Early learning and childcare (ELC)

Early learning and childcare (ELC) is a generic term used to cover the full range of early education and childcare available in Scotland today. The term early learning and childcare is intended to emphasise that the care and education of very young children are inseparable. Babies, toddlers and young children learn all the time from their experiences.

ELC settings offer education and care to children up to school age. These include settings known as family centres, day nurseries, nursery schools and classes, childminders and playgroups. ELC settings can be operated by local authorities, private businesses, voluntary sector organisations, and in the case of childminders, self-employed individuals.

The term 'early learning and childcare' was introduced in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. The Act replaced the previous entitlement of up to 475 hours per year of funded ‘pre-school education’ for 3-5 year olds, with a more flexible increased offer of funded ELC for all 3-5 year olds and certain eligible 2 year olds. Since August 2021 families of eligible children can now access up to 1140 hours of Scottish Government funded ELC each year.

Some ELC settings allow parents to also purchase additional hours of ELC for children who have a funded entitlement, or for those who are not yet entitled to funded hours.

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