3. Quality of ELC Provision
Children face a number of transitions throughout their early-learner journey. For example, from the home to ELC, across different ELC settings, within those settings, and into school. The system must ensure that these transitions support continuity, coherence and progression.
Question 1: How do we ensure children are fully supported at the transition stages throughout their early-learner journey? What support should be provided to ensure that the ELC workforce and teachers have the skills, knowledge and capacity to support transitions?
3.1 305 respondents (91%) answered this question.
Views on ensuring children are fully supported at the transition stages
3.2 Views revolved around the following themes:
Need to establish structured transition policies and plans
3.3 An overarching theme across several sectors was the need for ELC settings to establish clear plans relating to transition stages and "settling in" periods. Planning and implementing structured programmes of actions were viewed as ways to facilitate smooth transitions to support children.
3.4 "Transition policies" and "settling in" policies were both mentioned in responses, with some respondents providing specific examples of practice which had worked well in their setting, for example, "Stay and Play" sessions whereby parents/carers are encouraged to attend ELC sessions with their child to ease their integration into the ELC setting, whilst also benefiting from getting to know staff and the ethos of the setting, and meeting other families.
3.5 A few respondents emphasised the need for promoting awareness and understanding of such policies amongst the ELC staff and parents.
Need to involve parents/carers in supporting transition
3.6 Many respondents, particularly individuals and local government bodies, identified parents/carers as having a key role to play in supporting children at the transition stages. It was suggested that parents/carers should be educated in ways to do this, and the significance of the transitional stages impressed upon them. The phrase, "transition starts a home" was used.
3.7 A common theme was the need for effective partnership working between ELC and school settings and parents/families. Respondents from a wide range of sectors emphasised the need for strong communication between ELC staff and parents, time dedicated to engagement with families, and the importance of ELC staff and schools building up a picture of each child's home and family life, in order to support them best at transition stages.
Involving other practitioners
3.8 Several local government bodies and individuals in particular suggested that professionals outwith the key ELC and teaching sectors should also be involved in ensuring smooth transitions. Childminders, health visitors and speech and language specialists were identified as having potentially valuable contributions to make in preparing children for transition, and providing key background information to help in planning their transition.
Adopting individualised approaches
3.9 Within the context of an overarching transition policy, individualised approaches to meet the needs of each child were recommended by respondents from a range of sectors. One individual referred to this as "one-to-one transitioning". To support children best, suggestions were made for flexible approaches, at the child's pace, gradual, in short phases.
3.10 It was highlighted by a few respondents that children will go to school from a variety of different nursery settings, with some attending more than one pre-school setting, demonstrating the need for individualised approaches to settling them into their new environment.
3.11 A small number of respondents (private nursery and individuals) considered that the decision on when to move children from one stage to another should be made jointly between parents and ELC staff.
3.12 The need to introduce more flexibility into timing of transitions was suggested by a few respondents across four different sectors. In particular, there was support for moving away from age-led criteria for starting school, to either delaying this age, or focusing more on readiness to start school. One respondent recommended exploring the benefits of a flexible "deferral" system in which delayed starting school for some children is viewed positively.
Support from key people through transition
3.13 A common theme was that a way of supporting children through ELC transitions is to ensure they have a dedicated supporter with them throughout. Depending on context, parents/carers, key workers, and named persons were all identified as having a role to play.
3.14 Key workers were considered to be important in being able to plan ahead, provide information to make the transition smoother, liaise with workers at the next stage, attend the next setting with the child, and provide appropriate support until the child is settled.
Transition visits and meetings
3.15 Many respondents recommended planned programmes of visits for children in preparation for moving to the next stage of their ELC journey. The importance of building these into transition plans was emphasised. One individual described a "buddy scheme" whereby children from the new setting visit those preparing to move on, as part of the transition process.
3.16 A common view was that visits should be phased and gradual, building up time spent at the new setting, and supported throughout by key and familiar people, to help children accommodate the change.
3.17 Another recurring suggestion was for planned programmes of meetings and engagement between key members of the workforce at the old and new settings in order to exchange information. It was acknowledged that this may involve many different personnel, for example, where children from a variety of ELC settings move on to primary school. Some respondents envisaged regular meetings leading up to transition, between nursery staff, primary school staff and parents; a local government nursery school described how the nursery teacher made visits to local playgroups each term to support transition.
3.18 A number of key challenges were identified which respondents flagged as requiring careful planning and handling to ensure children are supported appropriately:
- Children who have ASN.
- Children whose first language is not English.
- Where there are several private nurseries feeding into a primary school or nursery and where additional time will be required to ensure adequate liaison and engagement prior to, and during, transition.
