The funding will help the Scottish Government meet its commitment of recruiting an extra 435 graduates – one in every setting in a deprived area, by 2018.
Graduates will either be a teacher with early years expertise or a graduate practitioner with a BA Childhood Practice award.
The investment comes ahead of the move from 600 to 1,140 free childcare hours for every three- and four-year-old and deprived two-year-olds in Scotland by 2020.
Making the announcement while visiting the nursery at Gorebridge Primary School in Midlothian, the First Minister said, ‘Increasing the number of teachers and graduates in nurseries is absolutely crucial to tackling the attainment gap right from the start of a child’s education.
‘We all recognise the importance of high quality early learning and childcare to the development of our young people, and access to the right staff with the right expertise is key to this.
‘By providing the best possible start in life we can ensure our young people develop the skills and confidence they need to reach their full potential, we know this is particularly true for children who face the greatest disadvantage.’
Minister for childcare and early years Mark McDonald said, ‘This is an extremely exciting time for early learning and childcare as we take forward the most significant expansion ever seen in Scotland – almost doubling free provision to 1,140 hours by 2020.
‘During this expansion our priority is to ensure quality remains at the heart of the programme and a diverse, highly skilled workforce is key to achieving this.
‘We will work closely with local authorities to deliver this commitment in a way which maximises the number of children who will benefit.’
The announcement follows the Scottish Government’s consultation on the expansion of the free entitlement and its delivery, which closed nearly a fortnight ago.