Expansion of early learning and childcare in Scotland: Quality Action Plan
A Quality Action Plan to underpin the expansion of early learning and childcare (ELC) in Scotland to 1140 hours per year by 2020.
ELC That Is Accessible To All
ELC provision must ensure equality of access for, and account for the varying needs of, all children. These needs can vary depending on a number of factors, including whether a child is disabled and/or has additional support needs ( ASN), is learning English as an additional language, lives in a socio-economically deprived area, is living on a low income or has challenging family circumstances.
Education authorities in Scotland have a statutory duty to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of their pupils, including pupils in ELC.
We will continue to support implementation of the Additional Support for Learning Act (2004, as amended) to ensure children’s needs are identified and provided for. We are committed to revising and improving statutory guidance on the Act, including clarifying responsibilities with regard to ELC. Following a consultation over this summer, the ‘Supporting Children’s Learning Code of Practice’ (statutory guidance for the Act) has now been amended to take account of changes made by the Education (Scotland) Act 2016, and other relevant legislative and policy developments. The revised Code is expected to be published by the end of 2017, with the amendments to the Act intended to commence in January 2018. The Scottish Government is also developing a range of activities to support practitioners to develop and reflect on professional practice on inclusion – more details on which will be announced shortly.
An ELC Inclusion Fund has been created with £2 million funding to enable staff to better support children with disabilities and other additional support needs. The fund will cover one-off or short term funding for specialist ASN learning and development for ELC staff, as well as for specialist equipment, including establishing equipment banks in local areas, making small-scale adaptations to existing environments and providing sensory spaces. The Fund will complement the range of legal and policy provisions already in place that promote inclusion and accessibility in ELC settings for children with disabilities and other additional support needs. The Scottish Government is currently conducting a formal tendering process to appoint an external contractor to manage delivery of the Inclusion Fund on our behalf. The fund will open for applications by early spring 2018.
We will also continue to provide Scottish Government funding for the Enquire advice service for parents and others on support for learning issues in ELC settings as well as schools.
To help assess if we are meeting the needs of children with additional support needs we are expanding the information that we routinely collect. The questions in the current ELC annual census on ASN have been amended to cover the range of reasons for support; include a question on disability; and collect information on all support plans in place for children with ASN. These changes were introduced to the September 2017 census and analysis from this collection will be published for the first time in December. Wider changes being made to the census will go further to help assess the needs of children accessing their ELC entitlement. We are hoping to move towards an individual child level data collection by 2021, including characteristics data such as additional support needs, providing a much richer source of data for the sector. We intend to use this information to help identify specific groups for targeted support, improve outcomes for children and reduce inequalities.
To help raise awareness of entitlement and streamline the identification of needs, we are currently developing a framework to support disabled children, young people and their families. The framework is expected to improve:
- Information – so that children, young people and their parents will be more aware of services and their rights and entitlements;
- Access – to make it easier for needs to be identified, and support and services to be accessed; and
- Transitions – so that support/services at key points of transition including in the early years will be better aligned and more responsive to needs.
The framework, which is a specific Programme for Government 2017-18 commitment, will cover all aspects of a child’s life from birth to adulthood. The aim is to consult on this later this year and then publish the Framework by autumn 2018.
Accessibility and inclusion are also promoted in ‘Space to Grow’ (see ‘ high quality physical environments’ below) which recognises the impact of good design principles on all children, including those with ASN and disabilities. It includes examples of space to create relaxed, calm and inclusive environments for children.
Consistent with GIRFEC, ELC provision must be flexible enough to support all children and families whatever their need. The needs of each and every child should be considered separately and support offered accordingly. Meeting the additional needs of children should be the responsibility of all staff working in ELC, and not just those with training in a particular disability, condition or challenge. Learning and development should be available and accessible to all staff to help them to build their confidence in identifying and responding to a wide range of additional needs. A module on this will be included in the on-line programme of CPL. This will include advice for staff on where and how to seek additional support. Similar advice will be provided for parents in the online resource described at action 11.
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