Early learning and childcare: Deferral Working Group minutes - June 2022

Minutes from the meeting held on 30 June 2022.

Attendees and apologies


Scottish Government
Education Scotland
Angus Council
Argyll and Bute Council
Falkirk Council
Fife Council
Glasgow City Council
Stirling Council 
Tayside Alliance Regional Improvement Group
West Partnership Regional Improvement Group
Ipsos Scotland


Aberdeen City Council
Clackmannanshire Council
Scottish Borders Council
Shetland Islands Council
Northern Alliance Regional Improvement Group
South East Alliance Regional Improvement Group 
South West Collaborative Regional Improvement Group 
Care Inspectorate

Items and actions

Scottish Government staff update

The chair  informed the group of the new deferral lead within Scottish Government who will chair future meetings of the group.

Evaluation – Interim Findings

Ipsos representatives thanked members for joining and for their contribution to the evaluation. Ipsos reviewed the methods of evaluation.

Reminder of aims of the evaluation

  • provide information on the implementation of the deferral pilots
  • explore impact on parental awareness of entitlement

 Key lessons from the evaluation so far

  • pilots appear to be going well so far and the pilots have delivered in line with assumptions of logic modes
  • the request process is more straight forward
  • local authorities are supporting child centred communications
  • removal of bureaucracy
  • effective communications with settings


  • capacity for younger children
  • ELC Staff recruitment and retention 

General feedback

  • there is a need to ensure clear and consistent communications with parents, who should be supported by staff to make decisions
  • settings need to know in advance of changes and have a clear understanding of them
  • there should be collaboration with other Local Authorities on communications and processes
  • maximise PVI capacity
  • support P1 teachers
  • awareness of future capacity issues 
  • provide information on the implementation of the deferral pilots
  • explore impact on parental awareness of entitlement

Ipsos outlined the next stage of the evaluation, which will include early learning and childcare (ELC) staff focus groups and parent interviews, along with further data analysis. This will take place in July or August with field work conducted in August to October. The final report will be provided in January or February.

Ipsos took questions from the group. The chair asked, in terms of case studies and parental survey, what is split between deferral and non-deferral families, and will everyone spoken to have eligibility for deferral. Ipsos confirmed all will be eligible, with a good mix of deferral and non-deferral families.

A member asked if the changes in deferral rates be a result of changing birth rates. Ipsos were unable to answer but hoped to find out more as data analysis progressed.

Ipsos were also asked to clarify that a child centred approach was in place prior to change in deferral legislation, as it was suggested the language in the reporting was unclear.

Glasgow City Council survey of parents and carers who have chosen to defer

Glasgow City Council presented results of a survey of parents who chose to defer, with an aim to find out what is aiding parents decision making, what families they will be engaging with and how this will affect practice. 

The survey found that the main reasons for deferral are social and emotional readiness, a belief that children should start school later generally and because the nursery recommended it to parents.

Further analysis will be done by the council to better understand any differences between groups of children.

Some areas for improvement were noted, which focussed on providing more information, but parents had generally positive feedback about their experiences.

Other local authorities noted work they are doing to understand deferrals in their areas, including impacts to the early school curriculum. It was noted that some parents are choosing to defer their children when ELC staff consider that they are ready for school. The group noted there were risks to consider here, including the potential impact on the early school curriculum and workforce, to ensure that children were getting the right level of support to learn during their extra ELC year. 

Action- Look to include curriculum colleagues (SG) to attend a future meeting.

Members did not feel there has been an appetite for changing the statutory school starting age. The group would consider whether more communications were necessary to clarify that the legal position on this is not changing.

Any other business 

The group did not raise any other business.

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