Introduction from Alison Cumming, Director for Early Learning and Childcare
Hello and welcome to our February update.
I hope that you and your families were able to get some much-needed downtime over the holiday period (which no doubt feels like a long time ago now).
In our first update of 2022, COVID-19 continues to provide the context for so much of our work. Since our last update in November 2021, we have seen the rapid emergence of the Omicron variant. That meant that much of our work – and our communications with you – have continued to focus on guidance updates and policy changes around self-isolation. We have taken the opportunity to summarise these important COVID-19 updates in section 1.
As the First Minister said earlier this week, although case numbers remain high, there are grounds for optimism in the most recent data. This is down in large part to the actions we have all taken to get vaccinated or boosted and adopt some additional measures to protect ourselves and others. Thank you to all of you for contributing to this – in particular for continuing to adhere to our COVID-19 safety guidance, take up vaccination offers, and continue to test regularly (and report your results).
Aside from our COVID-19 response, there is a lot happening across the directorate. This month’s update also includes some important news on resources to support your wellbeing, a live consultation to help us better target funded ELC to eligible 2 year olds, and a request for input from school age childcare providers to help us understand the supply and demand for their services in communities.
I hope you find this month’s update informative and helpful.
The following guidance changes were made in early January:
- a revised approach to self-isolation for high-risk contacts was published considering the latest advice and progress of the booster programme
- new information on vaccination
- new information on testing to reflect the latest advice
- new information on cleaning practices covering sand
In light of the number of cases among younger children, and the operational challenges for providers associated with frequent guidance changes, we are not making further changes to the ELC guidance suite at this stage. The COVID-19 safety guidance for schools was, however, updated on 1 February to revert to the requirements as they existed pre-Omicron. We are working with the Advisory Sub-Group on Education and Children’s Issues to keep the suite of ELC COVID-19 guidance under close review and we will keep you updated on any changes.
Contact: Becky Coop at Becky.Coop@gov.scot
Changes to self-isolation
The Scottish Government has further adapted its self-isolation policy from 6 January 2022, taking into account the latest evidence, clinical advice and the high uptake of the booster programme and the protection this provides to the population. From 6 January:
Positive cases (regardless of vaccination status or age):
- must isolate for 10 days; however, if the person tests negative on two consecutive LFD tests (taken at least 24 hours apart, with the first test no earlier than day 6) they may end isolation if they have no fever after their second negative test
- this also applies to children who are positive cases aged under five years
Close contacts aged under 5
- close contacts aged under 5 years are not required to undertake daily LFD testing instead of isolation
- instead they are encouraged, but not required, to take a one-off LFD test instead of isolating
If any close contact develops symptoms at any point during or after the post-contact period, they should self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test.
Close contacts who are fully vaccinated or under 18 years and 4 months
Fully vaccinate now refers to three doses of an MHRA approved vaccine.
All close contacts who are fully vaccinated or are aged under 18 years and 4 months and do not have COVID-19 symptoms should:
- take 7 daily LFD tests and report the results instead of isolating – there is no requirement for a PCR test to be released from self-isolation
- as set out above, children aged under 5 who are close contacts do not need to self-isolate or take daily LFD tests – they should be encouraged, but are not required, to take a one off LFD test instead of isolating
- if you’re a close contact who is eligible for daily testing instead of self-isolation, you can help protect others by following our guidance on how to stay safe and help prevent the spread
Close contacts who are not fully vaccinated
This group now includes people who are over 18 years and 4 months with only 0-2 doses.
- unvaccinated or partially vaccinated close contacts must self-isolate immediately and book a PCR test. Even if they receive a negative result, they must self-isolate for 10 days
Advice on confirmatory PCR tests
A suspension of the requirement for asymptomatic individuals to take a follow-up PCR test following a positive LFD was put in place on the 6 January 2022. In these circumstances, confirmatory PCR should not be requested unless:
- the person will be applying for the Self-Isolation Support Grant, in which case a confirmatory PCR is required for eligibility
- they have a health condition that means they may be suitable for new COVID-19 treatments
- they are advised to by a clinician
The advice for individuals with COVID-19 symptoms has not changed - they should book a PCR test.
