Early learning and childcare expansion: CRWIA

Children’s rights and wellbeing impact assessment (CRWIA) to consider the impacts that increasing the statutory entitlement to 1140 hours of funded ELC and modifying the current session lengths will have on children eligible for ELC in Scotland.

Key Findings, including an assessment of the impact on children’s rights, and how the measure will contribute to children’s wellbeing

Key Findings – Children’s Rights

The ELC expansion will have positive impacts on the following UNCRC Articles:

  • 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

Expansion of Funded ELC and Changes to the ELC Session Length

There is already very high uptake of funded ELC in Scotland. Our latest ELC census data[27] shows near universal uptake of funded ELC by 3 and 4 year olds. Approximately 10% of 2 year olds are registered for funded ELC (compared to the roughly 25% that are eligible), and this has increased gradually over the last few years. In addition, our Research on Parents’ Views and Use of ELC in Scotland[28] showed that of the parents surveyed, 90% would use some or all of their child’s expanded hours.

Amending the Children and Young People (Scotland) 2014 (the 2014 Act) to change the ‘mandatory amount’ of ELC to 1140 hours a year from August 2020, means that local authorities will have a statutory duty to secure 1140 hours per year of funded ELC for each eligible young child belonging to (i.e. residing in) its area, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status. For 3 and 4 year olds this offer is universal and the 2 year old eligibility targets children facing particular disadvantages. Secondary legislation is also being laid 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. Subject to parliamentary approval, this will allow families to access their child’s ELC entitlement over longer sessions over a smaller number of days if this best meets the needs of their child.

The research shows us that attending high quality ELC provision can help to improve children’s cognitive development in the early years

The increase in ELC entitlement from 600 to 1140 hours will maximise the opportunity to ensure that all children in Scotland get the best possible start in life, having positive impacts on Article 2 (Non-discrimination) and Article 28 (Right to education).

More flexibility about session length will also allow parents to access ELC sessions that are more closely aligned with their working patterns. This in turn could help ensure that children are able to benefit from their full ELC offer while also maximising the time that they are able to spend with their parents and facilitate their right to be raised by, or have a relationship with, their parents, which will have positive impacts on Article 18 (Parental responsibilities and state assistance).

The expansion of funded ELC to 1140 hours also has associated economic benefits which will help parents and carers to support their children having further positive impacts on Article 18 (Parental responsibilities and state assistance). It is intended that, alongside changes in flexibility through removing the minimum session length time, the increased hours will provide more opportunities for some parents to move into employment, increase their hours of work, or to study if they wish to do so.

Funding Follows the Child and The National Standard

A rapid evidence review by NHS Health Scotland highlights that ELC has the potential to impact positively on all children’s social, emotional and cognitive outcomes, and especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. A key finding from research is that ELC must be of high quality if children are to benefit[29].

We recognise that the earliest years of life are crucial to a child’s development and have a lasting impact on outcomes in health, education and employment opportunities later in life, therefore quality is at the heart of the expansion. Funding Follows the Child will be underpinned by a National Standard[30] 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. This will ensure that any provider offering the funded hours will be able to offer children a high quality ELC experience. This means that the ELC expansion will have a positive impact on Article 3 (Best Interests of the child), Article 6 (Life, survival, and development), Article 29 (Goals of Education), and Article 31 (Leisure, play, and culture).

Development of children’s cognitive development, health and wellbeing already underpins all aspects of practice in ELC. This will also be emphasised through for example Criteria 2 of the National Standard which will ensure that providers of funded ELC from August 2020 must have Care Inspectorate quality evaluations which are good or better on the theme relating to quality of care and support; and must have a framework to support children’s learning that is informed by national guidance and is appropriate to support individual children’s development and learning focused on active learning through play. This criteria of the National Standard means that from August 2020, ELC settings delivering the expanded hours must be able to demonstrate how they are supporting outcomes for children in relation to children’s cognitive development, health and wellbeing.

In addition, the National Standard emphasises the importance of parents and carers engaging with and being involved in the life of the ELC setting their child attends, having further positive impacts on Article 18 (Parental responsibilities and state assistance) as ELC recognises the principle that parents and carers have responsibilities for the upbringing and development of the child. Sub-criteria 5.1 requires that providers of the funded entitlement ensure there is open and regular communication with parents and carers about the work of the setting and that families are meaningfully involved in influencing change and sub-criteria 5.2 means that parents and carers are supported to engage in their child’s learning and development in settings which provide the funded entitlement.

