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For Parents & Carers


All 3 and 4 years olds and eligible 2 year olds are eligible for 1,140 hours of free childcare per year. It is possible to use these hours in a variety of ways, some across the school year and others across the calendar year.

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Young boy sitting on a muddy skateboard


Scope for flexibility differs from one provider to the next. Local authority run establishments operate one of two patterns whereas funded providers (childminders and independently run nurseries) are all different and should be approached directly for details of what they can offer.

North Lanarkshire Council establishments offer one of two options for using the 1,140 hour entitlement:

  • Term time: 6 hours per day over 38 weeks of an academic year
  • 48 week: 4 hours 45 minutes per day, 5 x morning sessions 8am to 12:45pm OR 5 x afternoon sessions 1:15pm to 6pm

Details of which of these patterns each council establishment offers can be listed via the ELC Providers page. Meanwhile the council has entered into a framework agreement with a number of childminders and private/voluntary nurseries. These providers are authorised to deliver on funded hours across North Lanarkshire.

Some funded providers are able to be more flexible in how they deliver funded hours. So between the options offered by the council and the variation amongst funded providers, you have considerable choice in how you use your entitlement. Remember also that you can opt to split your entitlement across more than one provider. For more details, refer to questions at the end of this section.

Outdoor Time

As Scottish Government stipulate in their plan, early learning and childcare will take place in physical environments, indoors and out, designed to maximise the experience for children.

We are have included carefully designed outdoor space in all new-build and refurbished or extended facilities created as part of the expansion programme. We know the benefits of outdoor learning, exercise and play for young children in terms of their health and wellbeing. Ultimately it is important that the children themselves choose how and where they want to play.

Our providers will ensure that children have opportunities for exciting and challenging physical activity, including as much outdoor play as they want, rain or shine.

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Young girl standing in an old tyre

Free Play

Our focus is on developing positive relationships with and between our children. At all times we aim to create and encourage a nurturing environment so that all our children feel cherished.

Our focus on outdoor play is about valuing all things simple and natural. We want to encourage children to be inspired by their surroundings rather than relying on toys to trigger their imaginations. This includes ‘loose parts’ play which is about having items such as tyres, bits of piping etc. to help the children get creative.

As well as being great fun, loose parts play helps children to understand how and when to take risks, in an environment where they can make mistakes safely.


When can I apply for my child’s entitlement?

All children, from 3 year olds to those who have not yet commenced primary school, will be entitled to 1,140 hours of childcare per year. Specifically:

  • Children who will be 3 years of age between 1 March 2021 and 12 August 2021 may start nursery in August 2021.
  • Children who will be 3 years of age between 13 August 2021 and 28 February 2022 can start nursery the day after their 3rd birthday.

Download an Application Form from the North Lanarkshire Council website.

How do I find out what services are available in my community?

Our ELC Providers page gives a full list of funded providers, by area, including all nurseries and childminders. The funded providers list includes establishments in North Lanarkshire that meet the national standards and are able to offer you access to your free entitlement.

This information is updated annually.

What if my child lives in another local authority area?

You can apply for a place within North Lanarkshire Council but funding is dependent on your own authority's agreement and your application form will be categorised in line with North Lanarkshire Council's admissions policy.

Will my child have to take up the full 1140 hours?

You may prefer not to take the full 1140 hours. In general providers will be as flexible as they can be to meet your needs. You should discuss your preferred pattern with the early learning and childcare provider to ensure they can accommodate you.

Can my child attend an early learning and childcare provider for more than the funded 1140 hours?

You may be able to pay for more hours depending on the provider and on available places. Your provider will tell you if they can offer any additional hours. Please note that in most cases a charge will be applied.

What if I want to split my entitlement over more than one provider?

It is absolutely no problem to split your entitlement. It’s just a question of what the providers you would like to apply to can offer by way of flexibility.

So for example:

  • you may decide to apply for a term time place at a council nursery but only for 3 hrs per day, so that your child can also attend a childminder for a longer period a couple of times per week; or
  • you might select a council nursery that operates over 48 weeks but request only 3 afternoon sessions per week because you want your child to continue having some sessions with a funded provider that they are already familiar with or
  • you may have selected two funded providers to suit your travel/work needs and wish to split your hours between them.

The list is endless. The most important thing is that you do your research ahead of time to establish what options are open to you. Also, remember you’ll need to submit a fully completed application form to each ELC provider that you wish to split the funding between.

My child's nursery/childminder is not a registered provider. Can I still access my free entitlement?

Unfortunately not. Your provider needs to have been assessed as meeting the national standard for you to be able to claim your entitlement. All providers in North Lanarkshire who have been assessed are listed on our ELC Providers page.

Will meals or snacks be provided?

Children attending an ELC establishment for four hours or longer are entitled to one funded meal per day. Where the hours are split across more than one establishment the meal will normally be provided in the first. Providers will also offer snacks. Parents/carers may be asked to contribute to the cost of these.

Other questions?

Keep an eye on this page for up to date information and if you have a specific question you can ask your provider or email us.

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