Section One - Introduction
Welcome to your career in Early Learning and Childcare (ELC). You will know that a career in ELC is more than just a job; it is a truly satisfying and rewarding career. Working with children to help nurture their development, support their learning, and shape positive futures is exceptionally important. As we have recently expanded the funded entitlement of ELC to 1140 hours per year, this is a very exciting time to be joining the profession, playing a key role in the delivery of the expansion to families.
The earliest years of life are crucial to a child’s learning and development and have a lasting impact on outcomes in health, education and employment opportunities later in life. This is why we have made an unprecedented investment in ELC to support our ambition to give all of our children the best start in life. As well as increasing the entitlement to funded ELC from 600 hours to 1140 hours a year, we have also placed a renewed emphasis on ensuring that all children have access to a high quality ELC experience; ensuring they are supported in all aspects of their early learning and development.
The early childhood curriculum is holistic. It values children, recognising them as full of potential from birth. From the age of three, Scotland’s Curriculum for Excellence provides children and young people with a Broad General Education. At its centre are four fundamental capacities. These capacities reflect and recognise the lifelong nature of education and learning. They:
- recognise the need for all children and young people to know themselves as individuals and to develop their relationships with others, in families and in communities;
- recognise the knowledge, skills and attributes that children and young people need to acquire to thrive in our interconnected, digital and rapidly changing world; and
- enable children and young people to be democratic citizens and active shapers of that world.
We know that the most important driver of quality provision is a dedicated, highly skilled and well-qualified workforce, whose initial training and continued professional learning enables them to fulfil their own potential and equip our young children to do the same.
Scotland is already leading the way across the UK in its ambition to have a highly qualified and regulated workforce, and this resource has been developed to support you in your induction to delivering ELC – whether that is funded ELC or ELC that families purchase themselves. It has been developed specifically to support staff working in ELC centres rather than in childminding settings. It sets out how you can expect your employer to support you in your new role and includes links to the range of national resources which are available to support you. It has been developed collaboratively with the range of national organisations supporting the profession.
We hope that this resource helps to demonstrate how much we value our well trained, professional and skilled ELC workforce, and that it supports you to develop in your vital role in supporting our children to have the best possible start. This is of particular significance at this time due to the considerable changes to all aspects of life as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) and new Omicron variant.
The pandemic has impacted on all children and young people and their families, but it has not affected everyone equally. Research has shown that there is a greater impact on families with low-incomes and evidence is emerging which suggests that children under the age of five have been most affected. Specific ELC guidance is available for the continued safe operation of providers and staff, including links to further resources.
We have developed a COVID-19 safety eLearning module for staff working in the childcare sector to support compliance with the COVID guidance. Education Scotland has also published a range of resources to support high quality learning during the pandemic. These can be accessed through the ELC summary page on the National Improvement Hub.
The Care Inspectorate reintroduced themed inspections in June 2021 however ‘Key Question 5; Operating an Early Learning and Childcare setting (including out of school care and childminders) during COVID19' can still be used as a helpful self-evaluation resource and tool during your first month in the setting. This asks settings to evaluate how well they are supporting children and families during the pandemic.
We know that the workforce are working really hard to support children and their families and that there are a range of additional requirements as a result of the necessary arrangements to support safe settings. As a new member of staff it is important that you understand how to support the safe care of children when there are competing pressures. We have added some additional reflection questions in Section two of the document, to help you consider safety and risk assessment as a key part of your role. The Care Inspectorate draft quality framework for daycare of children, childminding, and school aged childcare also contains a range of quality illustrations to support high quality safe environments for children (more information about this is included in the leadership section of this resource).
To support our workforce during this challenging time, we have worked with Early Years Scotland to develop a new Team ELC Wellbeing Hub; a website which sets out vital information for the sector on maintaining their wellbeing, and creates opportunities for staff to connect with each other. The Wellbeing Hub has been accompanied by a series of online events which provided practical advice in the shape of a self-care toolkit. We’d encourage everyone to have a look at the recordings of previous events, which have been posted on the Hub.
‘The world in recent months has been extraordinary, with the impact of the pandemic creating unprecedented challenges across the early years sector and beyond. Throughout all these complexities, one aspect that has not changed is our pledge that every child in Scotland has the best start in life.
High quality early learning and childcare is an important part of that promise for Scotland’s children and families.
The vital role of early years staff has been absolutely pivotal during these difficult times, and the sector has clearly demonstrated its unwavering commitment to Scotland’s youngest children and their families, despite the challenges many faced themselves.
It is critical that ELC staff continue to be valued and supported in providing care and high quality experiences for young children in the most creative and nurturing ways, ensuring they continue to feel included, valued and respected.’
Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland