A Blueprint for 2020: Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland Consultation

Consultation inviting views on the future direction of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) provision.


A Focus on Strengthening the Quality of ELC Provision

A key principle underpinning the expansion of ELC entitlement to 1140 hours is that the considerable increase in the quantity of free hours will not be delivered at the expense of quality. Indeed, the focus will be on strengthening the quality of the offer.

We know that the home learning environment continues to be most influential for children. However, the expansion, particularly when delivered alongside other family support, provides a real opportunity to strengthen the foundations of a child's early learning journey.

This will require strong linkages between ELC provision and the wider range of Early Years support provided to children and families.

The expansion will continue to ensure a high quality experience for all children, supporting positive child development and helping children to develop their physical, cognitive and social skills, including their ability to self-regulate.

From the earliest stage, the aim is to equip every child with the early speech, language and communications skills and the foundations for numeracy to support their learning and achievement and ensure that every child has the same chance to succeed.

This learning starts in the home, and ELC provision must be integrated with support for families, in particular in supporting parents and carers to improve and enrich the home learning environment. For example, through initiatives such as PlayTalkRead [8] and Bookbug [9] we are providing support and material to help parents and carers to bond with and give their children the best start in life, and have some fun at the same time.

This will be complemented by high quality ELC provision which will benefit all children. However, for young children who face the greatest disadvantages additional support may be required to support our ambition to close the attainment gap.

That is why we have committed to ensuring that by 2018, nurseries in our most deprived areas will benefit from an additional qualified teacher or graduate. This commitment will mark an important step in our ambition to increase the overall skills and qualifications profile of the sector, providing opportunities for current practitioners to upskill.

The expansion will support the vision, set out in our National Improvement Framework [10] , of an education system which delivers both excellence and equity in equal measure for all children in Scotland.

It will complement other early years and educational activity, such as GIRFEC and our Play Strategy and accompanying Action Plan, to help those children who stand to benefit the most. It will also make a vital contribution to our efforts to make demonstrable progress in closing the attainment gap that currently exists between the most and the least disadvantaged children during the lifetime of this Parliament and to substantially eliminating the gap over the next decade.

Curriculum for Excellence ( CfE) has supported a shift in how children's learning is supported by introducing a broader curriculum, more hands-on learning and play-based opportunities. This has provided a continuous, coherent curriculum from 3-18 years which supports continuity and progression.

CfE guidance is supplemented by Building the Ambition [11] , published by Scottish Government in August 2014, which contains guidance for ELC practitioners who work with children from 0-5 years old; and, sets out how high quality interactions and experiences can be delivered within caring and nurturing environments.

CfE will continue to encourage and support developmentally appropriate early years pedagogy across the early level, promoting active learning which engages and challenges children's thinking using real-life and imaginary situations and making effective use of play-based learning.

ELC settings have embraced Curriculum for Excellence's emphasis on a broader learning experience, including active learning and learning outdoors. For example, they will organise age-appropriate outdoor activity in keeping with guidance contained in the Care Inspectorate's My World Outdoors [12] , published in March 2016, for all children, including one hour a week outside.

As part of the expansion we will seek to ensure that appropriate provision is available for parents and carers wishing to access ELC provided through the medium of Gaelic.

We will also consider in planning for the expansion how best to incorporate free school lunches in order to improve health and wellbeing at this crucial stage in a child's development.

Supporting Children's Transition Through Their Early-Learner Journey

Children face a number of transitions throughout their learner journey. For example, from the home to early learning and childcare, across different early learning and childcare settings, within those settings, and into school.

The system must ensure that these transitions support continuity, coherence and progression.

The Early Level of CfE spans the final two years of ELC and the first year of primary school to encourage seamless progression in learning across this key transition period.

ELC practitioners, and teachers working across the early level, have a key role to play in this and supporting transitions. Training and qualifications reflect a high degree of specialist knowledge about early childhood development and pedagogy.

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?

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?

A Highly Qualified and Diverse ELC Workforce

Ultimately, the delivery of a quality ELC experience will continue to be driven by the dedicated and highly skilled and qualified ELC workforce. 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.

A programme of training and recruitment will commence from the 2017-18 academic year to bring in the first cohort of new workers required to deliver the expansion.

Box 3: The Early Learning and Childcare Workforce in Scotland [13]
Overview of the ELC Workforce

The Financial review of early learning and childcare in Scotland: the current landscape highlighted that for 2015:

  • The whole daycare of children workforce, covering all providers regardless of whether they offer the funded entitlement, comprises 39,450 staff, of whom 33,460 are in the daycare sector, 5,570 are childminders and 440 work in childcare agencies. Within the daycare of children workforce are 1,600 teachers.
  • Of the overall workforce, around 23,000 deliver the funded entitlement.
  • 40% of the daycare of children workforce work in local authority settings, 40% in private settings and 20% in the non-profit sector.
  • Around half of the childcare workforce works part-time. The total childcare workforce works an estimated average of around 27 hours per week.

Increasing the diversity of the ELC workforce as part of the expansion will be a key challenge.

Currently the majority of ELC workers are female (96% in daycare services, 93% in childcare agencies). Apart from around 20 male childminders, all childminders are female. Median age across the childcare workforce is 36 years but differs by employer type. While the median age in public daycare settings is 43 years, it is 28 years in private and 36 years in the voluntary sector. This suggests that there is a tendency of childcare workers to move towards the public sector as they gather more experience.

Qualifications and Registrations
Depending on the specific post or job function, there are several routes to working in the childcare sector. For example, the role of a nursery teacher requires Qualified Teacher Status which can be obtained by completing Initial Teacher Education by holders of a postgraduate degree in Education (or equivalent qualifications). There are also academic degrees ( BEd or BA/ BSc with Qualified Teacher Status) which directly award Qualified Teacher Status.

