The Children and Young People Act (Scotland) 2014 (the 2014 Act) made 600 hours of funded ELC per year available for all 3 and 4 year olds (from the relevant start date) and extended the entitlement to eligible 2 year olds. In a joint agreement with local government, the Scottish Government has committed to almost double the entitlement to 1140 hours per year from August 2020.
Funding Follows the Child will be introduced alongside the national roll-out of the expanded entitlement to funded ELC in 2020. This ‘provider neutral’ approach is underpinned by a National Standard that all providers delivering the funded hours – regardless of whether they are in the public, private or third sector, or childminders – will have to meet. The National Standard focuses on what children and their families can expect from their ELC experience, regardless of where they access their funded entitlement.
At the heart of the National Standard is a clear and consistent set of quality criteria, recognising that the ELC expansion is fundamentally about improving the early years experience of our youngest children and reflecting international research and evidence of what drives quality experiences and outcomes for children. It will ensure that all settings which are offering the funded entitlement are delivering the highest quality ELC experience for children.
As well as offering greater choice of high quality providers, the expansion to 1140 hours will also enable parents to access different patterns of provision. Secondary legislation has been laid in the Scottish Parliament to increase the maximum session length for funded ELC from 8 hours to 10 hours and to remove the minimum session length time from August 2019. Once passed, this will allow families to access their child’s ELC entitlement over longer sessions over a smaller number of days if this best meets their family needs and enable them to access, for example, a full day session at a private nursery without paying for additional hours as part of their funded entitlement.
The evidence highlights that the ELC expansion has the potential to impact positively on children’s social, emotional and cognitive outcomes, particularly for those facing disadvantage. This CRWIA process found that:
- The ELC expansion will have positive impacts on the following Articles from the United National Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC):
- The ELC expansion will also give further effect to the implementation of the UNCRC in Scotland as it addresses the following recommendation made by the UN committee in its concluding observations on the implementation of the UNCRC in the UK: ‘Taking note of target 4.2 of the Sustainable Development Goals, on access to quality early childhood development services, allocate sufficient human, technical and financial resources for the development and expansion of early childhood care and education, based on a comprehensive and holistic policy of early childhood development, with special attention to the children in the most vulnerable situations’.
- Article 2 – Non-discrimination
- Article 3 – Best Interests of the child
- Article 5 – Parental Guidance and a child’s evolving capacities
- Article 6 – Life, survival, and development
- Article 12 – Respect for the views of the child
- Article 18 – Parental responsibilities and state assistance
- Article 23 – Children with disabilities
- Article 28 – Right to education
- Article 29 – Goals of Education
- Article 31 – Leisure, play, and culture
- The ELC expansion will also support public bodies in Scotland to meet their duties to safeguard, support and promote the wellbeing of children in their area. As part of NHS Scotland’s evaluability assessment of the expansion programme, a theory of change was developed for the expansion programme and the model of potential beneficiaries. Outcomes for children are presented in Figure 1 of this paper which considers how we expect the expansion of funded ELC hours to contribute to promoting each of the eight wellbeing indicators: Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible, and Included.
- There is no evidence that longer session lengths impact on children’s wellbeing. We will monitor impact on children through the Scottish Study of Early Learning and Childcare (SSELC) and through the Care Inspectorate’s inspection function.
- Children already access longer sessions routinely. The legislative changes in the ELC session length will mean more hours can be funded per day. The changes do not mean that parents and carers must choose longer sessions for their child. Our parental communication strategy aims to ensure that parents can access the information they need on the ELC expansion in order to make an informed choice which supports the wellbeing of their child when accessing ELC.
- The SSELC is a cross-sectional and longitudinal study that will evaluate the expansion of the funded entitlement to 1140 hours; assessing the extent to which the expansion’s long-term benefits have been achieved. These benefits are: improved child development and narrowing attainment gap; increased family resilience and improved child and parent health and wellbeing; and more parents in work, training, or study. The SSELC will also include exploration of the number of hours a child attends a setting per day and the number of days per week. From this we will be able to ascertain whether there are any correlations between session length/frequency and developmental outcomes. This study will allow us to identify if any actions need to be taken by the Scottish Government to ensure the rights and wellbeing of children are fully supported through their ELC experience.