Children whose parents decide to defer primary school attendance will receive an extra year of free childcare from 2023, the children’s minister has announced.
The Scottish Government’s flagship policy to increase the level of funded early learning and childcare (ELC) from 600 hours to 1140 was delayed earlier this year due to Covid-19.
But a progress report has found 61% of children receiving free care are already getting the target amount.
On Monday, Maree Todd gave an assurance to parents who decide to delay the school start date for their children.
Under current rules, any child aged four at the time of the start of the school year can defer entry for a year but only those born in January or February are entitled to free childcare, with local authorities deciding if others qualify.
From August 2023, that decision will be taken out of the hands of councils.
“This will ensure that all children who defer will have an equal right to continue with funded ELC if their parent or carer feels it is in their best interests,” Ms Todd said.
While the announcement will increase the number of children in receipt of funded ELC, Ms Todd said a start date of August 2023 “will ensure we are ready to deliver”.
She added: “The Covid-19 pandemic meant that we had to delay moving to the new statutory entitlement of 1140 hours of funded ELC for all eligible children and I will soon be able to confirm when delivery of this transformational policy will happen.
“We will continue to work with education authorities on the implementation of this expanded offer to families and will make more information available in due course.
“I would encourage all families considering deferral to contact their local authority and visit the Parent Club website to find out more.”