Gap in learning and funding will now widen, says think tank

Today the Scottish Government published the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill.  The proposed legislation covers a number of areas including government-funded nursery provision.  

In January this year Reform Scotland’s report, “An Equal Start”, highlighted that at present not all children are entitled to the same level of government-funded nursery provision

Our research showed that although some children are entitled to two years of government-funded nursery provision, others are entitled to as little as 15 months and in practice may receive even less. This can lead to a gap in learning for the child, and a gap in funding for some families who use partnership nurseries of over £1,000.
Unlike school provision where all children start at a fixed point in the year and have an equal entitlement, government funding for nursery provision begins only the term after a child turns three, so any child who would be due to begin school at the age of four receives less than two years of government-funded provision (see table in notes to editors). 
Today, the Scottish Government has failed to take the opportunity to remove this anomaly and promote equal access to government-funded nursery provision – indeed, the expansion in provision would mean that those who have a ‘lucky birthday’ receive an even greater advantage. 

Commenting, Alison Payne, Reform Scotland’s Research Director, said:

“This is a question of fairness and equality. Every child should be entitled to two years of government-funded nursery provision, regardless of when their birthday falls.  In other words, provision for all children should start at a fixed point in the year just as it does for primary school.
“When our report was published the Scottish Government indicated that they were aware of this issue and would look at it in this legislation.  It is therefore disappointing to see that this discrimination has not been addressed. While the expansion of provision outlined in the bill is to be welcomed, what this means in reality is that the gap in entitlement for government-funded nursery entitlement between children due to start school age five and those due to start age four will widen.
“We hope this matter will be addressed during stage two either by the Scottish Government or opposition members. The government provides seven years of primary education irrespective of a child’s date of birth. It should do the same for nursery provision. Two years must mean two years.”



1. Reform Scotland’s report can be downloaded here.
2. The table below, gives an indication of the difference in entitlement in the current system.  The figures illustrated are based on those used within City of Edinburgh council area:

Child’s birthday

Entitlement to government funded nursery provision begins (either at a local authority nursery or funding entitlement for partnership provider)

Total nursery entitlement before beginning school

Approximate financial entitlement for partnership provision before beginning school (based on Edinburgh council’s figures of £1,550 per year/£516.65 per term)

1 March to 31 August

August (Autumn Term)

2 years


1 September to 31 December

January (Spring Term)

18 months


1 January to 28 February (based on a child starting school aged 4)

April (Summer Term)

15 months


3. Reform Scotland is an independent, non-party think tank that aims to set out a better way to deliver increased economic prosperity and more effective public services based on the traditional Scottish principles of limited government, diversity and personal responsibility.