The Scottish Government and local authorities have committed to making an unprecedented level of investment in early learning and childcare (ELC) through the near doubling of the funded entitlement from 600 to 1140 hours per year from August 2020 for all 3 and 4 year olds, and eligible 2 year olds.
We want this to be high quality, flexible early learning and childcare that is accessible and affordable for families.
Investment in the earliest years of life is crucial to a child's development and has 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.
It is important that the funded entitlement is delivered through a mix of providers across the public, private and third sectors, including childminders, so that parents and carers can choose the provision that is best for their child.
To ensure that the funded entitlement is delivered in high quality settings we will introduce a new Funding Follows the Child approach in August 2020 alongside the statutory roll-out of the expanded entitlement.
Funding Follows the Child will empower parents and carers to choose from a range of high quality ELC providers.
This approach is 'provider neutral' and will be underpinned by a National Standard that all providers – regardless of whether they are in the public, private, or third sectors, or are a childminder – will have to meet from 2020. It will bring consistency and clarity, so all providers know they will have to meet the same requirements to offer funded ELC, wherever they are based in the country and whatever sector they operate in.
Providers across all parts of the sector are vital to enabling the delivery of the expanded entitlement.
However, we understand that this level of investment and change in the sector creates challenges for providers.
We already provide a range of support to ELC providers. For example, from April 2018 we removed the burden of non-domestic rates through the 100% rate relief for premises wholly or mainly used as day nurseries; and we are continuing to increase the number of ELC Modern Apprenticeships by 10% each year to 2020.
Our multi-year funding agreement with COSLA (Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) includes funding for the payment of sustainable rates to providers – as a result the hourly rates paid to providers across the country will increase significantly over the period to 2020.
Local authorities also provide tailored support to their local providers.
In recognition of the scale of the challenge ahead, in the Programme for Government we committed to building on these actions to ensure that ELC providers, including childminders, are supported through the transition to the implementation of the expanded entitlement in 2020.
We are now setting out the Delivery Support Plan for Early Learning and Childcare Providers, which will:
- Support the financial sustainability of providers;
- Strengthen partnership working;
- Support workforce recruitment and training; and
- Improve communications with parents and carers.
We intend to keep the Delivery Support Plan as a live document which will be updated as more support becomes available, and to allow us to reflect any further challenges or opportunities that emerge in the transition to 2020. The Delivery Support Plan will be available on a new website which will bring together useful information for providers, including guidance on the new Funding Follows the Child approach, and will be aligned with the dedicated ELC spaces within the Knowledge Hub.
The actions set out in this Delivery Support Plan are intended to complement those already being undertaken by local authorities for their providers.
Email: Euan Carmichael