Early learning and childcare: Deferral Working Group minutes - November 2021

Minutes from the meeting held on 30 November 2021.

Attendees and apologies


Scottish Government
Aberdeen City Council
Angus Council
Clackmannanshire Council
Falkirk Council
Fife Council
Glasgow City Council
Scottish Borders Council
Shetland Islands Council 
Stirling Council
Northern Alliance Regional Improvement Collaborative
Tayside Alliance Regional Improvement Collaborative
West Partnership Regional Improvement Collaborative 
South East Alliance Regional Improvement Group
Care Inspectorate


Argyll and Bute Council
Education Scotland
South West Collaborative Regional Improvement Group

Items and actions

Introduction and review of minutes and open actions

Updated Terms of Reference to reflect increased membership will be circulated along with an action log. 

Members were content with the previous minutes.


Scottish Government (SG) Analyst led the group on discussing evaluation of year 1 pilots. SG outlined that commissioning the evaluation was behind schedule, and are aiming for a contractor to be in place in the new year.

The pilot evaluation will provide information about implementation of the policy in the pilot areas and explore the impact on parental awareness and perceptions of the entitlement. There will be a focus on year 2 pilots as this provides a broader scope of local authorities (LAs) and is less impacted by Covid.

The pilot evaluation will include analysis of data and documents provided by LAs and data collection with a sample of parents. The contractor will attend future meetings of the group.

Pilot LAs will be asked to provide data on enrolments for an additional year of funded early learning and childcare (ELC) in a deferred year and to share information on deferral application and school enrolment processes, including the information provided to families. LAs will also be asked to support requests to take part in the evaluation to parents and ELC settings.

LAs were asked when they could provide the desired data, with an aim of March/April 2022.

Action - SG will confirm a specific date for next data collection and share with colleagues.

One pilot authority has shared the evaluation with relevant colleagues, and asked if the data should be split between LA settings and private settings. They were interested in what type of setting deferred children are coming from and how this will effect 3 year olds coming up into funded ELC for the first time. They noted the template does not specify the type of setting and asked if this can be included going forward.

Another member highlighted a chain of private nurseries in their area is not looking to accommodate any deferrals because of the potential impact on 3 year olds. 

Year 1 pilots noted they had not seen this impact on places for 3 year olds and there were fewer families taking up the offer of a deferred year than expected.

Some pilot authorities outlined how they are trying to collect information about the number of spaces likely to be needed for children who defer.

Cross boundary discussion

Issues were raised regarding cross boundary placements, with one pilot authority noting they have a great deal of cross boundary placements. The issue is that children in a pilot LA will have a funded deferred year, however given the cross boundary there is no funding allocated to relevant authorities to support this.

Other members outlined the approach they take but noted there can still be confusion. It was suggested that once the SEEMIS Early Years system is in place it may be easier to manage. A member noted they have cross boundary agreements with three separate LAs, noting there was discussion when statutory guidance was being revised that there were inclusions on cross boundary which may be a good starting point.

Members asked for clear guidance on cross boundary places to ensure greater consistency.

A member asked if there someone in SG that can give advice on cross boundary agreements or if this is up to councils to agree. Chair responded this is not a role currently carried out by SG, but will take this back to colleagues.

Parental Communications

Year 1 pilots were invited to share their approaches to parental communications and if there are materials that would be useful for the group.

One member noted parents were still confused around the timelines and how deferral fitted into overall admissions policy. The LA have made a clear and separate admission policy and timeline for deferral, meaning there is a single point of contact and reference for parents going forward. This was received well by stakeholders.

Action- SG to provide central point to share relevant documents from pilot authorities.

A member noted their LA took out a consultation with parents which allowed the LA to provide information on deferral as well as gaining insights from parents. Clear communication was given to ELC settings and schools which are often the initial point of contact for parents.

Year 1 pilots were asked if they emphasised the school being child ready approach. One pilot LA noted there was a variation among settings but encouraged parents to look into specific schools and ELC settings and engage with staff. 

Another member added one success they have had is one-to-one engagement with parents. They put two teachers in place to advise on the transition to primary and continuation of play based learning, as well as a central team to engage directly with parents. Initially this was carried out by the central early years team but parents have also engaged directly with settings. The LA noted the importance of having a named person in engaging with parents to allow continuity of advice and support provided to parents by the council.

There are variable approaches to transitions but practice has developed substantially over the past few years. Schools being ready for children and using the getting it right for every child (GIRFEC) approach has been helpful in communicating and reassuring parents. It is hoped that the pilot approach will lead to more consistent communications among LAs in Scotland.

Chair asked for timescales that would be useful for authorities to receive supporting materials. A member noted they aim to know who is deferring by the end of March, but have already been undertaking parental comms for the coming year.

Any other business

Members were encouraged to raise any issues they would like to see discussed.

SG colleagues are aiming for late February for the next meeting of the working group.

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