A substantial amount of planning and research work is currently being undertaken to inform the expansion including: the commencement in January 2017 of a programme of trials to test new and innovative ELC delivery models across Scotland; development of new, leading, good-design guidance for ELC settings to be published in summer 2017; a substantial recruitment drive across the ELC sector and the development of an associated Skills Investment Plan for the ELC sector; and strategic planning with partners for an intensive programme of infrastructure investment.
We are committed to continuing to work with stakeholders on the development of the expanded ELC policy, and are grateful for the input from the ELC Strategic Forum  and others in helping to shape the vision and high level objectives for the expansion as set out in this document.
We now invite, as part of this consultation, a diverse range of views on the key policy choices for delivering this vision.
The Expansion to 1140 Hours
"Make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up in by improving outcomes and reducing inequalities for all babies, children, mothers, fathers and families across Scotland to ensure that all children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed"
(Children and Young People (Scotland) Act (2014))
Our vision is for high quality, flexible ELC which is affordable and accessible for all.
High quality ELC can contribute to our wider actions to close the attainment gap, delivering opportunities to our young people no matter their family background  .
By 2020 all three and four year olds, and eligible two year olds, will be entitled to 1140 hours of free ELC provision - almost double current levels of entitlement.
Our aims for the expansion in ELC entitlement are that it will:
- Improve outcomes for all children, especially those who will benefit most;
- Support the wider programme of work to close the attainment gap, as set out in Delivering Excellence and Equity in Scottish Education: A Delivery Plan for Scotland  ;
- Increase the flexibility of provision to support parents to work, train or study, especially those who need routes into sustainable employment and out of poverty;
- Help support parents to improve and enrich the home learning environment by integrating ELC with the range of family support;
- Support transitions through early years settings and into school to ensure continuity and progression through the learner journey;
- Provide a key contribution to our ambition to reduce child poverty;
- Be underpinned by a funding model which ensures the long-term sustainability of the system (which will be considered along-side our commitment to establish a fair and transparent needs-based funding formula for schools);
- Provide substantial new employment opportunities across all of Scotland with a range of roles across different qualification levels, supporting local economies; and
- Reduce the costs that parents and carers face in paying for childcare by providing an average annual saving of £3,000 per child when compared to the provision available prior to 2007.
Objectives for Expanded ELC
Our actions to develop the expanded ELC entitlement will be built upon the following high level themes:
- Quality - the expansion will ensure a high quality experience for all children, which complements other early years and educational activity to close the attainment gap, and recognises the value of those we entrust to give our children the best start in life;
- Flexibility - ensures that the expansion supports parents and carers in work, training or study, and that patterns of provision are better aligned with working patterns whilst delivering this in a way that ensures a high quality experience for the child;
- Accessibility - ensures that early learning and childcare capacity is sufficient and is as conveniently geographically located as possible - particularly in areas of higher deprivation and in rural communities - to support families and enable parents and carers to work, train and study, while also appropriately meeting the needs of children who require additional support and parents who request ELC through the medium of Gaelic; and
- Affordability - the expansion will increase access to affordable ELC which will help to reduce barriers to participating in the labour market which parents and carers face.
There are clear linkages across all of these principles. However, as the detailed work progresses on the development of the overarching programme it is possible that there may be tensions between some policy ambitions. For example, whilst increased flexibility will be a key objective of the expansion, this must be delivered in a way which also supports increases in the quality of provision.
Ensuring a high quality experience for the child is the key objective of the expansion.
The sections that follow provide more detail on how we envisage each of these themes will be reflected in the expansion, setting out the key policy questions where we are seeking input.