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.

A focus on play-based learning

Scotland’s National Play Strategy is underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 31: Children are entitled to take part in physical activities and to play, including outdoors, and have an opportunity to experience and judge and manage risk. Play is an integral part of the Scottish Government’s wider commitments to increase physical activity, combat childhood obesity and support child and adolescent mental health. Play also supports children’s learning and social skills, leads to improved parent/child relationships and supports cognitive development and language skills in the early years.

Free-flow play that is not over-directed but involves active support from adults is an essential aspect of early years learning. This focus is already well embedded in the early level of CfE. ‘Building the Curriculum 2’ is national CfE guidance focussed on ‘active learning’ in the early years – learning which engages and challenges children’s thinking using real-life and imaginary situations, and takes full advantage of the opportunities for learning presented by both spontaneous play and planned, purposeful play. The module on developing and understanding of curriculum rationale mentioned in action one will therefore help to strengthen the focus on play-based learning.

Retaining this active learning-based focus in the early stages of primary school helps children make a smooth transition from ELC to primary 1. The professional learning course for school leadership teams on effective early years pedagogy and practice will encourage and give confidence to school management teams to develop further these approaches in early primary school.


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