Views on the support to be provided to ensure that the ELC workforce and teachers have the skills, knowledge and capacity to support transitions
3.19 Views on ensuring that the ELC workforce and teachers have the skills, knowledge and capacity to support transitions revolved around the following themes:
Level of staffing
3.20 A common view across a wide range of sectors was that ELC workforce and teacher staffing levels should ideally be such that there is capacity for practitioners to devote time to focusing on transitions, to work in partnership with families and other practitioners on transitions, and to undertake the relevant continued professional development to ensure their skills and knowledge are kept up-to-date:
"There must be capacity across all providers to ensure high quality transition from home, between providers and to primary school. This means that settings and schools must have more staffing than the bare minimum required for pupil contact time. There must be clear expectations about, mechanisms for and understanding of transition practices. This should include protected time for nursery staff, health visitors, etc to properly engage with transition processes" (Representative Body).
3.21 Another recurring view was that ratios of staff to children should allow for staff to get to know each child individually, and thereby gain more knowledge in how best to support the child through transitions.
3.22 A few respondents suggested that what they perceived to be increasing amounts of paperwork in the ELC sector, limited the capacity of the ELC workforce and teachers to spend time on supporting transitions. Other challenges mentioned less frequently were staffing to support the transitions of children with ASNs; ensuring workforce capacity and appropriate ratios in rural areas; maintaining adequate levels of support assistants and support specialists, particularly in primary schools; and coping with what some perceived to be constantly changing ELC policies and protocol which took time to adjust to.
Remuneration for ELC practitioners
3.23 A small number of respondents, largely individuals, identified issues of pay for ELC staff as needing to be addressed in order to enable practitioners to support children through their early-learner journey effectively. Their key concerns were:
- For ELC staff to devote additional time to upskilling for transitions, there should be some financial gain, as training is done largely in their own (unpaid) time.
- For ELC staff to be motivated to go on to undertake professional qualifications, there should be a financial benefit.
- To facilitate partnership working with other professionals working in this field, there should be greater equity in pay across sectors.
- Additional Scottish Government funding is required in order that private nurseries can pay salaries commensurate with those paid in local government establishments and reflective of the qualifications of the staff.
Effective partnership working
3.24 A common view across many sectors was that closer collaborative working with strong communication between practitioner settings is essential to ensuring that the ELC workforce and teachers have the knowledge to support transitions. Several respondents emphasised that such partnership working should be underpinned by transition policies, with time allocated to execute the plans.
3.25 Many respondents across a range of sectors emphasised the need for shared understandings, values, ethos, expectations and ambition regarding children's ELC transitions, and suggested a key way to engender this as joint training across sectors. In particular, some specified that childminders should be enabled to attend joint training, and the importance of involving private nursery practitioners with others.
3.26 A few local government and individual respondents suggested that clear, cross-sectoral guidelines on the importance of transitions and their management could be very useful in promoting joint working and understandings.
3.27 A few respondents, including representative bodies and individuals, commented that practitioner respect for others across different settings is essential in order to gain maximum benefit from collaborative working. For example, a representative body remarked that private and third sector settings often had much experience from managing children's transitions from an early age.
Sharing of information
3.28 The need for ELC and teaching sectors to share relevant information about children to aid transitions was a common theme across several sectors. Some respondents emphasised the requirement for good quality, detailed information, and suggested ways to ensure consistency, such as standard documents to be used across settings, "transition profiles", a "universal document" and the like. One individual requested systems to be in place for community/third sector groups to share the useful information they have on children and their families.
3.29 A common theme was that the ELC workforce and teachers should be supported with appropriate training to equip them with the skills and knowledge they require to guide children through transition stages. Many respondents made general comments regarding the need for highly qualified staff, with the necessary skills to work in this field.
3.30 A few respondents urged that qualified teachers are deployed within ELC settings, and that there should be funding available for nursery staff to embark on under-graduate courses of relevance.
3.31 A recurring theme was that training should be viewed as career-long, needing regularly updated, continued professional development being key. In-house training was envisaged as part of this, with capacity needed to release staff from frontline duties for this purpose.
3.32 A repeated view was that training should be relevant and involve a range of approaches such as shadowing and visits to gold standard establishments to observe effective practice. A few respondents suggested that colleges and other training providers review their course content to ensure up-to-date relevance, focusing on the outcomes and competencies around transition. Latest research was identified as potentially informing course content and generating valuable lessons on transitions. Several respondents suggested that best practice on transitions could be usefully shared as part of learning.
