Early learning, nurseries and childcare

Early learning and childcare isn't compulsory but children can receive up to 600 hours free each year. You can choose to use this at a council run nursery or a private one. There are some things you need to know before you apply as when and how to do it depends on your child's age and the provider you choose:

To find out more view our pre-school application pack (pdf 661KB).

Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate regulate all early learning and childcare providers. We also check them for quality assurance.


You can choose other types of childcare such as a playgroup instead of a nursery. Playgroups provide play and learning for children who are between the age of 2 and 5. Children usually attend a playgroup on a part time basis for 1 or 2 years before moving to a nursery or school. It gives them an opportunity to socialise with other kids in a stable, secure and relaxed environment. It also helps with their learning and development skills. 

A committee of parents with qualified and experienced staff run the groups. Parents can arrange with a playgroup to help on a voluntary basis. Playgroups check all staff and regular parent helpers through Disclosure Scotland.

Playgroup sessions take place either in the morning or afternoon during school term time and provide children with a range of activities:

  • Art
  • Craft
  • Construction
  • Sand and water play
  • Adventure play
  • Music and movement
  • Books and stories

Nurseries for 2 year olds

If your child is 2 years old between 1st March 2016 and 28th February 2017, they may be entitled to a nursery place in the school term 2018-2019. 

Eligible 2 year olds fall into three categories, children:

  • who are 'looked after' and accommodated or under a kinship or guardianship order (contact your social worker to apply)
  • who are referred by their health visitor contact your health visitor to apply)
  • whose families receive one of the qualifying benefits

The qualifying benefits and allowances are:

  • Income Support
  • Incapacity or Severe Disablement Allowance
  • State Pension Credit
  • Jobseeker's Allowance (income based)
  • any income related element of the Employment and Support Allowance
  • Child tax credit but not Working Tax Credit and your income is below £16,105
  • both maximum child tax credit and Working Tax Credit with income less than £6,420
  • support under Part VI of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999
  • Universal Credit (interim measure)
  • Any other qualifying benefit as stated by the Department of Work and Pension

You can request an application form by contacting our Early Years team. We will process your application centrally.

Nurseries for 3 and 4 year olds

If your child was born between 1st March 2014 and 29th February 2016, they are entitled to a funded nursery place in the school term 2018-2019.

The application period is from 22nd January to 2nd February 2018. 

Depending on when your child turns 3, the dates when they are eligible for a nursery place will differ. Children who are 3 before: 

  • 31st August are eligible in August of that year
  • 31st December are eligible in January of the next year
  • 28th February are eligible in April of that year

Enrol at council nurseries

Before you apply, view the pre-school application pack or collect a paper copy from a nursery or playgroup.

Your child may attend a nursery at a primary school outwith your school catchment area, however there is no guarantee they will be able to stay at that school for their primary education. 

To apply for a council run place, complete the early learning and childcare application form (pdf 145KB) and visit your chosen nursery. Your completed application will need to include your:

  • child’s original birth certificate (evidence of their date of birth)
  • proof of address such as recent utility bill or bank statement

To find out more about the application process, read the early learning admissions procedure and policy.  

Enrol at partner providers

We work in partnership with other Early Learning and Childcare providers to offer places at playgroups, private nurseries and independent schools. Registered child minders are not currently partner providers, although we may be able to offer places with them in the future. 

You can agree with the provider how your childcare entitlement is allocated, however each session should be between 2.5 and 8 hours per day. Partner providers may charge for services outwith these hours. 

For a place with a partner provider you should apply directly to them. They will provide you with an application form. We cannot guarantee a place at your chosen provider. You can view the list of private providers in our pre-school application pack.

Additional Support Needs

You can let us know of any specific support needs of your child on the application form.

The Head Teacher or Manager will be able to discuss this with you and guide you through the procedure for children with Additional Support Needs.


You can contact our Early Years team in writing, by telephone or email:

Early Years team
Woodhill House
Westburn Road
AB16 5GB
Telephone: 01467 533310
Email: earlyyears@aberdeenshire.gov.uk

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