Early learning and childcare

Early learning and childcare settings offer education and childcare to children up to school age, they can be operated by the council, private businesses, voluntary organisations, or childminders.

Eligible 2 year olds and all 3 and 4 year olds may apply to have up to 1140 hours of funded Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) a year. 1140 hours is roughly the same amount of time as primary school hours when the hours are taken over term time.

You do not have to pay for funded Early Learning and Childcare, but you may wish to purchase additional hours at providers that offer this service.

ELC makes a big difference to children and boosts what they learn at home.

Benefits for children:

  • improves language and social skills
  • encourages your child to learn and play with other children
  • helps them in their learning journey with benefits that they take forward into school
  • provides a wide range of experience to excite and interest them
  • encourages your child to be physically active whilst playing with other children
  • lets your child lead their own learning and go at their own pace

Benefits for parents:

  • gives parents the time to train, study or work
  • provides time during the day to get other things done
  • offers parents extra time to look for work or increase their working hours
  • can give you ideas for fun learning experiences to try at home
  • helps to support your child's learning and development at home
  • is perfect for meeting other parents and sharing ideas

Your entitlement

In Dumfries and Galloway children can access up to 1140 hours per year depending on your child's start date. You will be able to access funded Early Learning and Childcare at a provider of your choice depending on availability.

You can take the hours over term time (38 weeks per year), or all year round. The maximum hours available in most school nurseries per week is 30 hours.

  • Children can access no more than 10 funded hours in any one day.
  • All children accessing funded hours over lunch time may receive a free meal.

Most children start school between 4 years 6 months and 5 years old but it's possible to start children later in certain circumstances. These children may be entitled to an extra year of funded early learning and childcare. Children who turn 5 between the start of the school year in August to the last day in February are automatically entitled to defer entry and receive an extra year of funded early learning and childcare.


In January each year we will write to families detailing the process for registering their 3 year old for a nursery place.  Please read over our Funded Early Learning and Childcare Privacy Notice. If you have missed registration or have just moved to the area, please contact your preferred Early Learning and Childcare Provider regarding registering your child. 

If you are registering with a provider for ELC and not purchasing any additional hours, you should not be asked to make any up-front payments, including a deposit or any other payments in respect of the Funded ELC hours. No top up fees should be charged. Any additional charges related to Funded ELC hours should be optional and limited to, for example, costs of outings or extra-curricular activities.

As part of your Funded ELC offer your child will be entitled to one free meal and snack each day. If you are using two providers in any one day, you must let the providers know where your child is taking their one free meal/snack. You may be charged for any additional meals/snacks.

Click here to find out more about registration and the Local Authority Allocation Process. 

Choosing a provider

You can send your child to the provider of your choice, subject to availibility. You can find the list of providers below.

You're welcome to arrange visits to providers to find out what is on offer before making your choice.

Search childcare provider inspection reports

Blended placements

If you require a blended placement, please speak to your providers directly.

Further information

You can find out more through our Early Learning and Childcare Expansion Plan which takes account of the National guidance and is underpinned by the principles of quality, flexibility, accessibility, and affordability.

The plan sets out the local context and outlines how 1140 hours of nursery provision will be delivered within Dumfries and Galloway.

You can also email EarlyYearsSupport@dumgal.gov.uk to find out more.

Paying for additional hours

You may wish to pay for additional hours over and above your funded entitlements if they are available.

You may qualify for support with childcare costs in certain circumstances:

Page last updated: 09/12/2022
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