The number of children experiencing early learning and childcare in Scotland has increased to more than 290,000, figures show.

A report by the Care Inspectorate, published on Tuesday, stated that the number increased from 254,770 in 2014 to 291,460 in 2016.

The Scottish Government has promised to increase free early years care from 600 to 1,140 hours for eligible youngsters by 2020.

While children and families had experienced a “high quality of care and support”, supported by “well trained and motivated” staff, the report raised concerns over a decrease in the overall number of fully qualified managers.

Maree Todd ministerial appointment
Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd  has said the expanded childcare target is deliverable (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Peter Macleod, Care Inspectorate chief executive, said that the process of expanding early learning and childcare began with the Scottish Government’s Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

He said: “The workforce has had to adapt and change to a wide range of initiatives and have still maintained a high quality of care throughout.

“Care Inspectorate inspection, registration and complaints colleagues have worked hard to engage with providers, settings, children and families over the last three years and are committed to ensuring children get the best start in life.

“People consistently tell us that they appreciate the advice and guidance our inspectors and other colleagues in the organisation provide and we can be proud of the impact we have had on improving services throughout the country.”

Earlier this month, Minister for Children and Young People Maree Todd said that she is confident that, with multi-year funding agreed with local authorities, the policy to expand childcare will be “sustainable and deliverable”.

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We welcome the findings of the Care Inspectorate report, which shows that children are benefiting from an improving, high quality standard of service.

“International evidence shows that high quality early learning and childcare makes a huge difference to children’s outcomes and we are nearly doubling the entitlement to funded early learning and childcare so that, from August 2020, every three and four-year-old and eligible two-year-old will be able to benefit from 1,140 hours each year.”