1. This statutory guidance is issued under section 34 of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools Act 2000 (the 2000 Act) which empowers Scottish Ministers to issue guidance to education authorities on the exercise of their functions in relation to the delivery of early learning and childcare. This statutory guidance applies from 1 August 2020.
2. This guidance will replace previous guidance and circulars; and should be read in connection with the legislation to which it relates.
3. The main part of the statutory guidance follows the provisions as set out in Part 6 of the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, as it is through these functions that early learning and childcare is defined. To complement this the document also sets out additional guidance on key related legislation and policy that are out-with the scope of section 34 of the 2000 Act under which this statutory guidance is issued.
4. In this document local authorities are referred to as ‘education authorities’ as most of the references in the guidance are with regards to their statutory functions that relate to school education.
5. Education authorities functions to secure education for children under school age are provided for in the Education (Scotland) Act 1980.
6. The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 (the 2014 Act), and the accompanying secondary legislation made since 2014, define the term ‘early learning and childcare’; eligibility for early learning and childcare; the amount of funded early learning and childcare (referred to as the mandatory amount of early learning and childcare in the legislation) that eligible children are entitled to and; the framework for delivering this. These terms are further explained in the Glossary (in Annex A).
7. To avoid potential confusion, and to align with supporting policy guidance documents, this Guidance refers to the ‘mandatory amount of early learning and childcare’ as the funded early learning and childcare entitlement.
8. Eligible children are not required to take up all, or any, of their funded early learning and childcare entitlement.
9. The 2014 Act places duties on education authorities to consult with parents and carers on the delivery of funded early learning and childcare, and to have regard to the desirability of ensuring that early learning and childcare is made available in a way that is flexible and allows parents an appropriate degree of choice when deciding how to access the service.
10. The other key aspects regarding how funded early learning and childcare must be delivered are set out in the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000. This Act requires that early learning and childcare provision to eligible pre-school children must be delivered without the payment of fees. It also enables education authorities to enter into arrangements with other persons (i.e. providers in the private, third or childminding sectors) to deliver this provision.
11. The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 enables education authorities to deliver discretionary provision for children under school age. This power can be used to provide access to provision that is out-with the statutory entitlement as defined through the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. The Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc Act 2000 empowers education authorities to charge for this discretionary provision to children under school age. This guidance describes this provision as discretionary early learning and childcare.
12. There are also other pieces of legislation that have implications for the delivery of early learning and childcare and to which references are made in this guidance. When referring to the various pieces of legislation throughout the remainder of the document the following terms are used:
- the 2014 Act means the Children & Young People (Scotland) Act 2014;
- the 2014 Order means the Provision of Early Learning and Childcare (Specified Children) Order 2014.
- the 1980 Act means the Education (Scotland) Act 1980;
- the 2000 Act means the Standards in Scotland’s Schools etc. Act 2000;
- the 1995 Act means the Children (Scotland) Act 1995;
- the 2004 Act means the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004; and
- the 2010 Act means the Schools Consultation (Scotland) Act.
13. 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. It is widely acknowledged that the provision of universally accessible and high quality early learning and childcare can play a vital role in helping to close the poverty-related attainment gap.
14. From 1 August 2020 the funded early learning and childcare entitlement is 1140 hours per year for all 3 and 4 year olds, and eligible 2 year olds. This will be high quality, flexible early learning and childcare that is accessible and affordable for families.
15. Funding Follows the Child, which was agreed by the Scottish Government and COSLA and comes into effect from August 2020, ensures that the funded early learning and childcare entitlement is delivered in high quality settings. This approach is ‘provider neutral’ and is underpinned by a National Standard that all settings that wish to deliver the funded entitlement have to meet. At the heart of the National Standard is a clear and consistent set of quality criteria, to ensure that all settings who are offering the funded entitlement are delivering the highest quality early learning and childcare experience. Funding Follows the Child also enables choice as parents and carers can access their child’s funded early learning and childcare entitlement at the provider of their choice if that provider meets the criteria in the National Standard, has a space available and is willing to enter into a contract with the education authority.
16. Details on Funding Follows the Child were published on 18 December 2018, including operating guidance for education authorities and providers.
17. This is intended to support a wider system for the delivery of funded early learning and childcare that is built upon a mixed economy model of provision in the public, private and third sectors. It is expected that education authorities and providers offering the funded early learning and childcare entitlement will work together meaningfully and in genuine partnership to deliver high quality and flexible early learning and childcare provision.
18. This guidance is supported by the Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) national approach which aims to improve outcomes through coordinating services that work with children and young people. The GIRFEC approach puts the rights and wellbeing of children and young people at the heart of the policies and services that support them and their families – such as early years services, schools and the NHS.
How to use this guidance
19. This statutory guidance is issued to education authorities who are required to have regard to it when carrying out their statutory functions in relation to securing the funded early learning and childcare entitlement for eligible children in their area. It is also intended to assist all those involved in the implementation and delivery of early learning and childcare, including providers in the private, third and childminding sectors, community planning partners, and agencies across all sectors which support the early learning and childcare sector.
20. This guidance will also be of interest to parents and carers, local communities, and anyone with an interest in how education authorities consult on and deliver early learning and childcare. Further information is available for parents on their local authority’s website, and from the Scottish Government and Parent Club.
21. The structure of the guidance broadly follows the order of the provisions under Part 6 of the 2014 Act.
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