A blueprint for 2020: the expansion of early learning and childcare in Scotland - 2017-2018 action plan

Outline of actions regarding the expansion of early learning and childcare.

Section 2: Creating The Capacity And Supporting Structures For 1140 Hours

A service model that guarantees quality and unlocks choice

Our policy vision will be underpinned by a more progressive service model, which prioritises and safeguards quality provision of ELC while offering parents a greater choice of settings.

Local authorities will continue to play a vital role in delivering ELC - as the primary guarantor of quality and the key enabler of flexibility and choice. Authorities will retain statutory responsibility for ensuring that funded ELC entitlement is available to all eligible children in their area.

Families across Scotland have the right to expect a consistent approach to service delivery reflecting national policy, but interpreted in light of local circumstances.

Our approach is fundamentally provider neutral - prioritising the settings that are best placed to deliver quality outcomes for children and supporting our ambition to close the attainment gap, regardless of whether they are provided by the public, private or third sectors.

We will work in partnership with local authorities to develop a Funding Follows the Child approach for national implementation in 2020. This approach will ensure financially sustainable provision, and deliver Fair Work practices, across all sectors.

Funding for delivery of the ELC entitlement of 600 hours is currently included within the general revenue grant provided to local authorities, but we know from our Financial Review that this funding doesn't always reach frontline delivery. The new funding model will ensure that funding provided for ELC directly supports our young children and their families, enabling and promoting a holistic approach to service delivery, while allowing local authorities to negotiate funding rates at local level which deliver national policy priorities.

We know from our Financial Review and responses to the Blueprint consultation that there are two key barriers to private and third sector providers delivering funded ELC: (1) the current partnership agreement process, which can be cumbersome and restrictive; and (2) the hourly rate offered by local authorities doesn't meet the costs of provision. The new service model will be underpinned by a more open, proportionate and consistent approach, which makes it more attractive for high quality providers to deliver funded ELC.

  • We will establish an ELC Service Models Working Group with local authorities to:
  • develop the details of the new Funding Follows the Child model; and
  • produce a national standard for a more open process to becoming a funded provider.
  • Through our Quality Action Plan, we will work with stakeholders to define the quality dimensions of the national funded provider standard. This will draw heavily on existing quality standards used by Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate. Our response to the Education Governance review will provide clarity on responsibilities for the overall monitoring of standards.

There was some support from consultation respondents to the introduction of early learning and childcare accounts, through for example a system similar to that proposed by the Commission for Childcare Reform. [8] Such accounts would see parents and carers receive funding for ELC provision directly, which they can then spend at a provider of their choice. While we consider there to be some merit in this approach, including creating a wholly digital platform for administration, we recognise that more time would be required to develop the necessary systems and data sharing arrangements and the focus for the next three years needs to be on building additional capacity to deliver expanded provision. To ensure that we are well placed to consider the introduction of ELC accounts at the appropriate time:

  • We will commission a feasibility study to explore the potential costs and benefits of introducing an Early Learning and Childcare Account in the future.

Delivering more flexible provision

Responses to our consultation make clear that the level of flexibility offered by local authorities does not always reflect the expectations of the local community. It will be important that local parental demand remains the primary driver of local flexibility, but within a system which safeguards high quality provision.

Our new service models will ensure that parents have a greater choice of providers from which they can access funded ELC. We also need to consider the flexibility of provision offered by those providers and settings, building on the provisions in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. The same Act places a duty on local authorities to consult with parents and carers, every two years, about how they would like to see the provision being delivered.

New and innovative models for delivering ELC which offer more flexibility are being explored in the ELC Delivery Model trials which commenced in January 2017. The Scottish Government is providing £1 million of investment to support this programme of trials.

  • We will consult on the legislative changes required to ensure that existing provisions on flexibility, including consultation requirements, remain appropriate to deliver our policy vision for 2020.
  • We will publish guidance on delivering flexibility in early 2018, drawing on the operation of, and learning from, the ELC delivery model trials to help local authorities design their provision for 2020.

Delivering 1140 hours

Delivering the expansion to 1140 hours will require additional resource, both revenue and capital, to support the necessary investment to increase both the workforce and the physical infrastructure. We will invest over £60 million in 2017-18 to support the first phase of capacity building.

We have launched an ELC expansion planning process to help local authorities produce robust implementation plans, supported by guidance on working through key questions on infrastructure, workforce and delivery models for 1140 hours. This will ensure that our national programme is built on local plans. Local authorities will work towards finalising these plans by the end of September 2017.

We will support the delivery of 14 trials of new service delivery models across the country over 2017-18 and will share the learning from these with local authorities and other partners on an ongoing basis, starting with an initial national event on 4 May 2017. Monitoring and evaluation of the trials programme will be embedded within an evaluation framework for ELC expansion.