3.33 Several respondents across a variety of sectors recommended specific topics for training, listed below from most to least frequently mentioned:
- Transition support
- Child development/developmental stages
- Play-based learning
- Additional support needs and transition support
3.34 There were a few suggestions, largely from individuals, for teachers to have more training in early years, including placements in early years' settings.
Views relating to Question 1 emerging from consultative events
3.35 The overarching views to emerge related to ensuring consistency for children and for parents/carers. Emphasis was placed on minimising the number of transitions taking place, particularly for vulnerable children. For families with more than one child requiring ELC, a holistic view to planning transitions was required, with emphasis on siblings provided for in one setting. Consistency across local authorities in supporting children at the transition stages was requested.
Question 2: What support is required to ensure that the ELC workforce have the skills, knowledge and capacity to deliver high quality provision for two year olds? How can the ELC sector best meet the specific learning, developmental and environmental needs of two year olds? What approach should be taken on the transition for these children when they turn three?
3.36 297 respondents (88%) answered this question.
Views on ensuring the ELC workforce have the skills, knowledge and capacity to deliver high quality provision for two year olds
3.37 There was overarching agreement that the skillset for delivering provision for two year olds is specialist, requires training and experience, and is different to that required for older children.
3.38 The most common response across sectors was that the ELC workforce will require to upskill and refresh their learning in order to deliver high quality provision for two year olds. Relevant training, tailored to provision of care for two year olds, was viewed as crucial, with many respondents identifying knowledge of pre-birth to three national guidance and Building the Ambition  as fundamental to all those working with this age group. A small number of respondents recommended a clear training framework to aid consistency in approach.
3.39 A few individual respondents suggested relevant training should be made mandatory. Others, from a range of sectors, gave their view that workforce leaders, such as nursery managers and headteachers, should also be required to undertake such training. A small number of respondents across different sectors considered that the training of childminders working with two year olds should be addressed as a priority, with joint training across sectors and settings suggested.
3.40 A few respondents, largely individuals, called for qualified teachers to be within all ELC settings delivering provision to two year olds.
3.41 There was some demand for more accessible and affordable learning opportunities, underpinned by more resources, particularly for private sector nursery staff. Suggestions were made for varied outlets such as online learning; local opportunities for training; and in-service and in-house training; and peer monitoring.
3.42 A common theme was that private nurseries and third sector/community settings already have a wealth of experience in delivering ELC provision to two year olds and this expertise could be usefully harnassed for training purposes. Suggestions were made for placements in such settings; observations; shadowing; and sharing good practice.
3.43 Some respondents specified topics for training which they considered important for this age group. The most commonly mentioned are listed below from most to least mentioned:
- Child development; social and emotional development
- Mental health/autism
- Providing for children with ASN
Views on how the ELC sector can best meet the specific learning, developmental and environmental needs of two year olds
3.44 A common view, largely from individuals, was that ELC staffing levels will need to increase to ensure ratios of staff to children are more suited to this younger age group. Several respondents commented on how resource-intense provision for two year olds has to be to cater for their needs.
3.45 Higher staffing levels were also seen as necessary in order to enable staff to build relationships with parents and families and also other professionals such as health visitors, and speech and language specialists, who may be more involved at this age.
3.46 The notion of supporting parents and children together, helping with parenting skills and involving parents in ELC care, was put forward by a few, with a local authority and some individuals suggesting further development of family learning centres and hubs. A few respondents envisaged ELC staff making regular visits to children's homes to facilitate closer working with parents and carers.
3.47 It was generally agreed that provision for two year olds would be play-based with opportunity for art, movement, dance, singing, sensory play, and story-telling all expected to be key elements. A few respondents, largely individuals, emphasised what they perceived to be the need for outdoor play opportunities.
3.48 A repeated theme was that the ethos should be one of nurturing the child, adopting an individualised approach based on time spent with the child, observing them and gradually understanding their preferences and abilities.
3.49 Many organisations, from across different sectors, emphasised the need for adapting current premises to ensure suitable provision for two year olds in terms of: toileting and nappy changing areas; rest areas; space for feeding; and space for carefully selected age-appropriate play equipment.
3.50 A few respondents suggested that provision should be made for more "stay and play" opportunities for parents and carers.
3.51 A small but significant body of respondents (largely individuals) expressed concern over children of this age entering into local authority ELC settings before they are ready. What some perceived to be the benefits of childminders over ELC nursery settings were outlined, with some suggestions that childminders could be utilised more within ELC settings to help children settle, and to work with small clusters of children.
Views on what approach should be taken on the transition for these children when they turn three
3.52 Views overlapped to some extent with those provided in response to the previous question. The most common view expressed was that timing of transition should be based on readiness rather than age. Rather than a one-off event, respondents viewed transition to be an on-going process with gradual preparations made to equip each child for the next stage.
