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Aberdeen, Edinburgh and the Scottish Borders have been chosen to run pilot projects on different models of childcare - including holiday cover - as the Scottish Government aims to double provision.
All three and four-year-olds in Scotland, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds, are entitled to 600 hours of free childcare every year, up from 412.5 hours when the SNP came to power.
The Scottish Government plans to increase this to 1,140 hours a year by 2020 but has faced criticism that some parents struggle to access the existing free hours due to a lack of flexibility.
The three trial areas will test out different models in a bid to address concerns, including extended days and cover over holidays in the Borders, a "stay and play'' scheme for two-year-olds in Aberdeen allowing parents to stay and extending access to a woodland play area in Edinburgh.
Mark McDonald, minister for childcare and early years, announced the locations on Tuesday on a visit to Craigentinny Nursery in Edinburgh, backed with about #138,000 in Scottish Government funding.
He said: "High-quality early learning and childcare plays a vital role in narrowing the attainment gap, that is why this government has gone further than any other in our commitment to expanding free entitlement.
"The Scottish Government is not simply determined to increase the amount of early learning and childcare.
"We are also determined to deliver the flexibility that families need to make best use of high-quality childcare.
"Right now, councils work hard to be flexible but we must all acknowledge that too often the system does not offer places where and when families need them. We are going to change that.
"We have already launched a major consultation looking at different options, including blending together ideas like funding following the child and Children in Scotland's Childcare Commission proposal that parents can opt to receive funding in a childcare account.
"Today, we are launching a series of trials to test various models of delivery for the expansion to 1,140 hours.
"By trialling different delivery models we will be better able to understand what parents and children need and want.
"The three successful local authorities announced today put forward a diverse range of proposals and I look forward to seeing how these work in practice.''
The trials will start in January and involve Manor Park Primary School in Aberdeen, the Philiphaugh Community School campus in Selkirk and two nurseries in Edinburgh, potentially Craigentinny and Ferryhill.