Enrol your child for early learning and childcare

What is ELC all about and is it for us?

For Early Learning and Childcare places, enrolment week commences Monday 13 February and concludes on Friday 17 February 2023.

ELC stands for Early Learning and Childcare and includes providers like nurseries, playgroups and commissioned childminders. In those early years ELC can make a huge difference to families with young children. In an Early Learning and Childcare setting children can learn together through playing and having fun. It is a great way to learn skills for the future. However, ELC is not statutory, and it is for you to decide whether you want your child to participate and for how many hours from those available.

All 3 and 4-year olds, and eligible two-year olds, are entitled to funded Early Learning and Childcare.

Can my child have a place?

All children are eligible to an ELC place after they reach 3 years old until they start school, with start dates as follows:

Birth Date


1 March 2018 - 28 February 2019

15 August 2023 (Primary 1)

16 August 2018 - 28 February 2019

15 August 2023 (deferred entry)

1 March 2019 - 28 February 2020

15 August 2023

1 March 2020 – 31 August 2020

15 August 2023

1 September 2020 – 31 December 2020

8 January 2024

1 January 2021 – 29 February 2021

15 April 2024

What about 2 year olds?

The Scottish Government offers funded places for some 2-year old children: If you have a 2-year old child and receive certain benefits you could be entitled to free childcare. The hours become available within the eligibility dates after you, the parent, start receiving one of the following benefits:

  • Income Support
  • Job Seekers Allowance (Income based)
  • Any income related element of Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child Tax Credit, but not in receipt of Working Tax Credit, and an income below £17,005
  • Child Tax Credit and Working Tax Credit, and an income below £7,920
  • Support under Part VI of the immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Universal Credit with an earned household income below £660 per month
  • Incapacity Benefit or Severe Disablement Allowance
  • Pension Credit
  • Care experienced parent who has been in care under a UK local Authority.

In addition, children aged two or over who are (or have been at any point since turning two) looked after by a local Council, the subject of a kinship care or guardianship order are eligible for a funded place.

How do I choose an ELC setting or Childminder?

In parts of Highland you may have a choice of different types of settings. The main thing is that you feel comfortable with the setting/s you choose and that your child will be happy there.
In Highland there are different types of early learning and childcare with parents able to choose one or a mix of service provision to suit your needs:

  • Nurseries: Can be either commissioned partner providers or settings run by the Highland Council.
  • Outdoor Nurseries: They focus on outdoor learning experiences where either some of the day or the full day’s activities are delivered outdoors. Can be commissioned partner providers or run by the Highland Council.
  • Commissioned childminders look after children in their own home and follow the same curriculum as nurseries.

All children are entitled to a funded meal if their session is 4 or more hours. You may wish to enquire how this works in the setting/s you are interested in.
The interactive map that can be accessed from the following link will provide you with an over view of the different provision in your area.

Map of ELC settings

Can I split my child’s entitlement over different settings?

Yes, you can split your child’s entitled hours over more than one provider.

How do I enrol?

Please follow the Map of ELC settings or contact your your choice of setting then make direct contact and they will be able to advise you on enrolment arrangements.

What does ‘funding follows the child’ mean?

Even if you change provider at any point in the year the funding will go to the new local authority setting, partner nursery or commissioned childminder. You don’t need to do anything other than register with any new provider and deregister with the previous setting. We need a month’s notice of your change of provider.

When do I know if we have a place?

This can be an anxious time and decisions will be made as quickly as possible.

My child had additional needs, what do I do?

If you feel your child may need additional help in your chosen setting, talk to the setting and to your health visitor about what support your child might need.

What if I have more questions?

This is just a short guide, so if you have a question it does not cover, you are welcome to get in touch. The first place to ask would be your local ELC setting by email or telephone:





Information for parents

Careers in ELC