A blueprint for 2020: the expansion of early learning and childcare (ELC) in Scotland - ELC expansion planning guidance for local authorities

Framework to support local authorities in developing plans for the expansion of early learning and childcare to 1,140 hours by 2020.

Section One: Introduction

The Scottish Government is committed to expanding the provision of funded early learning and childcare ( ELC) from 600 hours to 1140 hours by 2020, and ensuring that the expansion prioritises a high quality experience for the child, recognising the significant contribution that universally accessible ELC can make to a child's development and to closing the attainment gap.

Local authorities are responsible for implementation and delivery of ELC to their local communities, within a context of high quality learning, teaching, care and nurture, in their area. Existing ELC provision will have to be transformed to deliver 1140 hours in line with Ministers' Blueprint for 2020. The ELC Expansion Programme is designed to facilitate delivery of an enhanced service model that reflects, and is responsive to, local needs.

Our policy vision will be underpinned by a more progressive service model which prioritises and safeguards quality provision of ELC while offering parents a choice of settings. The policy approach is fundamentally provider neutral - prioritising 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. 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.

Planning for the expansion will by necessity evolve over the coming years as local authorities respond to changes in local circumstances and changes in the way parents use services. The ELC Service Models Working Group will report by March 2018, providing the operational details of the new Funding Follows the Child model, a national standard for becoming a partner provider and guidance on implementing the Scottish Living Wage across all providers. Local authorities will continue to agree funded rates at local level, but should ensure that these are set to ensure delivery of the national policy framework.

This planning guidance offers a framework to support local authorities in developing their initial plans. Local authority groups have been consulted on and informed the development of this guidance. The ELC Expansion Programme will offer local authorities additional capacity to plan for and deliver this transformation through a multi-disciplinary support team. This team will provide additional service innovation and redesign capability, lead a community of learning, and offer a source of specialist expertise on complex issues that will be common to all authorities.

Whilst some planning dependencies and assumptions will crystallise during or after the initial planning period, we anticipate that reasonable local planning assumptions can be made in order to deliver an expansion plan by 29 September 2017.

This planning guidance is intended to:

  • Provide simple planning advice of specific relevance to ELC sector development;
  • Support development of local authority ELC expansion plans and costings - as well as informing the national ELC Expansion Programme;
  • Respect the unique context of each local authority area, recognising the value of local knowledge and understanding;
  • Be outcome focused - recognising that there are a range of ways to achieve the core aims of providing ELC within the parameters of quality, accessibility, flexibility and affordability;
  • Underpin the delivery support that will be made available to assist local authorities with service redesign and sharing of good practice; and
  • Help local authorities to gauge the extent of the change challenge and to fully resource the programme and project management capacity needed to support their local programme, whilst continuing to deliver services focused on the quality of experience for children and families.

This planning guidance is NOT intended to:

  • Achieve a prescriptive 'one size fits all' model of service delivery;
  • Enforce engagement with the delivery support capacity - authorities will shape the nature and extent of support provided to them; and
  • Require local authorities to source, or examine any data that does not have a clear purpose directly relevant to the ELC planning task.

The ELC expansion plan produced as a result of this planning guidance will be used to:

  • Progress the ELC Expansion Programme by articulating local plans in a nationally consistent manner;
  • Assist local authorities to ensure that their local expansion plans recognise the importance of a continued focus on the quality of the child's learning and care experience throughout a period of change;
  • Support the development of a national implementation framework including financial estimates and commitments;
  • Inform future Spending Reviews and discussions on funding allocations; and
  • Inform the monitoring and evaluation of the ELC Expansion Programme.


Email: Alison Cumming

Back to top