According to the Care Inspectorate’s latest annual report, in 2015, 249,400 children were registered at early years settings, up from 240,960 in 2013 – an increase of 3.5 per cent or 8,440 children.
However, while overall the number of children attending early learning and childcare services has increased, the number registered with childminders has fallen.
The figures also show that more nurseries, children and family centres and playgroups are now offering the funded places.
As well as this, more settings, nurseries in particular, are offering full-time rather than part-time sessions.
The lack of flexibility of nursery provision has continued to be an issue in Scotland. The Fair Funding for our Kids (FFFOK) campaign group claims that one in five children are missing out on their free nursery place because of inflexible hours in council-run and private, voluntary and independent nurseries.
Carolyn Lochhead, volunteer campaigner with Fair Funding for our Kids, said, 'Our FOI requests earlier this year showed that 65 per cent of all funded nursery places in Scotland are for half days only. This just isn't usable for working parents. With some councils still capping the number of places they will pay for in private nurseries, there's a long way to go to improve childcare in Scotland.'
Other findings of the report include:
- The capacity of childcare settings have risen by three-per-cent since within a year;
- The number of private nurseries have increased;
- More than 41-per-cent of daycare services and 44-per-cent of childminders are rated good or excellent for all themes;
- There were fewer complaints upheld about childminders and childcare settings compared to previous years.
Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate, said, ‘This is a time of significant change in early years in Scotland, with big increases planned in the number of funded hours of childcare. These statistics provide an overview of early learning and childcare in Scotland and will play a major role in shaping national and local policy.
‘I hope these figures will be useful as councils and providers plan how early learning and childcare will expand and be available to even more children.’
Claire Schofield, director of membership, policy and communications at National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA), said, 'This report underlines the important role that the private daycare sector play in the delivery of early learning and childcare in Scotland.
'The sector is growing - the overall number of private daycare settings has increased for the first time in recent years.
'It’s vital the Government offer the right support for private nursery workforces as we head towards 1,140 hours, so that the sector can recruit, train and retain the skilled people it needs to make expanded free childcare a success.'