3.53 The need for continuity between the original and the receiving setting was emphasised, with suggestions made for key people to make the transition with the child, and stay for a "settling" period.
3.54 Effective communication and partnership working between the original and receiving settings, in addition to close working with relevant support professionals such as health visitors, were viewed as essential for smooth transitions. A well structured transition plan was also identified as important.
3.55 A key emerging theme was that efforts could be made to minimise transitions for children of this age. Ideas for this included: adopting a two to five year approach; using a childminder throughout; ensuring new builds include appropriate accommodation for two year olds; and ensuring the child stays with the same provider throughout their early years. It was highlighted by several respondents (individuals and private nurseries in particular) that private nurseries already make provision for two to five year olds, therefore their transitions do not involve movement between settings.
Views relating to Question 2 emerging from consultative events
3.56 Participants in one event identified a greater role for childminders working with this age group. This was also viewed as avoiding stigmatising vulnerable two year olds.
3.57 A need for an expanded and diversified workforce was identified to address the increased requirement for provision for this age group. Some participants, however, expressed concern that this may reduce the level of experience of the workforce overall, with one idea being to limit the number of trainees in any one setting.
A highly qualified and diverse ELC workforce
The delivery of a quality ELC experience will continue to be driven by the dedicated and highly skilled and qualified ELC 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.
The Scottish Government considers it vital that as part of the expansion, the skills and qualifications profile of the ELC workforce is raised, diversity is increased, and there is greater gender balance in the workforce.
Question 3: How can the qualification routes and career paths that are open to ELC practitioners be developed to ensure that the ELC sector is seen as an attractive long-term career route?
3.58 292 respondents (87%) answered this question.
3.59 There was widespread, cross-category agreement that the ELC sector required significant overhaul to present it as an attractive, long-term career route. Of particular concern was what was viewed as current inconsistencies across Scotland, local authority areas, and providers, in: pay and conditions; routes into the sector; opportunities for upskilling and career path progression; qualifications required; and promotion through schools and colleges. Such inconsistencies were perceived to create instability and uncertainty in the workforce and inhibit long-term career aspirations.
3.60 A new national framework was supported for pay and conditions; and a national training strategy was called for to streamline and clarify routes into the sector, and opportunities once in post.
3.61 A summary of the main themes follows.
Views on perceptions of the sector
3.62 It was generally agreed that sector is not currently valued highly, particularly in relation to the teaching profession, with relatively low pay one main contributor to the image of a "Cinderella" or "last resort" profession.
3.63 A dominant view was that pay should at least represent a living wage and should incentivise those taking further qualifications and gaining more experience, by rewarding them accordingly. Low pay was viewed by many as off-putting to men in particular, who otherwise might consider this sector for a career. The prevalence of short-term contracts was also a major drawback for those seeking a reliable income and a job for the future. One respondent commented:
"As a parent, I don't want to participate in a system where the people who look after my children have to be amongst the lowest paid in society" (Individual).
3.64 A recurring view, across private sector nurseries in particular, was that more funding is required from the Scottish Government to enable them to pay staff higher salaries. Many considered that without this the current inequity in pay between the private and the local authority sectors will continue, resulting in instability in the workforce as practitioners migrate to more lucrative posts.
3.65 A common view was that the increasing expectations and demands placed on the sector, for example from the Care Inspectorate, were not matched by increased financial gain, leading to low morale and perceptions of being under-valued.
3.66 There were many calls for greater alignment with the teaching profession as a means to achieve higher status. Ways to do this were suggested and included: greater respect for the BA in Childhood Practice as a credible qualification on par with the BA in Education; terms and conditions in line with those offered in the teaching profession; clear career progression which includes routes into teaching; greater fluidity between professionals moving between the two sectors; and respect for skills and input of leaders in the ELC sector as with leaders in the teaching profession.
3.67 Several respondents identified the terminology of ELC as potentially hampering its portrayal as a legitimate, long-term career option. A repeated view was that "practitioners" was frequently used to cover a wide variety of roles of different stature, diminishing their individual value, and not respecting and valuing each of their contributions. A common view was that greater clarity and consistency are required in terminology of the roles and responsibilitites of the different ELC posts in order to attract newcomers to the sector.
3.68 A recurring view was that school careers advisors and training colleges have a key part to play in promoting the sector as an attractive option and a credible choice for those looking for a long-term career. A few respondents suggested that work needs to be done to overturn the image of ELC as "women's work". An example given was that of Ayrshire College where a course "Men into Care" is offered.
3.69 There was support across sectors for a dedicated marketing campaign to promote the value and credibility of the sector for long-term career prospects.