To enable local authorities to deliver the capacity required for the full roll-out of 1140 hours from August 2020:

  • We will establish and provide delivery support to local authorities. This multi-disciplinary team, which has been co-designed with local authorities, will provide access to additional service innovation and redesign capacity and to professional and technical expertise on common and complex issues.

Maximising the contribution of childminders

Childminders and community childminders have a key role in delivering the expanded entitlement, especially for younger children. This could be through, for example, increased use of 'blended models' which involve children spending time in both a nursery setting and with a childminder.

Childminders have played a relatively limited role in providing funded entitlement up to now, with SCMA reporting that of the 5,954 professional childminding services in Scotland only 118 are delivering funded ELC. [9] The expansion provides an opportunity for childminders to have an enhanced role in delivering funded ELC and to increase choice and flexibility; and achieve a good blend of home and external, and individual and group, provision.

Our programme of delivery trials will provide helpful learning on making optimum use of childminders in delivering funded provision, with 10 of the 14 trials involving childminders.

Building capacity within the early years workforce

As already highlighted, the most important driver of quality in ELC is a dedicated, highly‑skilled and well-qualified workforce, whose initial and continued training enables them to fulfil and refresh their professional role. Scotland is already leading the way across the UK in its ambition to have a highly qualified and regulated workforce.

The expansion will see this workforce grow substantially, resulting in the creation of new positions across all grades providing employment opportunities for new entrants to the sector, as well as progression opportunities for existing staff.

To inform our strategic approach to expanding the workforce, we commissioned a Skills Investment Plan ( SIP) for the sector from Skills Development Scotland ( SDS). SDS has now published the SIP Prospectus, [10] with a detailed action plan to follow later in the year. Produced in conjunction with key partners and stakeholders, this provides a helpful reference point from which to take forward our actions to grow the ELC workforce.

We are providing local authorities with £21 million in 2017-18 to invest in the first phase of the workforce expansion - both increasing the size of the workforce and equipping existing staff with new skills. This local investment will be complemented by an increase in the number of places available on further and higher education courses in the 2017‑18 academic year. The Scottish Funding Council will provide an additional 350 graduate-level places (which includes places to support the Additional Graduate commitment) and 650 places for practitioner-level qualifications across our further and higher educational institutions.

  • We will increase the number of ELC Modern Apprenticeships by 10% year on year up to 2020.
  • We will review the financial contributions and eligibility criteria for ELC related apprenticeships for those over 25, to create new opportunities to join the ELC workforce.
  • We will work with local authorities and delivery partners to develop recruitment and career pathways which assist in both attracting and retaining high-calibre candidates within the ELC workforce, and which also improve the gender balance across the sector.

Valuing the ELC workforce

There are few more important jobs than caring for, and educating, our youngest children. Scotland already has a dedicated and highly qualified ELC workforce, but we know that we can do more to change perceptions about a career in ELC and to ensure it's an attractive and long-term career choice.

This will require the promotion of Fair Work practices across the sector, including ensuring that staff are fairly remunerated.

Public sector staff working in ELC already receive the Living Wage. It was disappointing, and concerning, that our Financial Review found that around 80% of practitioners and 50% of supervisors in private and third sector settings delivering the funded entitlement are paid below the Living Wage. [11] We want to see all childcare workers delivering the funded entitlement, across all sectors, paid at least the Living Wage from the introduction of the entitlement to 1140 hours in 2020.

As part of our reform of the funding model, we will provide sufficient additional revenue funding to allow local authorities to agree rates with funded providers in the private and third sectors that enables them to pay the Living Wage to care workers providing the funded entitlement. We will work with local authorities and delivery partners through our new Service Models Working Group to take forward this commitment.

We will also work with delivery partners to encourage the promotion of Fair Work practices, and payment of the Living Wage, across all of the ELC sector in Scotland. This will include encouraging ELC settings to offer flexible working arrangements for ELC staff.

Work is already underway to engage with schools and colleges to promote the sector to students. We are also working with the SSSC who already have ELC career ambassadors on the ground and engaging with schools and colleges. SDS are already developing online tools to show the range of opportunities available within the ELC sector.

  • We will launch a recruitment marketing campaign in autumn 2017. This will positively promote careers in ELC and the opportunities to transform the lives of our children.
  • We will work with SDS to produce updated guidance on opportunities in ELC for careers advice organisations, ensuring that this reflects the range of roles available in the sector.

Creating a more diverse ELC workforce

Our aim is for an ELC workforce that better reflects wider society. The benefits of a more balanced workforce are clear - diversity in the workforce brings a variety of approaches, outlooks and styles to working with children. In the same way that males can bring a different perspective to ELC, so can those from black and minority ethnic groups (who are also currently under represented), as well as those who have had careers in other areas. Those who wish to change career, whose employment circumstances may have changed, or who have retired, can bring fresh perspective and a range of experience to the workforce.

