Publication - Advice and guidance

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

Published: 23 Mar 2017
Learning Directorate
Part of:
Children and families, Education

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

18 page PDF

3.2 MB

18 page PDF

3.2 MB

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

18 page PDF

3.2 MB

Section Two: Key Principles

The following key principles will underpin the service delivery planning process. Planning principles that should be evidenced in the plans include:


Quality is the driving principle of the ELC Expansion Programme. Early years provide the foundations for promoting secure attachment, better health, social and learning behaviours with long-term impact on improved outcomes for children. Promoting child development, curriculum, pedagogy, alignment with child and family nurture services, closing the attainment gap and transitions to the next stage of the learning journey will be a key focus of the Programme. This will be underpinned by the GIRFEC approach and Building the Ambition [1] , the national practice guidance which sets the context for high quality ELC.

Plans will ensure that change is not detrimental to children, families or ELC providers and that at least the current level of quality of learning and care experience will be maintained during the period of change. Active steps will be taken to protect and enhance the quality of provision.

A national Quality Action Plan will be published later in 2017 that will support local quality plans.


The overall capacity within Scotland's current ELC system can be redesigned to more fully meet the ambition to extend entitlement. The constraints of current service design, including current purchasing arrangements, can mean provision is underused or inaccessible to parents. Specific issues may exist around capacity and accessibility in particular locations and geographies, or with regard to ensuring access for children with additional support needs.

Plans will evidence that best use will be made of existing services and assets within the local authority, private and third sectors - with any remaining gaps addressed through creation of additional capacity. Best practice will be shared via the delivery support team to inform this service redesign process. New National Care Standards will also be published by the Care Inspectorate in Spring 2017 and a best practice Design Guide will follow in early Summer. Both documents may inform the service redesign process in terms of delivery models and physical capacity.

Additionally, capacity creation will be assisted by new regulations [2] that modify schedule 1 of the Schools Consultation Act 2010. Education authorities will not be required to comply with the specific consultation requirements under the 2010 Act if they want to establish new nursery schools or new nursery classes in schools, and/or relocate existing nursery schools and nursery classes in schools as part of their expansion planning for 1140 hours. This exemption will not apply to establishment or relocation proposals relating to primary or secondary schools, nor to proposed nursery school or nursery class closures, which will still have to comply with 2010 Act consultation requirements in full. These regulations will come into force on 31 March 2017, when the current Ancillary Order to the 2014 Children & Young People Act expires.


Current ELC delivery models, particularly within local authorities must become more flexible and responsive to parental demand. Fully flexible services, for example, may build from current good practice in Scotland. This should include more settings offering all year round provision and/or longer opening hours, thus enhancing flexibility and choice for families. It may also include considering the delivery of early level learning across nursery and early stages primary in an integrated model.

It is assumed that expansion plans will set out the intention to deliver against parental need for flexible access, whilst taking account of two caveats:

1. Is it good for children? Is it good for families? The impact of any flexible offer on the experience of the child and, in turn, their family must be taken into account.

2. Is it operationally sustainable? Where operational sustainability is a concern, it is assumed that consideration will be given to other ways to meet the need and flex services, for example, use of childminders in a blended approach.


Reducing the cost of accessing ELC for parents is a significant driver in the ambition to extend the ELC entitlement. This must be set alongside the redesign of ELC services in a manner that is also affordable for local authorities and Scottish Government and delivers long-term value for money.

It is assumed that plans will aim to improve affordability for parents alongside creating a financially sustainable service model which makes most effective use of public funds. This may include considering both investment in local authority services and in new arrangements with the private and third sectors.


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. 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 have flexibility to determine the most appropriate way to phase entitlement in their local area as they build capacity. In considering phasing, authorities should evidence consideration of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation to ensure that the families and communities who stand to benefit most from the expansion benefit first.

It is also assumed that the implementation section of the plan will take account of the local strategy for community and family engagement and take steps to manage any delays in take-up of the new entitlement as parents become aware of, and confident in, changed services. We cannot assume that simply making the service available will be enough - community and family engagement, aligned with family nurture services will be vital in creating highly valued, highly used services. Parental engagement will support the identification of priorities and assist with appropriate phasing in each area.


Email: Alison Cumming