Views on ELC career path and qualifications
3.70 There was general agreement that currently there is no clear career path to aspire to in the sector. Inconsistency within and across different local authority regions was seen as contributing to this, for example, qualified teachers being removed from nurseries in some areas and re-instated elsewhere. Calls were made for transparency in career options; several respondents requested a nationally recognised plan or map of the ELC career pathway, incorporating relevant qualifications and timeframes. A few respondents suggested that more information should be available on entry points to the sector.
3.71 Childminders were referred to by a few respondents, across different categories, as requiring special attention regarding their career path. One representative body remarked that not much is known about their choices in career, their progressions and their options, yet they represent a valuable and integral aspect of delivering ELC.
3.72 A common view was that the qualifications associated with the ELC sector are confusing and should be modernised. A repeated request was for simplification and streamlining and for the current qualifications to be reviewed to assess their fit for purpose. For example, a few respondents identified the BA Education as offering expertise in teaching and learning but limited in terms of content on childhood; the BA in Childhood Practice was seen as focused on leadership and management but not strong on child pedagogy and curriculum.
3.73 A few respondents emphasised the need for nationally recognised qualifications which would be acknowledged in other jurisdictions in cases of transfer.
3.74 A small number of respondents, including a few local authorities, suggested that relevant qualifications should be included in the school curriculum at national 4 and 5 level.
Views on facilitating routes in and career paths
3.75 Many respondents recommended innovative approaches to facilitating routes into the profession such as free access to training for older returners; family-friendly policies to enable the children of ELC workers to be catered for; expansion of apprenticeship schemes in secondary schoools; and greater opportunity to progress through training once in the sector, with options such as distance learning, on-the-job training, paid attendance at courses, and chances to pursue specialist interests such as speech therapy.
Views relating to Question 3 emerging from consultative events
3.76 General views were that the sector is not highly valued at present, with low pay and long hours contributing to this image. There was support for an increased profile for the BA in Childhood Practice. The terminology used to describe the profession was identified as requiring review in order to present greater appeal.
3.77 Participants identified capacity of the workforce as challenging, with suggestions for ways to recruit more personnel into the profession. Calls were made for innovative ways to broaden pathways into the workforce and career paths once within the profession. Parents of children receiving ELC and those working in ELC in a voluntary capacity were identified as potential candidates for the future paid workforce.
Question 4: How can we increase the diversity of the ELC workforce, in particular increasing the gender balance in the sector?
3.78 270 respondents (80%) answered this question.
3.79 By far the most common response was that improving pay and conditions would have the biggest impact on increasing diversity of the ELC workforce by attracting more men into the sector. Longer-term contracts and greater flexibility in hours were also identified as key factors.
3.80 Another recurring theme was the need for a large-scale promotion of ELC as a respected and valuable profession with significant impact on the long-term development of children.
3.81 A number of more specific approaches to attracting greater numbers of men into the ELC workforce were suggested, with the most frequently mentioned listed below:
- Well publicised progression/career structure within the profession.
- Large-scale marketing campaign aimed at men, showcasing case studies and examples of men already working in the profession; identification of "champions" or "ambassadors" to portray the sector in a positive way using images and information which men will relate to.
- Opening up a variety of routes into the profession in addition to the traditional approaches. For example, apprenticeships; engaging men to deliver sessions in sport, gardening, creative subjects, as a first step in. Encouraging men into childminding roles, perhaps with partners, as a taster, and opportunity for initial experience.
- Being much more specific in distinguishing between, and defining the different roles on offer within the ELC workforce. Re-branding some to make them more attractive to men (for example, "Centre manager" was suggested).
- Changing the focus of promotion of ELC from "nurturing" to "adventure" with outdoor space and play to appeal to men's interests and strengths.
- Valuing qualifications in fields such as outdoor learning and sports development as potentially useful to the ELC sector.
- Ensuring men who commence the route into the sector are supported by buddying and mentoring schemes involving other men.
Views on challenges to attracting more men into the ELC workforce
3.82 Negative attitudes towards men in the ELC profession were identified by many respondents as hampering efforts to achieve a gender balance in the ELC sector. Respondents identified cultural stereotyping of women as those who look after children, and described societal suspicion of the motives of men who choose to enter the sector:
"Significant attitudinal change is required within society as a whole to counteract the myth that caring, nurturing roles, including those with children, are the domain of women" (Representative Body).
Views on more general actions to promote diversity
3.83 A recurring theme was that schools and colleges could do much to promote the ELC sector as a legitimate career choice. A few respondents suggested that more use be made of placements within ELC settings; work experience; apprenticeships in the sector; and addressing stereotypes of ELC being women's work.