Contact: Becky Coop at Becky.Coop@gov.scot
Care Inspectorate ratios
On 11 January, the Care Inspectorate issued guidance to the ELC sector setting out temporary flexibility over adult to child ratios. This flexibility has been made available to settings to support them to manage acute staffing shortages relating to COVID-19. Flexibility within the adult to child ratios is only available in relation to children aged two years and over and cannot be in place for more than 72 hours at a time.
To operate out with the usual ratios, providers must first exhaust all other options for additional staffing and undertake a thorough risk assessment to ensure that continuing to operate is safe and in the best interests of the children. Settings will also be required to notify the Care Inspectorate when they are operating out with the expected adult to child ratios. Where there are concerns, the Care Inspectorate will take appropriate scrutiny intervention.
This policy will be reviewed by the Care Inspectorate on 18 February 2022.
Contact: Samantha Broadley at firstname.lastname@example.org
Vaccine boosters and testing
The Interim Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Marion Bain, wrote to all childcare staff on 24 January to highlight how and where you can access the booster. This letter also highlighted messages around the importance of LFD testing and recording the results.
We know that a very high proportion of ELC staff have already had both doses, and many more have already received their booster. If you have not done so already, I encourage you to get your booster dose as soon as possible. All adults aged 18 and over can book their appointment for a COVID-19 vaccine booster through the online portal on NHS inform. If you are unable to access the online portal you can book an appointment through the National Helpline on 0800 030 8013.
We are asking you to do a lateral flow test (LFD) regularly (twice weekly) and on every occasion you intend to mix socially with people from other households. Regular testing remains critical even when people are fully vaccinated, as people can still catch and spread COVID-19. It is vitally important to report your LFD test results whether the result is positive, negative, or void. It only takes a couple of minutes to report a result online. Reporting positive results means that people will receive the advice and support they need. Reporting negative and void results helps public health experts to understand the full picture of COVID-19 in an area, the spread of COVID-19 and the impact of the virus on the childcare workforce.
Testing and vaccination communications toolkit
We are grateful to providers and service managers for your support in sharing information about COVID-19 vaccination with staff and for giving staff time off work to get their vaccine and to recover when that it is needed. We also grateful for your support in encouraging staff to test regularly and record their results.
The feedback we’ve received from stakeholders across the childcare sector suggests that it would be helpful to create a toolkit of materials that can be used within settings or on social media channels. We have now developed materials that can be utilised via local communications channels to extend the reach of nationwide campaigns promoting testing and vaccination. There are posters in the toolkit that can be displayed in your setting, a speaking note that can be used at staff events and sample newsletter content.
We would be grateful if you would consider using these materials in the toolkit to continue encouraging colleagues to take up the vaccine, including booster jabs, as well as regular LFD testing and reporting of results on the online portal.
Contact: Scott Sutherland at email@example.com
Updated funding support for ventilation
The First Minister announced in January that local authorities will receive up to £5 million of additional support to ensure ventilation in schools and early years settings meets the latest COVID-19 safety guidance. This funding is intended for any further urgent remedial work that is required to improve air flow. Details have been shared with Local Authorities on how to access the funding.
To support PVI providers address ventilation issues, the eligibility criteria in the Scottish Government’s Business Ventilation Fund has been updated to include daycare of children services.
Workforce and professional learning
ELC National Induction Resource
The ELC National Induction Resource has recently been refreshed. Developed with partners, the refreshed content offers support to newly employed ELC staff during the initial months of their induction period, providing a range of supporting information and advice including links to leading partner’s information, a tool to support reflective practice, and resources for continued learning and progression opportunities.
The updated resource also features a new ‘Leadership at All Levels’ section, designed to support staff at all levels to recognise what ‘highly effective leadership’ looks like in practice and how it can be continuously improved, as we know that highly effective leadership is essential to ensure high quality practice which meets the needs of our children and families. In addition to this section, a toolkit has been developed, bringing together a range of further resources to support staff into - and through – their leadership journey.
