From home to early learning and childcare

When will my child start early learning and childcare?

All three and four-year-old children, and some two-year-olds, in Scotland have the entitlement to 600 hours per year of early learning and childcare. The Scottish Government is committed to increasing the Early Learning and Childcare entitlement to 1140 hours per year by August 2020. This is to improve outcomes for all children, especially those who are more vulnerable or disadvantaged. It will also support parents to work, train or study. You can find out more information about how free early learning and childcare is being delivered in your area on the Scottish Government's Early learning and childcare website. It is important that your child has the opportunity to access the highest quality provision. As a parent or carer you may know right away which provision will suit you and your child or you may be very undecided. The following frequently asked questions and answers will support you to make this important decision.

What do high quality early learning and childcare settings do?

In high quality early learning and childcare settings everyone is welcomed and the atmosphere is open, caring and friendly. Children’s wellbeing is utmost and they are treated as individuals. Adults are sensitive to children’s different traits and personalities. Staff are interested in your opinions about what your child likes and dislikes. Children are encouraged to develop their own ideas, thoughts and opinions. They are involved in a wide range of exciting activities which are helping them to develop a curiosity about the world around them. Through rich playful experiences, children are developing early language and early mathematical skills. It is clear that adults in the setting enjoy being part of children’s early learning and development.

What is learning through play?

For most children play is natural and spontaneous. Research has shown this is the best way for young children to learn. Through play young children develop their emotions, creative, social and intellectual skills. During play young children can learn about the world around them and practise new ideas and skills and solve problems. Your child will be encouraged to do all these things with friends and/or on their own, choosing from a wide range of experiences and activities. Play is rich early learning and adults provide support to enhance the learning. Learning experiences to develop language and number skills are key during play activities. Early learning and childcare is about learning, playing, exploring and having fun in a safe environment.

Where will I find an early learning and childcare setting?

Early learning and childcare can be delivered in a nursery setting attached to a primary school, a free standing nursery, a family centre, a private nursery or voluntary nursery. In some areas of Scotland childminders provide early learning and childcare. Further information can be found on the Scottish Childminding Association website. Your local authority will be able to advise you about early learning and childcare providers in your area or you can search on the Scottish Family Information Service​ website for more details.

What should I consider when choosing an early learning and childcare setting?

It may be useful for you to arrange at least one visit and ask for the opportunity for your child and yourself to take part in some activities. Take time to ensure that the setting meets your needs and that you feel your child will be valued as an individual, feel safe, feel secure and will enjoy being in the setting. Go with your instinct. Ask yourself - do you feel happy and comfortable?

The visit

During your visit to the setting you should see and experience the following:

  • a learning environment where children are happy, motivated and engaged in play experiences
  • a leader who wants the best for all the children and is very proud of their achievements
  • lots of discussion and engagement between children and adults
  • children who are curious, and inquisitive and adults support their interests
  • good quality materials and resources, including some unusual items that would not be found at home
  • confident, knowledgeable, approachable staff who are supportive to children and parents
  • staff listening and talking with children, families and staff
  • the setting feels and looks safe and secure including a secure entry system
  • clear information displayed for parents including a handbook, transition procedures, links with the community and learning opportunities
  • children’s art, writing and photographs of activities are on display and everyone is proud of the these achievements.

During and after your visit you may wish to look at some more information about the setting. This will further help you choose the correct setting for your child. Some of the information you may find useful is:

  • the current standards and quality report and improvement plan for the setting
  • most recent inspection reports available for the setting - you can download and read the latest Education Scotland inspection reports and Care Inspectorate reports
  • parent handbook
  • enrolment policy
  • transition procedures
  • setting website/blog.

There will be many questions you want to ask and it might be helpful to make a list before your visit. The following are some questions that may be useful when you visit:

  • What are the settling in procedures?
  • How will I know that my child will be safe and happy?
  • Who will look after my child and help him learn?
  • What will my child do during the session?
  • What activities will my child be involved in?
  • What will my child learn about?
  • How will I know what my child has been learning?
  • What do I need to bring for my child?
  • What will my child do during the session?
  • Can I stay with my child?
  • In what ways can I be involved?
  • Can my child come to nursery if he/she is not toilet trained?
  • How will the setting support my child when he/she is toilet training?
  • How much will it cost me?

These are just some of the questions you may wish to ask. You should feel comfortable to ask any questions that are on your mind.