An Equal Start: A plan for equality in early learning and care in Scotland

Overview —

This report is a plan for delivering this change through a National Childcare Service in public provision, as a replacement for the fragmented, haphazard and unequal nature of the childcare sector at present. The report provides a comprehensive, costed strategy for achieving this transformation.


John Davis, Rona MacNicol
Lynn McNair, Jamie Mann
Melissa O’Neill, Ben Wray

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The Scottish Government has voiced a clear commitment to making childcare affordable, accessible and to a world class standard. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has proposed to double the expenditure on childcare in order to achieve this.

The key change proposed is to increase the amount of free hours of childcare available to all 3-4 year olds and ‘vulnerable’ 2 year olds from 15 to 30 per week (1,140 per year). This doubling of free hours brings with it challenges, most notably that the childcare sector in Scotland is not currently prepared for such a significant increase in the statutory right of 145,000 young children to 30 hours per week of high-quality childcare by 2020.

The purpose of this report is not to further analyse the childcare sector in Scotland, but to offer solutions to the big challenge the Scottish Government has set itself. This report is about how the Scottish Government can deliver on its commitment to transform the childcare sector in Scotland.


― The target to double childcare provision will require radical changes to the infrastructure to deliver that care. Current architecture cannot be easily or simply scaled up.

― Current plans would place the burden of funding the changes on Local Authorities without giving them additional resources to cover it.

― A National Childcare Service could be established by 2020 to deliver these services.

― The buy-out and nationalisation of private childcare services would be optional though services that refuse would have to demonstrate that they meet or exceed the standards of care offered by the national service to qualify for state funding.

― In societies that have high levels of equality, fairness and prosperity, early years learning and care is treated with the same seriousness as school education. Setting our ambitions any lower than this would be a dereliction of our responsibilities to future generations of Scots.

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