‘A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland’ consultation was launched on 15 October 2016. It set out our vision for an expansion that will almost double entitlement to free early learning and childcare (ELC) to 1140 hours per year by 2020 for all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds. That vision is underpinned by clear guiding principles of Quality, Flexibility, Accessibility and Affordability.
The consultation has helped to inform the development of the policy and delivery framework for the expansion. We will work in partnership with local authorities and other key partners to deliver this vision. This Action Plan commits us to a series of actions to ensure that the expansion of ELC is rooted in a high quality experience for our children and to support our delivery partners in building additional capacity.
This Action Plan sets out the policy framework that will underpin the expansion in order to:
o Ensure a high quality experience for the child; improving outcomes for all children, especially those who will benefit most;
o Support the vision of an education system which delivers both excellence and equity for all children in Scotland;
o Provide a key contribution to our wider work to close the attainment gap;
o Support our ambitions to reduce child poverty by contributing to the delivery of our ambitious statutory targets set out in the Child Poverty (Scotland) Bill;
o Support transitions through early years settings and into school to ensure continuity and progress through the learner journey;
o Offer parents increased choice of setting where they can access their funded ELC entitlement;
o Enable a system that is provider neutral with the focus on the settings best placed to deliver quality outcomes for children;
o Increase the flexibility of how the funded entitlement is delivered in order to support more parents to work, train or study, especially those who need routes into sustainable employment and out of poverty;
o Provide an opportunity for an enhanced role for childminders in delivering the funded entitlement;
o Help support parents to improve and enrich the home learning environment by integrating ELC with the range of family support;
o Enables payment of the Living Wage and the promotion of Fair Work practices;
o Be underpinned by a funding model which ensures the long-term sustainability of the system;
o Provide substantial new employment opportunities across all of Scotland with a range of roles across different qualification levels, supporting local economises; and
o Reduce the costs that parents and carers face in paying for childcare, with total ELC entitlement providing an estimated annual saving of £4,500 per child per year.
There are two sections to this Action Plan. Section One focuses specifically on quality and sets out the conditions, support and investment that will drive quality experiences and ensure ELC plays a key role in addressing inequalities in child outcomes. Section Two sets out how we will ensure that we build the structures and capacity – both infrastructure and workforce – required to deliver 1140 hours in a way that is flexible, accessible and affordable. However, quality of the child’s experience is the single most important goal and it will be clear how this has driven all of the decisions that have been taken and the actions set out across this plan.
This plan brings all of the activities planned for 2017-18 together in a single document to demonstrate the wide range of work and momentum already underway.