3.84 A small number of respondents advocated positive action to target groups under-represented in the ELC sector, for example, targeted job adverts; balancing the gender ratio in FE/ HE recruitment onto courses; running men only training courses; providing bursaries and grants for men only; advertising certain posts in minority languages in minority community settings.
3.85 Some respondents identified what they had experienced as successful initiatives aimed at increasing the number of men in the profession. Men in Childcare and Glasgow City Council's "Approved by Dads" were mentioned, as was the organisation, Men in Childcare.
3.86 A small number of respondents across several different categories suggested that there is much to learn from other countries who have managed to increase diversity in their childcare workforce. They also recommended examining relevant research and building on positive approaches from this.
Views relating to Question 4 emerging from consultative events
3.87 There was agreement that there can be stigma attached to men entering the ELC profession, with more acceptance of men within primary and secondary schooling, rather than in pre-school settings. Suggestions were made to address this, such as schools and colleges promoting ELC as a profession for men, using role models from within the ELC sector to promote to other men, and including examples of men within ELC in case studies.
3.88 The current pay for the ELC workforce was viewed as off-putting and not appropriate for a main wage-earner within a family.
3.89 Participants at one event highlighted older people as potential recruits to the ELC sector, and suggested that accessibility to training should be made easier to facilitate older people's entry into the ELC workforce.
Living Wage and Fair Work practices
To make a career in ELC a more attractive long-term proposition, the Scottish Government considers that Fair Work practices should be encouraged across the sector. This includes ensuring that workers within the sector are appropriately remunerated, and that they have an ability to combine work with their own family commitments.
The Scottish Government is committed to promoting Fair Work practices across all sectors, and their aspiration is that all workers should be paid at least the Living Wage.
Question 5: How can payment of the Living Wage and wider Fair Work practices be encouraged across the ELC sector?
3.90 249 respondents (74%) addressed this question.
3.91 There was almost universal agreement that payment of the Living Wage and wider Fair Work practices should be implemented across the ELC sector. Introducing these practices was viewed as part of improving the profile of the workforce, valuing its contribution and respecting the importance and potential impact of the profession. Many respondents, particularly those in the public sector, reported that they already operated under these practices.
3.92 Whilst payment of the Living Wage and introducing wider Fair Work practices were supported, a dominant theme across several categories of respondent was that this cannot happen across the entire ELC sector until the true costs of operation are examined and long-term funding established. A recurring view was that a strategic approach should be adopted to planning the expansion and development of ELC, within the framework of Living Wage and wider Fair Work practices. Barriers and incentives should be part of the planning, which should take into consideration the different geographical context of ELC providers, particularly those in rural areas.
3.93 Many respondents envisaged significant benefits from the introduction of the Living Wage and wider Fair Work practices. Some suggested that the Scottish Government and/or local government take the lead in promoting these across the sector. Road shows, guidance, and sharing best practice were mentioned. A few respondents identified improved staff well-being, morale, flexibility, more opportunties to migrate across sectors, greater equity across sectors, less absenteeism, and better staff retention, as benefits.
Views on funding the Living Wage and wider Fair Work practices
3.94 The prevailing view was that more funding will be needed to support higher wage costs and the costs associated with wider Fair Work practices, such as increased staffing to allow for greater flexibility in work patterns. Local government respondents, in particular, emphasised the need for the Scottish Government to provide them with more funding to procure providers who are paying staff the Living Wage.
3.95 A few suggestions were made on funding these practices within current budgets:
- Ring-fencing early years' funding within local authorities.
- Asking parents to pay more for childcare.
- Lowering business rates for ELC providers.
- Lowering or removing VAT rating for childcare.
- Provision of free training for the ELC workforce.
Views on implementation and enforcement
3.96 Two main approaches to ensuring comprehensive implementation of the Living Wage and Fair Work practices were identified repeatedly as:
- Introducing a national pay and conditions framework in order to produce a level playing field with national benchmarks and a national, standardised structure across all sectors.
- Make Living Wage and Fair Work practices key requirements within the procurement of partner provision of ELC.
3.97 There was also some support, particularly amongst individual respondents, for making these practices mandatory through legislation.
3.98 A small number of respondents, largely individuals, identified the need for regular monitoring and inspecting/regulating the exercise of these practices across settings.
Views on incentives
3.99 Many respondents identified the broad, longer-term benefits, outlined in 3.93 above, as positive outcomes which should encourage providers to introduce these practices. In addition, a few suggested immediate, more tangible incentives including accreditation; national recognition; acclaim from the Care Inspectorate; and certificates to mark the achievement.
