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Early learning and childcare (ELC)

What is early learning and childcare?

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 not two separate things, and that babies and young children are learning all the time from all their experiences.

Early learning and childcare settings are all those which offer education and childcare to children up to school age. These include settings known as family centres, nursery schools, nursery classes attached to primary schools, and childminders. Early learning and childcare 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 free sessions of pre-school education for 3-5 year olds, with a more flexible offer of up to 600 hours ELC per year for 3-5 year olds and certain eligible 2 year olds. Parents may also purchase additional hours of ELC for children who have an entitlement, and those who are not yet entitled to free hours.

Frameworks and guidance

The Scottish Government is currently consulting on A Blueprint for 2020: The expansion of early learning and childcare in Scotland. This document sets out the Government’s vision for ELC, its progress to date in realising the vision, and seeks views on the future developments.

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’.

Building the Ambition (2014), is national practice guidance for all those delivering early learning and childcare to babies, toddlers and young children.

Pre-Birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland’s Children and Families is national guidance to support practitioners and students working with babies and toddlers aged 0-3 and their families.

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, supporting a smooth transition in learning between ELC and primary school.

Related links

Support materials on the National Improvement Hub:

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