Your early learning and childcare options

Children aged 3 and 4

All 3 and 4 year olds can have up to 1140 hours of early learning and childcare per year, depending on the child's start date.

When children can start

When children can start early learning and childcare
The child turns 3 in The child can start in
January February (1 month and 1 day after 3rd birthday)
February March (1 month and 1 day after 3rd birthday)
March to August August (start of autumn term)
September October (1 month and 1 day after 3rd birthday)
October November (1 month and 1 day after 3rd birthday)
November January (start of winter term)
December January (start of winter term)

How to apply

There are separate application processes for:

  • school nurseries
  • and all other funded providers.

School nurseries

When the child turns 2, you can register at a school nursery. Ask the school for the application form.

Schools will confirm places:

  • in May for children due to start between August and December
  • in October for children due to start between January and March.

Other providers

All other providers process their own applications for 3 and 4 year-olds. Contact them directly.

You can also download and print an application (PDF). Complete the form and take it to your chosen provider.


Childminders can also provide places for your ELC funded hours. If so, they will tell you about funded places.

For more information, contact:

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Additional support needs

Children with additional support needs may get support to overcome barriers to attending.

Questions answered

Do I need to attend the school nursery for my child’s catchment Primary school?

No, your child does not have to go to your catchment school nursery to get a P1 place there. They can go anywhere you choose, in or out of Midlothian (not Edinburgh, see note below), as long as the provider:

  • meets the national standard
  • is in partnership with the council
  • and has a place.

Note: Edinburgh Council no longer accept children from other council areas in their partnership nursery settings.

All providers have robust transition programmes to support your child’s move to primary school. 

Will I have to take up the full 1140 hours?

You may prefer not to take the full 1140 hours. Providers tend to be flexible, so discuss your preferred pattern with them.

Can my child attend for more than the funded 1140 hours?

You may be able to pay for more hours, depending on the provider and on available places. The hours will be agreed between yourself and the provider, and a charge will apply. 

For more information, visit Childcare you can pay for.

Can I split my hours over more than one provider?

You can have a “blended” place between 2 approved providers. Both must be able to offer the hours you are looking for, so research the options ahead of time.

You must apply to both settings. If one is in a school, the child must attend there for at least 2 days per week.

Will my child receive a snack and meal?

Yes, children attending funded ELC sessions are entitled to a free meal and a drink and snack.

Meals and snacks are nutritious and low in added sugars. Children can make their own choices, making snack time a learning experience.

You can ask providers about the food, and discuss any dietary requirements.