1140 hours of early learning from 2020

Expansion update, June 2020

We are committed to increasing free early learning and childcare as soon as it's safe to do so. The Scottish Government has postponed the expansion to 1140 hours, as social distancing reduces the number of children that settings can care for.

If restrictions continue, we cannot offer everyone 1140 hours from August, but we're planning for all eligible children to get their entitlement of 600 hours in the 2020/2021 academic year. 

Revised guidance

The Scottish Government and the Care Inspectorate will publish revised guidance in mid-June. We will review our plans then, and maximise the funded hours we can offer, with priority given to those children most in need.

We will contact you with details of the hours you can receive as soon as we can.

Phasing in the new hours

We will phase in the expanded hours. The phasing will depend on government funding and policy priorities.

Learning communities

These are geographical, centred on our main population areas:

The communities include all providers, including council, private and voluntary sector nurseries and childminders.

Your choices

All providers will have to meet a new national standard. This is so your child will get the same quality early learning, whether they attend a council nursery, childminder, private nursery or other setting. We will work with all of the funded providers to make sure they continue to meet the new national standard.

Your child will not have to go to the school nursery to get a place at the catchment school. They can go anywhere you choose either within or outwith Midlothian, as long as the provider meets the national standard and has a place available. 

Delivery model

Children will not be entitled to a set pattern of hours, but will get an offer of 1140 hours from 2020. We plan to have at least one school ELC setting in each learning community open for 50 weeks of the year from August 2020.  Most schools will operate according to the school term time. This will mean children would go for 30 hours a week (6 hours a day, 5 days a week during term).

Private and voluntary providers - for example day nurseries, childminders, pre-school and playgroups - can be more flexible as many are open all year round. They can also offer you more childcare to 'wrap around' the 1140 hours entitlement. However this is a private arrangement between you and the provider. It must not be a condition of taking up the funded hours. You should contact them to find out more. 

If a provider is open for more weeks than the school term, the funded hours could include:

  • Shorter funded days over more weeks. For example: 4.5 hours in either mornings or afternoons, 5 days a week for 50 weeks of the year.
  • Or longer days for for 2.5 days a weeks for more weeks. For example: 9 hour days, 2 days a week, and one morning or afternoon session for 50 weeks of the year.
  • More options will be available, depending on the results of our pilots.

Robust arrangements will be in place to make sure children are well supported when moving from early learning and childcare into Primary 1.  

Start and end times

We expect to have a limited amount of time for flexible drop-offs and pick-ups within the hours allocated.


We are committed to providing a free meal to children with a funded place from August 2020.

Funding follows the child

As all providers will offer the same high quality care, they will be what's known as 'provider neutral'. This means you can be confident about choosing a place for your child. You won't have to pay for any of the funded entitlement up front, including any deposit. Funded providers also can't charge top-up fees or ask families to buy extra hours to access the funded hours.

Current pilots

We are reviewing the pilots, which will go forward into phase 3. There may be some changes to how places are allocated, for example numbers, and if your child is eligible.

Head teachers in the phase 2 and 3 pilots will report to parents/carers.


We will be writing to you about your options from August 2019. We plan to move to a centralised system to allocate places. We will update these pages with more information when we have it.

Until then, apply to your preferred provider, including details of your first, second and third choice of settings. Links to the list of all providers in each learning community are in the learning communities section above.

Our 1140 hours newsletters

We’ll keep you up-to-date with newsletters and other information:

Previous survey results

In November and December 2017, we asked how you could best use the expanded hours. Here's what you told us.

Careers in childcare

Many more staff will be needed in nurseries and childminders. Would you consider a career in childcare?