Every local authority in Scotland is now ready to deliver 1140 hours of free early learning and childcare (ELC) by the start of the new term, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
On a visit to Fallin Nursery in Stirling on Wednesday, the First Minister said the move would help to provide kids with skills and confidence ahead of starting school.
It will be available for all three and four-year-olds, as well as two-year-olds who need it the most.
The funded ELC of 1140 hours is an expansion from 600 hours, with work undertaken by the Scottish Government, local authorities and ELC providers.
It is estimated that the expansion will benefit up to 130,000 children and save families childcare costs of about £4900 per child each year.
“All children deserve the best start in life,” said the First Minister.
“Providing access to free, high-quality early learning and childcare enriches children’s early years and provides them with skills and confidence for starting school and beyond.
“It also supports parents’ ability to work, train or study.
“I am delighted to announce that every local authority in Scotland has assured us they are ready to deliver the 1140 hours offer by the start of the new term – a truly transformational offer that will benefit children and families all over the country.
“Getting to this point, especially given the challenges of the pandemic, has taken a mammoth effort and I’d like to thank local authorities and private and voluntary sector providers for helping to make it happen.”
Early Years Scotland chief executive Jane Brumpton welcomed the announcement.
“Children and families will now have access to more funded hours of early learning and childcare than ever before,” she said.
“We know that investing in the earliest years of a child’s life is crucial to a child’s positive development, and has long-lasting impacts on outcomes in health, education, and positive life chances.
“Early Years Scotland very much welcomes this duty coming into force, and will work closely with Scottish Government and our members to support the rollout of this important policy.”