Early learning support for deprived communities

We have been working with local authorities to ensure that nurseries in Scotland’s most deprived areas benefit from an equity and excellence lead (an additional graduate).

Equity and Excellence leads

Part of the early learning and childcare (ELC) funding we provide to local authorities supports the provision of Equity and Excellence Lead posts in every local authority area.

The distribution of funding is based on the number of ELC settings in areas of multiple deprivation (using data from the SIMD (Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation). These are highly qualified posts, that can be either a teacher or early years graduate with or working towards, for example the BA in Childhood Practice.

National policy for Equity and Excellence Leads responds to evidence that:

  • improved outcomes for children depends on high quality provision
  • key drivers of quality are a high quality workforce and strong pedagogical leadership – research shows children have the best experience in ELC where there is a range of staff with complementary skills and higher level qualifications, and
  • those who benefit most, are those that experience the most disadvantage

Read more: Rapid evidence review: Childcare quality & children's outcomes, by Public Health Scotland.

Equity and Excellence Leads play a critical role in supporting children to close the poverty-related outcomes gap by:

  • being an additional resource over and above usual staffing for a setting
  • not being tied to a settings' adult-child ratios and therefore having greater flexibility and reflection time for this purpose
  • working directly with children and families and not focusing on managerial responsibilities
  • leading and supporting pedagogy in a setting, upskilling fellow practitioners

Beyond these broad parameters, local authorities have freedom to utilise Leads depending on their local needs and the Leads’ experience.

Future development of early learning and childcare

Within the 2023 to 2024 Programme for Government, we have made a number of commitments that will help us work towards our ambition to expand access to funded early learning and childcare (ELC) to more children and families, starting with those who would benefit most.

This work will build on commitments that were made in the 2021 to 2022 and 2022 to 2023 programmes for government that saw expansion of funded ELC to those families who benefit most. 

We have committed to work with local authorities and our partners in the ELC sector to expand our childcare programme as part of our national mission to tackle child poverty. 

We will begin work to develop an expanded national offer for families with two-year-olds, focused on those who will benefit most. This will build on the foundations of the existing 1140 programme, which makes high quality early learning and childcare available to around a quarter of the most disadvantaged families with two year olds.

To support our commitments, we will also grow the childminding workforce by 1,000 more, building on existing childminder-specific recruitment and retention pilot activity, to ensure that more families can access the high-quality, flexible and unique experience of childcare that childminders can offer. 

Back to top