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.
- The Early Years Framework (2008) sets out a vision for early years services in Scotland to ensure that children get ‘the best start in life’.
- Realising the Ambition: Being Me (2020) is the national practice guidance for early years in Scotland. The guidance covers the period from birth through early childhood into primary education.
- Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) builds on the solid foundations developed in the critical years pre-birth to three. Within CfE, children are entitled to a broad general education from age three until the end of S3. The early level of CfE for most children spans the period of time from age three until the end of Primary 1. It supports a smooth transition in learning between ELC and primary school.
- How good is our early learning and childcare? (2016) provides a suite of quality indicators. These support staff to look inwards, to scrutinise their work and evaluate what is working well for babies, toddlers and young children, and what could be better. The framework is designed to be used to support self-evaluation for self-improvement by practitioners at all levels.
- Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare providers: Principles and practice
- The National Improvement Hub (NIH) provides a range of resources for practitoners tagged by subject. Searching for Early learning and childcare on the NIH ensures you are checking the most up-to-date list of ELC resources. The ELC summary page provides a quick and easy way to find resources relevant to the ELC sector.
- The Scottish Government website provides up to date information about early learning and childcare policy and Covid-19 guidance for the sector.
- The Care Inspectorate has both a corporate website and hub to support practitioners.
- The Scottish Social Services Council provides information for the social services workforce.
- The General Teaching Council of Scotland provides information for teachers in Scotland.