1. Councils’ Responses to Freedom of Information Requests (FoIs)

Each year we send Freedom of Information requests (a set of questions) about deferral to each of the 32 Scottish councils relating to number of applications, number granted etc. The data below has been collated from there responses to our FoIs sent on 26th August 2021.

A ‘discretionary deferral’ is defined as a request to a council for continued ELC (early learning and childcare, usually nursery) funding for a child who has a legal right to defer their primary one start in Scotland but not an automatic legal entitlement to continued ELC during a deferred year. This is children who turn 5 after the school commencement date in their local authority area (usually mid-Aug) and on or before 31st Dec that year. 

a. Councils’ Discretionary Deferral Funding Rates

For Aug 2021-2022, the total number of requests nationally was 1807* of which 1756 were approved and 51 refused (3% which is down from 5% last year).

*Highland Council was unable to provide any data on numbers of requests this year so it is reasonable to assume that the total number of requests is nearer 2100 as there were 171 requests there last year. The good news is that Highland Council guarantees funding for all requests so all would have been approved.

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b. Total Number of Applications in Each Council Area

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c. Councils still making small savings by refusing a few discretionary deferral applications from Aug 2021-2022


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d. What proportion of 4-year-olds in Scotland take up the opportunity to defer their p1 start?

Read this insightful analysis which compares the FoI responses we received from all Scottish local authorities to the National Records of Scotland data on the number of 4-year-olds in each council area. 

Proportion of 4 yr olds deferring

e. Discretionary deferral apps and number granted by SIMD* (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation)

SIMD-analysis (scroll down below the table to see graphs for the councils which provided this data)

“SIMD is the Scottish Government’s standard approach to identify areas of multiple deprivation in Scotland. It can help improve understanding about the outcomes and circumstances of people living in the most deprived areas in Scotland. It can also allow effective targeting of policies and funding where the aim is to wholly or partly tackle or take account of area concentrations of multiple deprivation.” Read more about it here.

f. How many applications for this continued nursery funding has my council had  in recent years and how many of these have they funded?

The Dropbox folder at the link below contains screenshots of the raw number of applications and the number of these which were granted from 2013-2021 in each council area (for a further funded year of nursery for mid-Aug to 31st December born children with an automatic legal right to defer their p1 start).

Screenshots of raw data by council area

(you may need to create a Dropbox account to access this folder. If you still can’t access it, let us know at givethemtime.scotland@gmail.com and we’ll make sure you get what you’re looking for.)

g. Older deferrals

While children who will already have turned 5 by the school start date in their local authority – even if they turn 5 on the start date – don’t have an automatic legal entitlement to defer their primary one start, many are permitted to do so each year by their local authority. 

For Aug 2021 at least 94 children across Scotland were granted this permission which, to our knowledge, also means they were granted a further year of ELC too.

We have set up a messenger chat group through our Deferral Support Scotland Facebook group for parents considering this (or who have recently been through the process of applying for this) to provide advice and support to others. If you want to be added to this chat, join the Deferral Support Scotland Facebook group and ask an admin to add you to the older deferrals chat.

Here’s the data by council area:

Aug 2021 older deferrals

h. Want More Info On Your Council?

To find out your council’s response to all of our 26th Aug 2021 FoI questions below, scroll down at this link until you find your council’s name then click on the email thread.

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2. Scottish Government Research

On 27/10/20 the Scottish Government published its research into deferral patterns across Scotland. You can scroll through it here to see the data by local authority area, sex, ethnicity, SIMD and automatic (Jan/Feb birthday) deferrals vs discretionary (mid-Aug to 31 Dec birthday deferrals).

3. Research & Articles on Potential Benefits of Deferral

This document contains relevant articles and research links which parents and ELC professionals may find of interest.

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4. Comparisons of Councils’ Decision Making Processes for Discretionary Deferral Funding Requests

Various approaches to assessing discretionary deferral funding requests are taken by local authorities. See what happens in your council area here and how this compares to other regions.

5. Parents’ Experiences of Finding Out About Legal Right to Defer and ELC Funding for a Deferral Year between April 2019 & Oct 2020

Our October 2020 survey received 88 responses and paints a very mixed picture of deferral awareness and practices across Scotland. Read it in full for yourself here or here’s a snapshot:

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6. Councils Which Allow Self-funding of Nursery Places

When a discretionary deferral request for an extra year of nursery funding is turned down, some local authorities allow parents/carers to self-finance a continued place in a council nursery and some don’t. See whether your council permits this or not in the table below (updated Dec 2020).

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7. Lack of Parental Awareness of Legal Right to Defer

In autumn 2018, the National Parent Forum of Scotland kindly asked parents across the country on our behalf to complete a questionnaire about deferral. There were 559 responses with respondents from all 32 local authorities.

Average Awareness of Right to Defer Jan or Feb born children = 80%


Average Awareness of Right to Defer Aug* to Dec Born Children = 16% (*only those children with birthdays after the school commencement date in Aug have a legal right to be deferred)


8. Key Evidence & Arguments

You can read about the campaign’s main arguments for introducing an automatic entitlement to a further year of nursery funding for ALL children legally deferring their primary 1 start in Scotland (not just those with Jan/Feb birthdays) here.


9. What difference does a year make?

In July 2021 we asked parents on our Deferral Support Scotland Facebook group what difference a deferral year made to their child. View all 111 responses here.



The Give Them Time campaign would like to sincerely thank What Do They Know for the invaluable service provided free of charge through its website which has enabled us to send Freedom of Information requests tool 32 Scottish local authorities easily and to quickly share weblinks to the responses received.