Best Start - strategic early learning and school age childcare plan 2022 to 2026

The plan sets out how we will embed the benefits of our transformational investment in 1140 hours of high quality funded early learning and childcare. It also explains our approach to expanding our childcare offer over the next four years.

Our vision and priorities for the next four years

Our vision is that, through access to rich and nurturing early learning and school age childcare experiences, children, families, and their communities are enabled to reach their full potential and the poverty-related outcomes gap narrows.

To realise this vision we have developed three outcomes based on the best available evidence (summarised in Annex A) to describe the way in which we expect all of our early learning and school age childcare policies to make a difference for children, parents, carers and families in Scotland.

The diagram below summarises these, and how our outcomes will contribute to the relevant National Outcomes set out in the Scottish Government's National Performance Framework.

Shows how childcare policy contributes to children’s development, family wellbeing and parental employability.

Graphic text below:

Early learning and school age childcare outcomes

National Performance Framework Outcomes

Children's development improves and the poverty-related outcomes gap narrows

We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society

We are healthy and active

Family wellbeing improves

We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential

Parents' and carers' opportunities to take up or sustain work, training and study increase

We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally

We have thriving and innovative businesses, with quality jobs and fair work for everyone

These three outcomes are interlinked. For example, it is clear that parental or carer income affects both children's outcomes and family wellbeing. But, taken together, they provide a helpful framework to guide how we will develop, implement, and evaluate the impact of our policies.

The contribution of early learning and school age childcare to delivering these outcomes will also vary depending on the individual circumstances and preferences of each family (including the ages and stages of their children) and the wider economic and social support available to them.

It is also important that we take account of what the evidence tells us about what delivers good outcomes for children at different ages. There is strong evidence that attending high quality ELC has important benefits for children aged from three to five. For children aged under three, how much they benefit from ELC is determined by crucial factors such as their family background, what age they start in ELC, the quality of services and the balance of hours they spend between care at home and in ELC settings.[5]

Co-designing our new policies with children and families will therefore be a critical part of our approach over the next four years, see section 'Our approach to policy design and delivery'. We will take a person-centred, place-based approach, empowering and supporting people to become involved in the design of childcare services in their communities.

To realise these outcomes we have set out four strategic priorities from 2022 to 2026. These are:

1. Realising the benefits of the expansion to 1140 hours of funded Early Learning and Childcare for children and families.

2. Progressing the expansion of our childcare offer, including building a future system of school age childcare and a new early learning and childcare offer for one and two year olds.

3. Ensuring that the delivery of our priorities is supported by a sustainable, diverse, and thriving sector and profession.

4. Ensuring that our ambitions are underpinned by fair funding and outcomes frameworks, robust data, and organisations that work together to regulate services and support quality improvement.

The following section sets out what action we will take over the rest of this Parliament to deliver these priorities.



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