  • We will work with delivery partners, who already have excellent links to communities across Scotland, to raise the profile of a career in ELC amongst underrepresented groups. This will be complemented by our recruitment marketing campaign.

The ELC workforce remains overwhelmingly female, with men representing only 4% of the workforce. Recruiting more males to the workforce will, in time, provide a virtuous cycle where boys will have more male role models influencing them in the early years and therefore will view a career in ELC more positively in the future. Our consultation suggests that improved pay and conditions in the sector will help to attract more men into careers in ELC, and increasing the proportion of outdoor learning opportunities should do likewise. The proportion of males working in outdoor daycare is just over 9%, more than double the sector average. Our forthcoming recruitment marketing campaign will raise the profile of males in the workforce by using case studies, including outdoor examples, to illustrate the success and job satisfaction among men in ELC.

Building a high quality physical environment

Physical settings can have a direct impact on the quality of experience and learning for children. We have been working with partners, including the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Futures Trust, to develop new good design guidance for all ELC settings to ensure that we learn from best practice at home and internationally.

  • We will publish a new good practice design guide for ELC in June 2017, which will promote good innovative design for both indoor and outdoor space.
  • We will commission the Scottish Futures Trust to produce an ELC infrastructure progress report to ensure we can learn and share lessons to inform the capital investment between now and 2020 and highlight the opportunities that this investment programme presents to support wider economic growth.

Ensuring provision is accessible

As ELC delivery models become more flexible, it is vital to ensure that provision is accessible to all.

As part of the expansion, consideration will also be given to the availability of good quality Gaelic Medium provision, particularly in areas where there is high potential for continuity through to Gaelic Medium Primary Education. We expect to see evidence of this in local authority's expansion plans.

We are committed to further empowerment of ELC settings, and particularly where community empowerment could encourage and develop community-led provision, especially in remote and rural areas which face unique delivery challenges. As we consider the expansion of ELC we are open to innovative delivery approaches where they can add value. There may be specific opportunities to encourage expansion in the number of providers who are social enterprises, and to support our wider ambitions for the social enterprise sector.

We know that proximity of ELC provision to places of work or study can be important for some parents. A particular issue that has been raised is the extent of on-site provision within the Higher and Further Education estates. We are currently taking forward research to explore this issue in more detail.

  • We will publish an analysis of the extent of on-site childcare provision in Scotland's Higher and Further Education estates in early summer 2017.

Ensuring provision is affordable

The expansion will almost double the number of free hours of ELC entitlement available to parents and carers, substantially reducing the childcare costs they face. The total average saving to families from 1140 hours of funded entitlement is estimated to be worth over £4,500 per child per year. However, there are other economic barriers to accessing ELC. In particular, upfront childcare costs - which can include deposits, administration fees and the payment of the first month's fees in advance - can create a barrier for some parents on low incomes who require hours beyond the entitlement.

Targeted support with childcare costs is available to certain groups, including students. The Review of Student Support, due to report in autumn 2017, will consider the effectiveness of the current student support system for childcare costs.

  • We will implement a programme of pilot approaches in 2017-18 to explore how additional support can be tailored to help reduce the burden of upfront childcare costs. The pilots will focus on trialling deposit guarantee schemes. We will set out more details in summer 2017.

Phasing of the entitlement to 1140 hours

The expansion will require substantial levels of investment in workforce and infrastructure which will be phased in from 2017-18 onwards to ensure that the required capacity is in place by 2020 to enable full roll-out of the expanded entitlement. Given the transformative nature of the expansion, and the potential structural changes that could result in the sector, it is challenging to assume that the system would be able to move smoothly from providing 600 hours to 1140 hours overnight.

Local authorities will have flexibility to determine the most appropriate way to phase entitlement in their local area as they build the necessary capacity to deliver 1140 hours. We have made clear in the expansion planning guidance issued to local authorities that plans for phasing should reflect the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation to ensure that the families and communities who stand to benefit most from the expansion also benefit first.

Monitoring and evaluation

We are working with a range of key stakeholders to develop a robust monitoring and evaluation framework for the ELC expansion. We recognise that this framework needs to remain flexible to adapt to changes in delivery, and we will ensure it remains proportionate, minimises duplication, costs and utilises existing data wherever possible. It is anticipated that the outputs from this evaluation will be published regularly, to ensure that we have an open and transparent approach, encompassing the views and shared vision of our stakeholders.

  • We will publish the first in a series of evaluation reports by the end of 2017. This will include an evaluation of the current expansion to 600 hours per annum as well as baseline indicators for monitoring progress towards the expansion to 1140 hours.


Email: Euan Carmichael

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