Views relating to Question 5 emerging from consultative events
3.100 Prevailing views were that offering a Living Wage would go some way to attracting men into the profession and also raise the profile of the ELC sector as a potential career option.
ELC settings designed to maximise the experience for children
ELC will take place in physical environments, indoors and out, designed to maximise the experience for children and improve the quality of learning.
To ensure that world class settings for delivering high quality ELC are delivered, the Scottish Government is working with partners, including the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Futures Trust, to develop new, good design guidance for all ELC settings, which will be published by summer 2017.
Question 6: What actions should be taken to support increased access to outdoor learning, exercise and play?
3.101 293 respondents (87%) addressed this question.
3.102 There was widespread agreement across respondent sectors on the importance of taking actions to increase access to outdoor learning, exercise and play, in terms of physical health and opportunities for play and learning. Many providers described how they were already promoting outdoor access and activities. Childminders in particular, reported daily outdoor experiences.
3.103 The encouragement for ELC providers to ensure children have a minimum of one hour per week outside was viewed by many respondents as low in ambition. A recurring view, across several sectors, was for a minimum not to be stipulated, but instead the notion of "free flow" to be promoted, with children having free choice whether to play outdoors or in. A few respondents requested consistency in message across Scotland, and across related policies, for example, the physical activity strategy.
Views on challenges to increased outdoor access
3.104 A common view was that attitudes towards outdoor learning need to be addressed, with resistance identified amongst some parents and staff. Respondents emphasised the need for outdoor learning to be considered the norm, not an optional extra, to take place whatever the weather, and outdoors to be a place where learning can take place.
3.105 Other challenges frequently raised were:
- Old ELC settings in run-down buildings with limited outdoor space.
- Limited funding to make adaptations for outdoor learning, such as safety adaptations and equipment.
- Inadequate staff to child ratios to accommodate outdoor learning.
- Lack of appropriate clothing (staff and child).
- Poor transport links.
- Particularly in urban areas, lack of close access to safe outdoor environments such as parks and farms.
- Health and safety issues and risk assessments.
Views on frameworks to overcome challenges
3.106 Many respondents envisaged a "holistic" approach to overcoming challenges and promoting increased outdoor access. This involved securing "buy in" from staff, parents and local community; mainstreaming the notion of outdoor learning into all future planning and design, structure of the day, staff and parent education, and promoting outdoor learning, exercise and play as a part of home and ELC life.
3.107 Creating the future framework for outdoor learning was seen as involving a number of drivers, the most frequently mentioned being:
- Provision of national guidance and design as an early priority (acknowledged that this will be published by the Scottish Government in summer 2017); on staffing ratios; on risk assessments. Some organisations referred to existing guidance such as "My World Outdoors" and guidance on the National Improvement Hub and Care Inspectorate website as particularly useful. National organisations such as Play Scotland were also identified as having a guidance role. National Care Standards were referenced as requiring to provide a consistent message.
- Revised risk assessment protocol to reflect "managed" but not "controlled" risk. Simplify the risk assessment process.
- Increased funding (including capital funding) for adaptations to facilitate outdoor access (such as changing windows into doors to the outdoors); grants for equipment such as wellies, play equipment, specialised buggies; funding for initiatives. The Big Lottery Fund example of the Play Ranger Model for Street Play sessions was given.
- Increased funding for higher staffing ratios with consideration given to the especial circumstances of children with disabilities.
- Enhanced opportunities for staff training in outdoor learning and Forest School training.
- Introduction of relevant modules into undergraduate and college courses to ensure that new staff come with a background knowledge in outdoor learning.
- Leadership from regulatory bodies with organisations such as the Care Inspectorate seen as having a role in raising expectations, for example, by including outdoor learning as a registration requirement.
- Local leadership from local authority "champions" or "outdoor learning officers".
Views on local approaches to supporting increased access
3.108 Respondents provided numerous practical suggestions, some based on experience, for how to support increased access to outdoor learning, exercise and play. Most frequently mentioned are below:
- Partner with local sports and physical activity providers to deliver activity in-house, to train staff, or to facilitate visits to local facilities.
- Engage with local active school co-ordinators.
- Educate and involve parents at every opportunity; encourage them to walk/cycle to the ELC setting and continue the outdoor approach at home.
- Ensure a supply of communal outdoor clothing for children and staff so no child is left out and provision is always at hand.
- Make outdoor space attractive and fun (e.g. playground paint; soft surfaces).
- Set up regular outdoor regimes - the "Daily Mile" was referenced; 10 minutes of outdoors after breaks; daily walks, and so on.
- Share facilities with other settings and with the community.
- Engage with community groups who can offer outdoor experiences such as allotment groups; farms; gardening clubs.