The National Standard also emphasises that providers of funded ELC must comply with the duties under the Equality Act 2010 and the setting will be willing to provide appropriate support, including making any reasonable changes to the care and learning environment, to ensure that children’s additional support needs do not create a barrier to them accessing a full range of experiences and meets their individual needs. Through these criteria, there will be positive impacts on Article 23 (Children with disabilities) as ELC provision must be delivered in a way that ensures equality of access for, and accounts for the varying needs of, all children including those with a disability.

The National Standard also includes a requirement that funded ELC providers must have a framework to support children's learning that is focussed on active learning through play and a requirement that children must have daily access to outdoor play, including regular outdoor play in a natural environment. Both of these criteria will have positive impacts on Article 31 (Leisure, play, and culture).

The ELC expansion will also have positive impacts on Article 12 (Respect for the views of the child). Already, our national practice guidance on the 2014 Act[31]stresses the importance of ensuring that ELC is child-centred and acknowledges the views and actively involve children in the meaningful ways in everyday decision in the ELC setting. We hear excellent examples of how ELC settings meet these recommendations already and the ELC expansion will maximise the opportunity for ELC settings to continue this practice.

Parental Communication

As part of the early learning and childcare expansion the Scottish Government realises the importance of ensuring parents and carers of eligible children are able to make an informed choice about ELC which best meets the needs of their child. Our work with local authorities and stakeholders in this area will have a positive impact on Article 5 (Parental Guidance and a child’s evolving capacities). Parental communication about the expansion (both national and local) will help parents and carers to make informed decisions about the type and pattern of ELC provision that will best meet their child’s needs.

National and local government both have a role to play in making sure parents/carers are aware of their child’s funded ELC entitlement in order to be able to make the best decision about ELC for their child. The Scottish Government have been working closely with stakeholders such as parent organisations and, more importantly, parents to make sure we understand what information parents need and when about ELC. This work has helped to support the development of our parental communication strategy for the ELC expansion.

To help ensure that children’s rights are at the centre of decisions about how parents make use of the extended ELC hours, we are also developing a resource that parents can use to help make informed choices about how to access the ELC offer that’s right for their child. This will take the form of a set of questions that parents could ask when they’re thinking about hours and patterns of attendance for their child and the choice of settings to use.

Key Findings - Further Effect to the Implementation of the UNCRC in Scotland

The ELC expansion will 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[32]: ‘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’.

‘Together: The Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights Annual State of Children’s Rights’ report from 2016[33] provided data and evidence on where Scotland stands on each of the Concluding Observations. It found that the expansion of funded ELC through the 2014 Act created opportunities to address this recommendation. The Together: the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights annual report also recognised how we have put a range of measures in place to ensure that children who stand to benefit most from access to ELC benefit from an enhanced offer that meets their needs and the needs of their family. These include an earlier offer for eligible two-year-old children, increasing access to evidence based family learning programmes, and support from an additional graduate-level practitioner for children attending settings serving the most disadvantaged areas.

Given these findings from the Together: the Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights annual State of Children’s Rights in Scotland report from 2016 on the 2014 Act, the expansion in funded entitlement and introduction of Funding Follows the Child means there is the opportunity to give further effect to the implementation of the UNCRC in Scotland through the expansion of ELC and our continued commitment to ensure that children who stand to benefit most from access to ELC benefit from an enhanced offer.

Key Findings – Children’s Wellbeing

The ELC expansion will 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[34] which considers how we expect the expansion of ELC hours to contribute to improving children’s outcomes . The ELC expansion will mean that children learn responsibility for their behaviours, all children feel included in ELC, children achieve their full potential at every stage of development, children are healthy, active and nurtured, children’s learning is supported at home and their needs are respected, children are safe. It is expected that this will be achieved through children: experiencing positive relationships with peers and ELC staff; experiencing more play based/enriching learning experiences; having access to regular and nutritional food; in need of additional and professional support being identified earlier and receiving appropriate support; and also ELC staff offering increased opportunities for meaningful parental engagement.

Key Findings - Unknown Impacts

As the published research measuring outcomes for children in ELC does not gauge the impact of a specific number of hours per day on children’s wellbeing, this means we cannot currently state that a certain number of hours per day has a negative or positive impact. All credible research which we have reviewed[35] agrees that the most consistent indicator and greatest contributor to improved outcomes for children is high quality.

Quality is at the heart of the ELC expansion. The National Standard will ensure that all providers offering funded hours meet the same quality criteria. Our long-term evaluation of the expansion programme, the Scottish Study of Early Leaning and Childcare, will 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. If, at any point, evidence comes out of the evaluation process to support a different course of action, we can respond to this in further legislative change.


Email: katrina.troake@gov.scot

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