All staff working in daycare of children services (except childminders) need to be registered with SSSC or another regulatory body such as the General Teaching Council ( GTC) and to be working towards achievement of certain qualifications. In particular, this means that care workers in supporting roles are required by the terms of registration to hold or be working towards a relevant practice qualification at SCQF level 6/ SVQ level 2 (e.g. National Certificate) or above.

Care workers in roles with more responsibility are required by regulation to hold or work towards at least a relevant degree at SCQF level 7/ SVQ level 3 (or comparable).

Managers of daycare services need to hold or be working towards the BA Childhood Practise Degree.

It is estimated that in 2015, 15% of the daycare workforce either held or were working towards a qualification at SVQ level 2, 67% held or were working towards a qualification at SVQ level 3 and 19% held or were working towards a relevant university degree.

Childminders do not have to register with the SSSC and therefore are not subject to the above qualification requirements. Instead, they need to register as a childminding service with the Care Inspectorate. In order to apply successfully, they have to demonstrate relevant experience. In addition, the premises where the service is provided needs to be fit for purpose and the service needs to make appropriate health and safety provisions.

It will be vital to ensure 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.

This will require an increased focus on making a career in ELC a more attractive long term proposition including strengthening career progression routes within the ELC workforce, wider education sector and beyond. That is true for younger people newly entering the labour market as well as those who may wish to change career.

This will ensure that children can benefit from the skills and knowledge of highly effective early childhood experts in their early years, with a variety of role models which better reflects broader society.

A Skills Investment Plan ( SIP) for the ELC sector will be produced by January 2017. This will ascertain the current qualifications and skill set within the workforce as well as identifying opportunities to widen the skill set within the sector.

However, improving career pathways for ELC workers is only one part of the solution and it will also be important to address some societal perceptions which restrict the diversity of the workforce. Our early marketing work, which will inform our recruitment campaign for attracting new ELC workers, suggests that such perceptions can be a particular barrier for attracting (and retaining) more male workers to the sector.

Question 3: How can the qualification routes and career paths that are open to early learning and childcare practitioners be developed to ensure that the ELC sector is seen as an attractive long-term career route?

Question 4: How can we increase the diversity of the ELC workforce, in particular increasing the gender balance in the sector?

To make a career in ELC a more attractive long-term proposition, will require Fair Work practices [14] to 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.

All practitioners and supervisors working in public sector ELC settings will be earning at least the living wage. However, It was therefore disappointing, and concerning, that the analysis presented in Financial Review of early learning and childcare in Scotland: the current landscape estimated that around 80% of practitioners and 50% of supervisors in partner provider settings are paid less than the Living Wage.

The Scottish Government is committed to promoting Fair Work practices across all sectors, and our 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?

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.

In order to ensure that world class settings for delivering high quality ELC are delivered we are working with partners, including the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Futures Trust, to develop new good design guidance for all ELC settings, which we will publish by summer 2017 .

This will include, amongst other things, encouragement to include well-designed outdoor space in all new-built and refurbished or extended ELC settings created as part of this expansion. Space will be designed to be welcoming and inclusive of parents and carers too.

We know the benefits of outdoor learning, exercise and play for young children in terms of their health and wellbeing, physical and cognitive development.

This is why we will encourage ELC providers to ensure that children have opportunities for exciting and challenging physical activity, including, as a minimum, one hour a week outside.

Question 6: What actions should be taken to support increased access to outdoor learning, exercise and play?

National Quality Standards and Inspection

We will continue to ensure that the ELC entitlement will be underpinned by national quality standards which focus on delivering positive experiences for children and are directed at achieving positive outcomes.

The Scottish Government's new statutory National Care Standards, due for publication in 2017, will set out radical, child-centred and outcome-focused expectations of quality across all care and health provision, including how ELC is provided and commissioned.

These will be supported by appropriate sector-led guidance, including Education Scotland's How Good is our Early Learning and Childcare? [15] quality indicators, and Care Inspectorate expectations and guidance, as well as Scottish Government led design guidance for early years.

The Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland currently inspect and regulate ELC provision.

These inspectorates operate under different legal bases and work to different sets of Quality Indicators/Frameworks. This situation stems from the position whereby the part‑time "pre-school education" entitlement was previously conceptualised as something distinct from the provision of "childcare" offered around the entitlement and concerned more with meeting children's wider needs than with promoting or supporting early learning specifically.

The Act introduced the term "early learning and childcare" to break down the conceptual barriers that had existed between "pre-school education" and "childcare" and to establish that the two are indivisible in reality, as young children learn through play and require nurturing and supportive environments in which to do so. In this context, the two inspectorates have, in recent years, started to work ever more closely together, conducting shared inspections, developing their Quality Frameworks to be more holistic in nature and collaborating on areas such as the inspection of childminders.

As highlighted in Empowering teachers, parents and communities to achieve Excellence and Equity in Education - A Governance Review it is important that our accountability and scrutiny arrangements are joined-up where possible in order to reduce unnecessary scrutiny. It is important that we have the right governance arrangements in place to continually review the range of accountability and scrutiny systems and to ensure that these approaches are delivering improvement. Those providing scrutiny also need to be held to account on the quality and impact of their work and to ensure that approaches to scrutiny are fair, transparent and consistent.

In light of this and the recent convergence in notions of education and care in early years, and in the context of planning for the extension of funded ELC entitlement by 2020, it is timely to consider how we can build on the excellent work the inspectorates have undertaken in recent years 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?


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