Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to improve the standard of teaching in nursery classes.
Every nursery in the poorest neighbourhoods will have an extra qualified teacher or childcare graduate by 2018 if the SNP is re-elected in May, the First Minister told the Sunday Mail.
Ms Sturgeon has previously announced plans to double free childcare to 30 hours a week for three and four-year-olds.
The SNP’s plan goes beyond just giving children more hours and will improve the quality of education and nurturing support, Ms Sturgeon said.
But she insists that she lacks some of the powers necessary to close the attainment gap, with welfare spending and sanctions controlled by Westminster.
The SNP will make pledges to boost childcare in the SNP’s forthcoming Holyrood election manifesto.
Mr Sturgeon said: “One of the things we’re going to do is make sure that as we increase the quantity of childcare, we also improve the quality of it as well.”
She said “the attainment gap is narrowing” with more young people from deprived backgrounds going to university, but said Scotland needs “to increase our pace much, much more”.
She added: “Some of what influences all of this are policies we are not in control of.
“You cannot separate out the circumstances children are being born into from welfare cuts and sanctions.
“We don’t have control of that, which hampers what we are trying to do, but it doesn’t take away in any sense my determination to use the levers we have to level that playing field as much as we can.”