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How ELC gives your kids extra TLC

What is ELC?

It stands for Early Learning and Childcare and includes providers like nurseries, playgroups and childminders. In those early years when little ones are learning all the time ELC can make a huge difference to families with young children. And here’s the really good bit - all 3 and 4 year olds, and around a quarter of 2 year olds can get up to 600 hours of childcare, funded by the Scottish Government and local authorities. And it’s about to get even bigger and better. 

From August 2020, your funded hours will nearly double to 1140 a year. That's up to 30 hours a week if you use it during school term time, or around 22 hours a week if you use it year round.

Sheila and her children Chloe and Liam make the most of their free ELC hours. Here’s their story.

ELC has a big impact on little lives

ELC plays a really important role in the development of little minds and bodies. It helps to fire wee imaginations, gets them involved in lots of indoor and outdoor activities, and starts friendships that can be carried into primary school and beyond.

Your children are already getting lots of good learning at home but ELC can really give it a boost. With ELC your child gets plenty of benefits and because it’s funded by the government more families across the country can make the most of it. Is there a catch? Nope, ELC is available to all three and four year olds, and around a quarter of two year olds too! You can find out if your two year-old is eligible on your local authorities page, from the drop-down list below: 


Photo fo child with toys

Photo fo child with toys

ELC is also brilliant for you

Photo of children in ELC setting

Photo of children in ELC setting

With more time for recharging your batteries, working or even training, ELC lets you give yourself some TLC too. That makes it a complete win-win for you and your children, but it also offers up the chance to meet other mums and dads, share tips and discover other places of support in your community. So now you know what ELC is, let’s have a look at the details.

How many hours of funded ELC can my child get?

All 3 and 4 year olds, and around a quarter of 2 year olds can get up to 600 hours of funded ELC a year. That works out at about 16 hours a week if you use it during school term-time, or around 12 hours a week if you use it year round.

ELC is getting bigger and better

By August 2020, the number of funded hours will almost double from 600 to 1140 a year, giving you even more choice on when and where to use it. This increase is for all 3 and 4 year olds, and about a quarter of 2 year olds.

When will that change happen?

This will be available for everyone from August 2020, but the increase is being phased in right now but each local authority will be doing it differently. What’s being offered in this ‘phasing period’ might not be the same as what will be on offer from August 2020. For more information on how the extra hours are being rolled out in your area.

To get in touch with your Local Authority, use the drop down box below:

Who provides ELC?

Depending on the providers your local authority partners with, it could be a nursery, childminder or playgroup. They will be registered with the Care Inspectorate, and if they have a space available, they should be happy to offer your child a place.

What are the different types available?


Photo of children making friends at ELC

Photo of children making friends at ELC

Nurseries come in all shapes and sizes and specialise in offering daycare to children under 5. They could be private, non-profit or run by the local authority.

Private nurseries often care for babies from as young as 6 weeks old and generally have longer opening hours.

All nurseries can offer a fun, safe place to play and learn in the care of well-trained and experienced staff. It’s useful to visit a few in your area to really get a feel for what will be right for you and your child.


Childminders usually look after children in their own home. Normally it’s just for a small group of children and can often include the childminder’s own kids too.

Childminders are self-employed, and can sometimes be more flexible with their working hours. They follow the same type of curriculum as nurseries and playgroups, & will make the most of local parks, libraries and even other playgroups to provide your child with lots of fun and learning.

Outdoor learning provisions

photo of ELC group outside

photo of ELC group outside

Some ELC services have more of a focus on outdoor experiences where either some of the day or the full day’s activities are delivered outdoors.

They might be located in local woodland, a park or some other green space, or the children will visit these places as part of their day. With easy access to loads of outdoor activities and experiences, children get to enjoy more fun in the fresh air.


Playgroups are voluntary sector services run by parent committees, often with other parents helping out. They follow the same guidelines as nurseries with the same commitment to staff qualifications and ratios. Like nurseries, playgroups offer kids loads of different indoor and outdoor activities to get them inspired during the day and burn off lots of energy while they're at it!

Children and family centres:

Children and family centres (also called Community nurseries) usually offer a full-day for wee ones from 0 - 5 years. They can also include other helpful support and services for families.

What kind of flexibility can I get?

Well, it really all depends on what’s available in your area. What’s on offer will be different all over the country. But there are many different types of ELC out there which means you might be able to choose from:

  • Full days
  • Part days
  • School days
  • Term time or year round.

How to find your nearest provider:

You can find registered providers in your area by visiting the Care Inspectorate website. You can also contact your local authority to find out about funded places near you from the drop-down list below


Do I have to take the funded hours?

No, the hours are an entitlement, not a requirement, so you can choose to take all or part of the hours available to you.

How do I access these hours?

Each local authority has its own application process and dates – which means you might have to apply a year in advance depending on where you live. Contact them to find out when and how to apply by using the dropdown below.


Who doesn't provide ELC?

There are other childcare options that parents sometimes choose that don’t offer funded Early Learning and Childcare. For example:

Out of School Care

This is usually for school age children and includes breakfast clubs, after school clubs and services, and holiday clubs. Many also provide a full-day service during the school holidays.


They offer drop-in care for children to allow adults time to tackle other things, like further education, shopping or having a break! Sometimes these are registered with the Care Inspectorate and have inspections available online, but not all creches have to be registered.


Nannies are employees of a family. They may live-in or come to the home every day on a full or part time basis. They might have qualifications or experience but they don’t have the same registration requirements as other types of childcare.