year-round system of school age childcare. We will develop and test solutions that support the sustainability of essential school age childcare services within rural and island communities.

We will consider recent Child Poverty research, improving our understanding of child poverty in rural and island Scotland to begin to identify what form of targeted action is most suitable to tackle child poverty in rural settings, focusing on childcare solutions which are rooted in communities, recognising the critical importance of childcare services in rural and island areas. We are also aware of the importance of ensuring immersion opportunities are protected for Gaelic families and will work to grow and protect this essential stage in a young person’s language development. We will build evidence of the socio-economic benefits associated with provision of school age childcare, such as reducing child poverty, maintaining local populations, and ensuring language and cultural education (including protecting opportunities for Gaelic immersion).



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