The Scottish Government is committed to the near doubling of entitlement to funded early learning and childcare to 1140 hours a year by 2020 for all three and four-year olds and eligible two-year olds. The aim is to provide high quality, flexible early learning and childcare that is accessible and affordable for all families.
In March 2017, following a period of public consultation on the vision for expansion, we published the first in a series of action plans – ‘A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland: 2017-18 Action Plan’. That action plan made it clear that quality would be the ‘driving force’ of the expansion. It also reaffirmed a commitment to produce a plan focused on actions to embed and further strengthen quality. This is that Quality Action Plan, which sets out the steps we will take over the next three years to ensure that the expansion delivers a high quality experience for all our children.
The development of the action plan was an opportunity to think systematically about the key drivers of quality in early learning and childcare and how they link to child outcomes, to ensure that there is a comprehensive policy framework for continuously improving quality.
The Quality Action Plan has been developed in close consultation with a Quality Reference Group, made up of key stakeholders who best understand not only what drives quality, but also how we can further strengthen provision of high quality early learning and childcare in Scotland.
The essential characteristics of quality have been defined by the Group as:
• A high quality workforce
• Strong pedagogical leadership
• Warm and supportive interactions with children
• A holistic curriculum
• A focus on play-based learning
• Good access to outdoor play
• Supporting parents to engage in their children’s learning
• Transitions that are well managed
• Professional collaboration
• Provision that is accessible to all
• High quality physical environments
• Clear quality standards and robust self-evaluation and quality assurance regimes.
The action plan is structured around these characteristics. Many of these drivers are clearly already well embedded but, where they need to be strengthened, there are new actions that build on existing foundations and work already underway.