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Chamber and committees

Citizen Participation and Public Petitions Committee

Scottish Government submission of 4 November 2021

PE1907/A - Provide funded early learning and childcare to all two-year-olds in Scotland

Background on the current offer

1. Early access to funded early learning and childcare for eligible two-year-olds is a key early intervention policy. Eligibility criteria currently target the children whom evidence suggests will benefit most from high quality ELC provision. 

2. We estimate around 14,500 children are currently eligible for funded ELC under the current criteria, out of a total population of around 53,000 two-year olds.

3. As well as their statutory duties to provide access to funded ELC to all eligible children (including eligible two-year olds), local councils also have discretion to provide access to any child residing in their area that they see fit. We are aware that some councils use this discretion to offer places to a wider range of children, either according to local priorities or according to the needs of the individual child.

Delivery of the expansion of 1140 hours

4. As of August 2021, all councils are offering up to 1140 hours of funded ELC to all eligible children, making high quality early learning and childcare available to families and saving parents up to £4,900 per year for each eligible child. Up to 130,000 children are expected to benefit this year as new children are enrolled, including eligible two year olds.

5. This is a significant milestone that has been achieved in the face of the pandemic by the Scottish Government, Local Government and our local delivery partners.

6. We recognise that delivering a targeted offer presents different challenges to a universal offer, particularly for younger children. Over the course of delivering the expansion we have learnt a great deal about how to ensure the programme meets the needs of children and their families. We are using this learning to inform the delivery of the new commitments set out in the Programme for Government.

New Programme for Government commitments

7. As part of the Programme for Government we have committed to expanding an early learning offer to all one and two-year-olds, starting with those from low-income families within this Parliament.

8. Delivering the 1140 commitment was a significant programme of work involving close working with partners, detailed planning and major new investment.

9. This year we will begin engagement with families, the early learning sector and academic experts to design how the new offer can best support children and families.