The Care Inspectorate has today published early learning and childcare statistics for Scotland, showing the availability and quality of early learning and childcare for children and families across the country.

The publication includes information about childminders, playgroups, out of school care and different kinds of nurseries.

The figures, which cover 2017, show that the number of children registered with early learning and childcare services has increased again.

A total of 253,280 children were registered at 31 December 2017, an increase of 0.4% from 252,200 children registered in 2016.

However while the overall quality of services remains high, there was a slight change in the way children accessed early learning and childcare services.

At 31 December 2017 there were 9,127 registered early learning and childcare services in Scotland (3,701 daycare of children services and 5,426 childminding services) a decrease of 2.9% compared to 2016.

The drop of 4.3% in the number of childminders (243 fewer services) was in large part due to a reduction in the number of new services registering in 2017.

In 2017, there were 477 new childminding services registered compared to 592 in 2016. The small decrease in the number of daycare of children services (32 fewer services) was mainly due to a decrease in the number of playgroups.

The overall capacity in early learning and childcare services decreased slightly by 0.2%, from 200,190 in 2016 to 199,869 registered places available at 31 December 2017.

Total capacity in childminding services decreased while capacity in daycare of children services increased in 2017. The increase in daycare of children places was due to an increase in capacity in nurseries and out of school care services.

Gordon Weir, interim chief executive of the Care Inspectorate said: “High quality early learning and childcare benefits children across Scotland. It helps them to have the best start in life and supports them in their learning journey throughout school and beyond.

“It also provides a crucial service for families and can support parents to access employment or training early learning and childcare can play a key role in reducing the poverty-related attainment gap.

“The Care Inspectorate’s job is to ensure that early learning and childcare is high quality, meets children’s needs and respects their rights.

“We see examples of excellent early learning and childcare services across the local authority, voluntary and private sectors in all parts of Scotland, with many services operating at the very highest levels of quality.

“We are pleased to note the quality of services remained high overall with 92.1% of childminders and 88.3% of daycare of children services found to operating at a level of good or better for all quality themes. This represents a slight increase compared to 2016, when 91.8% of childminders and 87.6% of daycare services were achieving this standard.”

Today’s report shows the proportions of childminders and daycare of children services with all quality themes found to be weak or unsatisfactory remained very low.

In general, childminders and nurseries had higher evaluations than out of school care or playgroups, while children and family centres consistently had the best evaluations of all early learning and childcare service types.

Nurseries provided by local authorities achieved the highest evaluations compared to those operated by other sectors. 94.5% of local authority nursery services were found to be good or better in all quality themes, ahead of voluntary/not for profit services (88.2%) and private nurseries (81.5%).

The full report is available here.