Since 2016/17 the Scottish Government and local authorities have been planning for an increase in funded early years learning from a statuary annual provision of 600 hours per child, to 1140 hours per child for all eligible three and four-year-olds and vulnerable two-year-olds.
The duty on local authorities to secure 1140 hours funded early learning and childcare (ELC), originally intended to come into effect in August 2020, was revoked in April 2020. This was to give local authorities the flexibility to focus on responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, and because the closure of colleges and construction sites due to lockdown made it impossible to complete the building of nurseries and the recruitment of ELC staff in time for August 2020. As agreed with COSLA and Scottish Ministers, the duty has since been reinstated and will now come into effect in August 2021.
With recruitment ongoing and infrastructure programmes continuing to deliver additional space, we now look to August 2021 for the full delivery of 1140, and beyond to an ever improving ELC sector.
Data collected from local authorities by the Improvement Service indicates that 114,222 children were accessing funded ELC as of the end of February 2021, and of these, 86% were accessing more than the statutory entitlement of 600 hours, with 74,096 children (65%) accessing 1140 hours funded ELC. This is a continued increase in the numbers of children accessing an expanded offer of funded ELC, showing the commitment to delivering this transformational programme across the country. The benefits achieved for children and families is testament to the enormous work being completed by local authorities during challenging times.
The Improvement Service ELC team are in place to support local authorities in the planning and implementation of the expansion, and in wider service refinement and improvement. We take a holistic approach to supporting councils, providing expertise on business analysis, workforce planning and knowledge management to ensure that capacity is built within the sector to deliver a quality service in the expansion programme.