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Early learning and childcare places

Find out when and how to enrol your child at a nursery. Unlike school, your child doesn't legally have to attend one or any kind of pre-school. Before you apply for a place there are some things you need to know:

Education Scotland and Care Inspectorate regulate all early learning and childcare providers. We also check them for quality assurance.

For more information please refer to our Early Learning and Childcare Application Booklet 2020/21 (pdf 848KB).

Funded hours

Funded early learning and childcare is free to parents, but funded by the Scottish Government.

All 3 and 4 year olds are eligible to get a funded part-time place at a council nursery, or funding towards a place at a funded provider (private nurseries and playgroups that we have an agreement with). Some children younger than age 3 may also be eligible.

Funding for nursery places is not renewed automatically. It is important that you apply for a funded place each year or your funding may stop.

Funding covers up to 600 hours of early learning and childcare each term year (up to 16 hours per week), but will be increasing to 1140 hours each term year (up to 30 hours per week) from August 2020. For more information on this increase in hours, please see childcare extended hours.

Not all private nurseries and playgroups are funded providers and there is no funding towards places they offer. View list of funded nurseries and playgroups.

Council nurseries

Your child can attend a council nursery only on a part time basis (Monday to Friday). Most will only be open during term time, however we are beginning a programme of trials to open during holiday periods as well. Please contact the council nursery for more details. 

The amount of funded hours your child is entitled to is limited. If you would like your child to attend a council nursery but need childcare for longer hours, you will have to find and pay for additional childcare.

Council nurseries are attached to primary schools but there is no guarantee your child will be able to stay at that school for their primary education. Your child can attend a nursery outwith your primary school zone.

Funded providers

We have an agreement with some private nurseries, playgroups and registered childminders, known as funded providers. They offer funded hours through Scottish Government funding at the same standard of learning as council nurseries.

Private nurseries are usually open all day, Monday to Friday, for most weeks in the year, except public holidays. Sessions are usually between 2.5 and 8 hours per day. You can agree how to use your funded hours with your chosen funded provider but you will have to pay for any extra hours. Costs differ so you will need to contact your chosen provider to find out how much they charge.

Playgroups are known as informal nurseries with a more casual approach. They tend to only provide part time sessions (either morning or afternoon) outside school holidays. Sessions are limited to the funded hours available. They don't offer additional hours that you can pay for.

Additional support needs

If your child has additional support needs (ASN), let us know when you apply for a nursery place. They may be given priory when places are allocated

Find a nursery or playgroup

View a list of all nurseries and all playgroups (funded and private) on the Scottish Family Information Service website.

Moving your child to a different nursery setting 

If you would like to move your child to a different facility, discuss it with your child's current nursery or playgroup in the first instance. The Early Years team will then give you a transfer request form to complete and return to them. Transfer will normally only be granted in exceptional circumstances.