The Scottish Government intends to increase the entitlement to free early learning and childcare (ELC) for all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds from 600 to 1140 hours by August 2020.
On 15 October 2016 the Scottish Government published a consultation document, “Blueprint for 2020”, to seek views on the policy choices to be made in taking forward the ambition for expanded ELC hours. A series of consultative events across Scotland was also held to raise awareness of the consultation and seek views of parents and carers directly. 336 responses to the consultation were received, 208 from individuals and 128 from organisations.
Summary of views from the responses:
• Respondents emphasised the need for clear transition plans to support children through their early-learner journey. Child-centred approaches were advocated, with parents, the ELC workforce and professionals such as health visitors all viewed as playing valuable roles.
• The ELC sector was perceived to be in need of an overhaul to present it as an attractive career choice. Negative attitudes towards men in the ELC were identified as hampering efforts to achieve a gender-balanced workforce. Implementing payment of the Living Wage and wider Fair Work practices across the ELC sector was expected to improve the profile and value of the profession.
• Much support was expressed for increased access to outdoor learning, exercise and play.
• There was support for combining the two main regulatory regimes, the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland, into one, in order to streamline accountability arrangements.
• Many respondents were in favour of childminders being part of the entitlement to ELC, perhaps within blended models of provision.
• Of those providing a clear view, most supported a demand-led model of funding, whereby funding follows the child, with parents choosing the provider, and funding being administered by local authorities.
• Support was expressed for phasing in the expanded hours, with local targeting, depending on local circumstances.