Contact: Haylay Forbes at Haylay.Forbes@gov.scot
We are conscious of the challenging circumstances that colleagues have been working under throughout the pandemic period and the difficulties posed by the current Omicron wave. It’s important that colleagues time to look after themselves and each other and we hope to be helpful in providing support to do just that. We have therefore developed a further series of free, online wellbeing events for all childcare professionals. The events run from now until the end of March and will take place at a range of times to suit you.
Feedback from previous events has been extremely positive and the events will provide colleagues with a self-care toolkit, including practical advice and tips on looking after yourself. You can book yourself on to one of these events, or have a look at videos of previous events, at the TeamELCWellbeingHub.
Contact: Scott Sutherland at firstname.lastname@example.org
Register of lapsed SSSC registrants
A reminder that we have worked with SSSC colleagues to invite those whose registrations have lapsed in recent years, to re-join the sector. There are currently around 160 people with relevant qualifications and experience in the sector who have set out their details on MySSSC. A Care Inspectorate provider notice, which issued in October 2021, contains details of how settings can access candidates who have put themselves forward to re-join the sector. So far, 160 people from across the country have registered their experience and qualifications on MySSSC, creating a pool of qualified staff that are keen to take up roles in the sector. We’d encourage anyone seeking staff at this point to check in on who is available near you.
Contact: Scott Sutherland at email@example.com
Two year olds
Data sharing consultation to support early learning and childcare in Scotland
UK Government published their consultation on draft regulations to allow data sharing to support funded early learning and childcare (ELC) for 2 year olds in Scotland on 10 January.
I encourage you to consider, share and respond to this consultation which will ensure that those children who stand to benefit the most are made aware of the funded provision through direct contact with their local authority.
The consultation will be open for 8 weeks and will close on 7 March 2022. While it is a UK Government consultation, Scottish Government is providing two online sessions (Teams) for interested stakeholders to ask questions about the work on:
Wednesday 09 February – 13:00 to 14:00
Friday 25 February – 10:00 to 11:00
Please contact Joanna Mackenzie if you would like to attend. If neither of these times suit, and a chat would be helpful, please let Joanna know and we can arrange a suitable time.
Contact: Joanna MacKenzie at Joanna.Mackenzie2@gov.scot
We have laid regulations to amend the eligibility criteria for funded early learning and childcare (ELC) for 2 year olds.
This is in response to the now annual uprating of the National Living Wage by UK Government. The increase means that from 1 April 2022, it will no longer be possible for a family with a 2 year old, in receipt of Working Tax Credit, to have an income at or under £7,500 (the current income threshold).
As we align eligibility for those who are eligible due to receipt of Universal Credit with those on Working Tax Credit, this also impacts on the income threshold for those receiving Universal Credit. Changes to regulations are therefore necessary to maintain eligibility for those 2 year olds we would expect to be eligible as a result of their parents or carers being in receipt of those affected qualifying benefits.
The Provision of Early Learning and Childcare (Specified Children) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2022 will amend the income threshold:
- to £7,920 for those in receipt of both Working Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit
- to £660 a month for those in receipt of Universal Credit (an equivalent annual income threshold of £7,920)
We anticipate the Regulations will be considered by the Scottish Parliament in March 2022 and come in to force from 1 April 2022.
There is a similar criterion for those in receipt of Child Tax Credit only. We are not changing this as this is linked to UK Regulations and will be automatically uprated by UK Government from £16,480 to £17,005. This will also take effect from April.
As these changes are necessary to maintain eligibility and to keep pace with the standard of living, we do not expect there to be a significant increase in the number of two year olds who are likely to become newly eligible as a result of this amendment.
We will provide a further update once the Regulations have been approved by Parliament.
Contact: Joanna MacKenzie at Joanna.Mackenzie2@gov.scot
Delivery support on two year old uptake
The latest data from the ELC census, published in December 2021, showed an increase in the number of children registered for funded ELC at age 2. This is great progress in challenging circumstances.
