“Thanks to staff and children at the wonderful Fallin Nursery for a great visit this morning to mark delivery of our commitment to double state-funded early years education to 1140 hours pa – giving children best start in life and saving families around £4900 a year.”
That’s what Nicola Sturgeon tweeted this week to her 1.4 million followers.
The Scottish government issued a press release with more detail: “Available to all three and four-year-olds, as well as two-years-olds who need it most, the flagship commitment will save families childcare costs of around £4,900 per child each year.”
That figure comes from the 2021 childcare survey run by the children’s charity, Coram.
But there’s important context missing. Reading the first minister’s tweet and the press release, you might think that families of three and four-year-olds were in line for a new saving of £4,900 a year. But you’d be wrong.
According to the Scottish government’s 2019 impact assessment, “when compared to the current funded entitlement of 600 hours the additional saving would be around £2,000 per child per annum”.
So the specific policy Ms Sturgeon’s talking about – the decision to nearly double the amount of state-funded childcare from 600 to 1,140 hours – is worth £2,000 a year per child, not £4,900.
We should also say that, according to the government’s 2015 “Programme for Scotland”, the original pledge was to fund 1,140 hours of early years childcare by 2020.
A spokesperson for the Scottish government told FactCheck as part of a longer statement: “While full implementation of this commitment was intended for August 2020, the COVID pandemic and national lockdown last year meant that this could not happen […] Ministers therefore took the difficult decision to revoke the universal statutory duty on local authorities to provide 1,140 hours from August 2020.”
They also said: “However, throughout the pandemic, expansion work continued, despite the difficulties […] All local authorities in Scotland have confirmed that they will be able to deliver 1,140 hours of funded childcare to all children from this month.”