- Share good practice with others; hold joint training days across settings.
- Negotiate with local councils and community partnerships over subsidised transport to local outdoor facilities.
Views relating to Question 6 emerging from consultative events
3.109 There was much support for actions to be taken to increase access to outdoor learning, exercise and play, although challenges were identified, such as lack of space in urban areas. Mention was made of practical issues which could be addressed, such as making outdoor areas safer and ensuring the necessary equipment is available and staff are suitably trained to facilitate outdoor learning.
3.110 One group commented that outdoor activities may appeal more to a male workforce and could be a way of diversifying gender.
National Quality Standards and Inspection
The Scottish Government considers it important that accountability and scutiny arrangements are joined-up where possible to reduce unnecessary scrutiny. The two inspectorates, the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland, have worked ever more closely together over recent years, conducting shared inspections, developing their Quality Frameworks to be more holistic in nature and collaborating on areas such as the inspection of childminders.
In the light of extension of funded ELC entitlement by 2020 it is timely to consider how to build on the work of the inspectorates to create a more streamlined and holistic system supporting quality improvement in ELC.
Question 7: How could accountability arrangements for early learning and childcare be improved?
3.111 222 respondents (66%) addressed this question.
3.112 A common view was that the sector is currently tightly regulated with the Care Inspectorate and Eduation Scotland comprising the two key regulators, and many national and local regulatory frameworks also applying, such as Environmental Health, National Care Standards and local authority protocol.
3.113 A dominant theme was the need to ensure accountability arrangements in future are streamlined, with consistent standards and indicators applying. Many respondents considered the merits of combining the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland into one regulatory mechanism. The benefits of this were identified as: avoiding duplication; providing value for money; ensuring a consistent approach; minimising confusion; reducing bureaucracy; being proportionate; saving time; reducing pressure and stress; and being in-keeping with the intergrated model of provision.
3.114 In total, 38 respondents (including 20 local government respondents) clearly suggested taking the opportunity to combine the two regulatory regimes into one.
3.115 Several respondents referred simply to better streamlining of the separate regimes; 10 respondents (including the two regulatory bodies, a union and two FE/ HE establishments) specifically mentioned maintaining separate but complementary roles for the two key regulatory bodies in the future.
Views on current inspections
3.116 There was praise for the current focus on outcomes in inspections, in particular those by the Care Inspectorate. This was seen as ensuring systematic and robust inspection.
3.117 A recurring view, however, across several sectors was that lack of continuity between inspectors created inconsistency in views, with greater transparency and consistency requested. A few respondents suggested that those inspected should be able to hold the regulators to account for their inspections.
3.118 A view held by a small number of organisations, across a range of sectors, was that inspectors should be very highly qualified to do their job, including having relevant frontline experience. A few of the local government respondents proposed that joint inspections take place, involving local authority staff with local knowledge. Two respondents emphasised the need for Gaelic-speaking inspectors for Gaelic-medium schools.
3.119 There were mixed views on the frequency of inspections, with a small body of respondents suggesting that more frequent inspections should take place. A few requested more informal approaches whereby inspectors could be contacted inter-inspection for advice, or to showcase effective practice or improvements.
Views on local regulatory regimes
3.120 A recurring theme emerged around the benefits of local and continuous regulation. Local government respondents, in particular, highlighted possibilities of greater involvement in local hub models of inspection; inter-authority partnership scrutiny models; self-evaluation and reflective local models; and perhaps local childcare panels bringing children and parents together. Local scrutiny frameworks were viewed as having benefits of local knowledge and local tailoring of scrutiny, whilst taking advantage of national tools such as "How Good is our ELC".
3.121 A few respondents suggested greater involvement of parents and practitioners in providing open, honest feedback and being encouraged to raise concerns.
3.122 A small number of respondents considered that sharing good practice across local settings would help to cascade high standards of practice. Several individual respondents identified national structures such as a pay and conditions framework as setting common standards of practice as part of regulation.
3.123 The case of childminders was raised by a few respondents with the common view that they should be encompassed within the regulatory regime and should be assessed, as is the case for any other ELC provider.
Views relating to Question 7 emerging from consultative events
3.124 Participants requested greater stability in accountability arrangements, with some describing how changes in protocol create a burden of red-tape for local providers, who have to change their systems accordingly. Some perceived there to be a lack of consistency between local authorities in accountancy arrangements.
3.125 There was a call for more partnership and collaboration between local authorities and the third sector over accountability, with some form of an "alliance-contract" suggested.
3.126 A proposal emerged from one group for a ELC Centre of Excellence, with a remit for independent research, policy development and identification of what works.
Email: Jeff Maguire