Improvement Service are now setting up conversations with local authorities to find out more about how the two year old offer is developing across Scotland. These initial conversations will help us identify where we should concentrate efforts at a national level to support further work to improve uptake.
School age childcare
New, one-stop-shop school age childcare platform under development
As one of this year’s CivTech 6.0 Challenge sponsors, Scottish Government are working with Caerus to understand the supply and demand of school age childcare in communities.
The Caerus team aims to use this information to develop software that allows childcare providers to advertise their services and gives families a quick and secure platform to find and book them.
As Challenge Sponsor, Scottish Government will be able to use aggregated data from this software platform to understand current patterns of supply and demand for school age childcare. We’ll use this information as part of our evidence as we develop the policy which underpins our commitment to build a system of school age childcare in Scotland by the end of this Parliament.
As they prepare to launch the software, Caerus need input from school age childcare providers to ensure the platform meets their needs and therefore they’d be grateful if providers could pre-register and submit their views.
Contact: Gillian Munro at Gillian.Munro@gov.scot
Tax free childcare
HMRC has awarded a small project to Hempsall’s, a specialist early years and childcare organisation delivering consultancy, training and research for governments, councils and providers. The aim of the project is to increase take-up of Tax-Free Childcare. The project runs across the UK between now and the next few months. Their aim is to support the sharing of information about TFC, grow a better understanding of it, and motivate parents and providers to consider taking it up.
There will be two webinars in March to raise awareness of TFC, increase understanding, and motivate parents and providers to take it up. Equipping attendees with the ideas and tools they will need in the process.
One webinar will be for early years and childcare providers, all types, including childminders (15, 16 March 2022).
One webinar will be for local authorities/councils and family-facing professionals (e.g. health visitors, social workers, housing officers, children’s centre staff, early help, early years and childcare providers, school teachers, job centre staff (or equivalents) across the public, private and voluntary sectors (15 March 2022).
Hempsalls will also be inviting some local authorities from across the UK to receive support and advice. This is likely to include 1 Scottish local authority. They plan to focus on areas with higher populations, lower take-up rates and capacity/potential to increase them. Hempsalls will be contacting local authorities to invite them to participate.
There will be a short online briefing meeting to outline and explore the project’s aims and activities and offer coproduction and Q and A opportunities. This will take place on 9 February 2022 from 1.30pm – 2.30pm.
Contact: Katherine Tierney at Katherine.Tierney@gov.scot
Local authority funded ELC cost collection exercise
Following meetings between COSLA, Scottish Government and ADES, and engagement with Directors of Finance, it was agreed that there could be merit in establishing a national exercise to collect information on costs for private and voluntary ELC providers. It was proposed that the Improvement Service commission the research on behalf of local authorities. The design of the survey and its outputs will be guided by a steering group with representation from COSLA, ADES, Directors of Finance and the Scottish Government. Ipsos MORI have been commissioned to undertake a national exercise on behalf of all local authorities.
The aim of this survey is to ensure that local authorities have a reliable and up to date understanding of the current costs to partner providers of delivering ELC, and a clear idea of possible future factors that may impact on costs. This survey is partner providers’ chance to ensure that local authorities are able to take decisions based on as accurate and up to date information as possible. The findings will inform discussions about the provision of funded hours in local authorities, and the essential role partner providers will play in that. We hope as many partner providers as possible will take part – the more providers participate, the more accurate the results will be. It is envisaged that the survey will be ‘live’ for approximately four weeks between mid-February and mid-March.
Contact: Adam Hall at firstname.lastname@example.org
Scottish Education Awards 2022
The Scottish Education Awards celebrate the hard work and success which takes place in Scottish education. Entry to the awards is open to all publicly funded primary, secondary and special schools, and funded ELC centres and classes in the public, private and third sectors. Nominations are now open and will close at 23:59 on Wednesday 23rd February 2022. There are a wide variety of categories that recognise the dedication and commitment of establishments, practitioners and education supporters. The Making a Difference (ELC) and Curriculum Innovation awards may be of particular interest to Early Learning and Childcare centres.
