Coronavirus (COVID-19) Updates

Early learning and childcare

Re-organising Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) services in the light of COVID-19 has been a complicated and challenging process and we really appreciate the understanding and patience shown by parents and carers.

All Early Childhood Centres (ECCs) and funded providers started to deliver the current statutory entitlement of 600 hours of ELC in the week beginning 17 August 2020.

Local authorities were due to provide the increased hours by August 2020 and, before lockdown, we were making good progress with our new builds, extensions and recruitment of ELC staff.

Due to the impact of the pandemic on construction work and recruitment of ELC staff throughout Scotland, The Scottish Government removed the duty on local authorities to deliver 1140 hours.

Although the pandemic has caused major disruption to our plans to increase our space and staffing to fully implement 1140 hours, we are working hard to get this programme back on track but we appreciate that this is a disappointment for some families.

Services delivering 1140 hours of funded early learning and childcare prior to lockdown and those which already been had been resourced and staffed will reintroduce the increased hours by the 22 September 2020.

View full details of the progress for each ECC

Operating guidance

We are working to The Scottish Government guidance on the safe opening and operation of Early Childhood Centres (EEC) updated on 30 July 2020. We have developed individual plans for each ECC taking account of the necessary public health measures.

Staggering start and finish times and making use of all available entrances helps to maintain physical distancing and to avoid bottlenecks.

ELC guidance is different from that followed in schools because the age of our children means we have higher staffing levels and the layout and sizes of playrooms vary across ELC settings

The measures we need to follow include limiting the contact between groups of children, physical distancing for adults, and strict hygiene standards for everyone.

The number of children attending at any one time may be lower than the registered capacity of the centre because we need to keep group sizes low.

The size of a group depends on the age and overall number of children, and the layout of the setting. As a result, parents may not always be allocated their preferred pattern of placement for their child.

Entitled two year olds

The operating guidance applies to all ELC services including those for eligible two year old children who can access up to 600 hours.

Details of eligibility can be found on our ELC two year olds page.

We are moving to an online application and expect this to go live by the end of September 2020. This will make the application process more straightforward for parents and a decision on eligibility will be quicker.

Equipment and toys

The use of toys and resources has to be carefully planned and rotated between groups since they cannot be shared beyond a maximum of 25 to 32 children.

Each ECC has risk assessments in place for the management of resources, equipment and toys.


We have planned the management and cleaning of toys and resources along with cleaning regimes between morning and afternoon sessions and at the end of the day.

Children will only have access to resources that are easy to clean. Resources such as sand, water and playdough may be used but only by consistent groups of children.

Larger indoor groupings need to be avoided, so we will maximise outdoor play as much as possible, however free flow indoor and outdoor play will not always be possible due to the restrictions.

Additional support needs

Where children need individual arrangements to support their specific additional support needs, the ELC or funded provider will discuss directly with parents.

Split places/blended places 600 hours

The ELC guidance sets out the context for the easing of restrictions on split and blended places. However, to minimise the number of contacts and risk of transmission, attendance at multiple ELC settings should be reduced as far as possible.

Split places of 600 hours can be supported where the split is across the week, ie three sessions in one ELC setting and two sessions in another ELC setting.

This includes childminders and cross-boundary placements.

Blending or splitting on the same day presents a higher risk of virus transmission, so parents and ELC settings will need to consider children moving between settings, and how their contacts with other groups of children are managed.

Funded ELC providers

Funded providers will contact families direct about the arrangements to deliver funded hours of early learning and childcare.

Cross boundary places

Cross boundary places to other local authority areas ,where agreed, will be for 600 hours of funded early learning and childcare.

Contact Information

Education Service
Council Headquarters
London Road
Telephone: 01563 576140
Parental Enquiries: 07392 864105
Council Headquarters
London Road
East Ayrshire
Contact us online:
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Telephone: 01563 554400
Textphone: 01563 576167
24 Hour Emergency Helpline: 0345 724 0000 (local rate)

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