The Care Inspectorate has today published its annual report on early learning and childcare provision in Scotland.

The figures show how, where and to whom early learning and childcare is provided.

The report looks at both childminders operating in their own home, and daycare of children services including nurseries, playgroups, out of school care and holiday play schemes.

This is the seventh year these statistics have been produced.

You can find the full publication on our website, in the statistics section.

The main findings include:

More children experiencing early learning and childcare

  • The number of children registered with early learning and childcare services has increased again. 252,200 children were registered at 31 December 2016, an increase of 1.1% from 249,400 children registered in 2015.
  • The number of children registered increased in both childminding and daycare of children services and the increase has mainly been in 2-year-old children as well as 6 and 7-11 year old children. 

Number of registered services and service capacity

  • At 31 December 2016 there were 9,402 registered early learning and childcare services in Scotland (3,733 daycare of children services and 5,669 childminding services), a decrease of 3.3% compared to 2015. The high drop of 4.8% in the number of childminders (-285 services) was in large part due to a procedural change in the Care Inspectorate relating to inactive services. Inactive services do not offer places to children and many of these inactive services cancelled their registration as they did not intend to offer a service in the future. This was reinforced by the increase in the number of children registered with childminding services. The small decrease in the number of daycare of children services (-39 services) was mainly due to a decrease in the number of playgroups.
  • The overall capacity in early learning and childcare services increased by 1.9% from 196,440 in 2015 to 200,190 registered places available at 31 December 2016. Both the capacity in childminding services as well as daycare of children services increased in 2016. The increase in daycare of children capacity was due to an increase in capacity in nurseries (+3.4%) and out of school care services (+4.6%).
  • Along with the increase in overall capacity, the average size of daycare of children services has also been increasing every year to 44.2 places in 2016. 

Funded places and service availability

  • The proportion of services providing funded early learning and childcare (ELC) has increased in 2016. At 31 December 2016, 93.9% of nurseries, 72.0% of children and family centres and 75.4% of playgroups provided funded places.
  • More daycare of children services now offer whole-day sessions: almost 55% offered this option. Almost all private nurseries (96.3%) offered whole-day sessions. There was a particular increase in service provision in local authority nurseries: 34.1% of local authority nurseries offered the option of whole-day sessions, an 8.2 percentage point increase from last year.
  • Breakfast and after school care has increased across all service categories, with childminders, private nurseries and out of school care services continuing to offer the highest levels of care before and after school. The proportion of services offering a service in the morning before school hours has increased from 55.1% in 2015 to 65.0% in 2016. The increase could be seen across all service types, but was particularly high in nurseries (especially in local authorities nurseries) and out of school care services. 

Quality of services

  • The quality of services remained high overall with 91.8% of childminders and 87.6% of daycare of children services found to be good or better for all quality themes. The proportions of childminders and daycare of children services with all grades weak or unsatisfactory remained very low.
  • In general, childminders and nurseries had higher grades than out of school care or playgroups, while children and family centres consistently had the highest grades of all early learning and childcare service types.

Geographical variance in service provision

  • Urban – rural areas: As in previous years there were more early learning and childcare services per population aged 0-15 years old in rural than in urban areas. However, services in urban areas were on average more than twice as large (in terms of maximum capacity) as services in rural areas. The fact that there is similar capacity available in urban compared to rural areas is supported by marginal differences in the rate of capacity per 10,000 population between urban and rural areas. In terms of service quality, there were no distinct differences between services located in rural or urban areas.
  • Levels of deprivation: There were proportionately fewer childminders in the 10% most deprived areas (20.3 per 10,000 population 0-15 years old) than in the 10% least deprived areas (74.4 per 10,000 population 0-15 years old). There were differences in the nursery provision by provider sectors between areas with different levels of deprivation. The areas in the 30% least deprived zones had the lowest proportion of local authority nurseries, but the highest proportion of private nurseries.
  • For childminding services the quality of services varied according to the levels of deprivation - as levels of deprivation decreased, the availability of high quality childminders increased. For daycare of children services as a whole, there was not a clear link between availability of high quality services and levels of deprivation.