The Scottish Education Awards website provides details about the criteria and how to nominate your setting.
Contact: Catriona Gill at Catriona.Gill@educationscotland.gov.scot
Leadership and management development toolkit for ELC staff
This new Leadership and Management Development Toolkit for early learning and childcare staff brings together a range of resources (including videos, case studies, training and other continuous professional learning opportunities) available to support staff at stages of their careers across the Early Learning and Childcare sector.
Contact: Siân Neil at Sian.Neil@educationscotland.gov.scot
Children's Hearings Scotland
Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) are looking to recruit new volunteer panel members. CHS recruits, trains and supports around 3,000 volunteers across Scotland. Their volunteer roles are panel members and Area Support Team (AST) members. Panel members make legal decisions with and for children and young people in children’s hearings, and AST members provide support and guidance to those panel members locally.
Many of their volunteers have other responsibilities which, due to the pandemic, are taking priority. This has resulted in a decrease in the number of panel members able to attend hearings. The hearings system is reliant on our 2,500 volunteer Panel Members’ availability to attend hearings to make decisions with and for children, young people and infants.
Contact: Louise Farmer at email@example.com
Forward look calendar
Date: 8 February
Event: Creative industries partnerships - Education Scotland
Information: Exploring STEM within the creative industries: looking at creative industries through STEM lens and breaking out of the traditional STEM box! Sharing examples and resources from creative industry partners in the North
Date: 16 February
Event: SAC Wee Blether - Collaboration for Equity Education Scotland
Information: In this 'Wee Blether' you will have the opportunity to consider how you are and can effectively engage parents and carers to ensure equity within your establishment
Date: 23 February
Event: The Cycle of Wellbeing in Community Learning and Development - Education Scotland
Information: The Cycle of Wellbeing brings together a wide range of resources to support staff and learner wellbeing in education settings. This session will explore how they can be used within CLD contexts to plan supports for staff and learner mental wellbeing
Date: Multiple dates in February
Event: online wellbeing events for everyone in childcare - Early Years Scotland
Information: This workshop will provide attendees with the knowledge, skills and understanding to support them to begin to have powerful wellbeing conversations within a team environment.
- coronavirus (COVID-19): organised activities for children
- coronavirus (COVID-19): early learning and childcare services guidance
- coronavirus (COVID-19): school age childcare services guidance
- coronavirus (COVID-19): childminder services guidance
- early learning and childcare: national induction resource update - 7 January 2022
- perceptions of the impact of childminding services on child, parent and family outcomes: research findings - 28 September 2021
- coronavirus (COVID-19): managing cases in schools and childcare settings
- financial sustainability health check of the childcare sector in Scotland - 31 August 2021
- early learning and childcare providers - local authority funding and support: overview - 31 August 2021
- coronavirus (COVID-19): early learning and childcare (ELC) services - checklist of mitigations for Level 0 and below
- early learning and childcare: statutory guidance - July 2021 - 13 July 2021
- early learning and childcare: 2 year old eligibility - income threshold change – June 2021- EQIA - 22 June 2021
- early learning and childcare: 2 year old eligibility – income threshold change – June 2021- BRIA - 22 June 2021
- early learning and childcare expansion delivery progress report, May 2021 - 16 June 2021
- Scottish Milk and Healthy Snack Scheme: guidance for local authorities and day care settings - 7 June 2021
- funding follows the child and the national standard for early learning and childcare providers: interim guidance - update March 2021 - 7 June 2021
- equity and excellence leads: Care Inspectorate findings - 24 March 2021
- Out to Play - creating outdoor play experiences for children: practical guidance - new chapters - 17 March 2021
- nature-based early learning and childcare - influence on children's health, wellbeing and development: literature review - 17 March 2021
- early years providers helped to take first steps with with cyber security - National Cyber Security Centre - 15 March 2021
- our commitment to childminding: report - 21 January 2021
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