The expansion of early learning and childcare ( ELC) in Scotland is one of the most important and transformative changes we are making during this Parliamentary session.
Last October, I launched A Blueprint for 2020 consultation which set out our vision for an expansion that will almost double the entitlement to free 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 the principles of Quality, Flexibility, Accessibility and Affordability.
Quality is at the very heart of this expansion. It is widely acknowledged, including by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development ( OECD) and EU, that the provision of universally accessible and high quality ELC enriches children with skills and confidence to carry into their schooling, and is a cornerstone for closing the poverty-related attainment gap between our most and least advantaged children. Therefore, quality is the golden thread that runs right through this Action Plan, and there are clear actions to ensure that children get the high quality experiences they deserve to help them succeed in life.
I want to take this opportunity to thank all those who responded to the consultation, in writing or by attending a consultation event. I participated in a number of specific events with parents and other key stakeholders as part of the Blueprint consultation and listened carefully to people's views, often shaped by their own experiences, hopes and desires, on how they wanted to see this transformation develop. An independent analysis of the views expressed through the consultation and at the engagement events is published alongside this Action Plan.
We are now ready to move into the mobilisation phase, working closely with our delivery partners. This Action Plan demonstrates that we've listened to a wide range of views, both from providers and users of ELC, which are shaping the route ahead. It also provides our delivery partners in local authorities, and the private and third sectors, with a clear policy and delivery framework in which to build capacity for 1140 hours.
I am setting out an approach that, first and foremost, will deliver the best outcomes for children, helping to deliver both excellence and equity in education; while also promoting greater choice and flexibility for parents in how they access their entitlement to 1140 hours of free ELC by 2020.
I look forward to continuing to work with our stakeholders and delivery partners as we take forward this ambitious policy and give all of our children the best possible start in life.
Minister for Childcare and Early Years
Email: Euan Carmichael