Early learning and childcare
We aim to develop a flexible and high-quality Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) system that is accessible, affordable, and integrated with school and out-of-school care.
This will improve outcomes for all children, especially those who are more vulnerable or disadvantaged, and help to close the attainment gap.
ELC will also support parents to work, train or study, especially those who need help with finding sustainable employment.
Increasing the free entitlement to ELC
The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 made 600 hours of free ELC available for all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds in Scotland from August 2014.
By 2020 we will increase the hours of free ELC from 600 to 1,140 hours per year, to further reduce barriers preventing parents from working.
Increasing the entitlement will require a substantially larger workforce, significant investment in infrastructure, and new, innovative models of delivery.
In January 2016 the First Minister announced that we would invest £1 million in trials to test different models for increasing the ELC entitlement.
We consulted on these ELC trials and invited local authorities to express their interest in running such trials.
A Blueprint for 2020 consultation
Between 15 October 2016 and 9 January 2017 we ran a consultation titled A Blueprint for 2020: the Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland, to gather people's views on expanding the ELC provision in Scotland to 1,140 hours.
We used the responses to develop an action plan for 2017 to 2018, which sets out the policy framework for the expansion and commits us to completing 31 actions by the end of March 2018.
Improving ELC quality
A skilled workforce
The driving force behind expanding the ELC provision is ensuring a high-quality experience for all children. This requires a dedicated, skilled and well-qualified workforce.
To this end, we developed the skills investment plan: prospectus for Scotland's early learning and childcare sector to support the growth of the ELC workforce. The plan is a live document and we are developing it further by engaging with the sector, key stakeholders and partners, with the aim of publishing an updated version later in 2017 alongside the Quality Action Plan.
We are also working with the Care Inspectorate and other partners to publish a new Learning and Development Pathway for childminders.
The Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) is helping us to consider introducing a requirement for childminders delivering the ELC entitlement to be qualified to the same level as ELC practitioners. We will work with stakeholders to define standards for providers of the nationally funded ELC provision.
We are striving to close the poverty-related outcome gap by working with partners, including COSLA and local authorities, to ensure that nurseries in disadvantaged areas get an additional graduate or teacher from 2018.
To ensure all children are able to access their ELC entitlement, we are creating a fund for specialist training, equipment and adaptations to support children with additional support needs.
External stakeholder groups
We have set up a number of external stakeholder groups to help us improve ELC in Scotland. They are:
ELC Strategic Forum: develops and helps implement our vision for high-quality and flexible ELC in Scotland
ELC Finance Working Group: ensures the programme is underpinned by a robust financial evidence base and offers professional finance input to the development of the programme
Quality Reference Group: assisted in developing A Quality Action Plan for the expansion of early learning and childcare in Scotland
Service Improvement Plan (SIP) Advisory Working Group: ensures a co-ordinated and evidence-based approach to identifying and addressing strategic skills issues across the early learning and childcare sector
Service Model Working Group:
- develops the new Funding Follows the Child model, and provides a clear statement of operation
- produces the national standard for a more open process to becoming a funded provider
- helps implement the Living Wage commitment for childcare workers delivering the programme in the private and third sectors, including guidance
ELC Leaders Forum: monthly advisory forum led by local authorities allowing for discussion on various aspects of the programme
ELC Delivery Support Team: provides additional service innovation and redesign capacity, leads a community of learning and offers specialist expertise on complex issues
ELC workforce review
Between March 2014 and April 2015 we commissioned an independent review of the Scottish early learning and childcare and out-of-school care workforces. It included a consultation entitled first call for evidence for the independent review of early learning and childcare workforce and out of school care workforce, which ran between May and September 2014. The resulting publications are below: