Background and Future Ambitions Of Our Investment In Early Learning And Childcare
A range of research shows that attending high quality ELC improves outcomes for children. For instance, children who attended high quality settings in Scotland were more likely to show improvements in vocabulary skills between ages 3 and 5. High quality ELC particularly benefits children living in more disadvantaged circumstances and so can make a real difference to closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
Research also shows us that access to a mix of high quality, skilled professionals is strongly associated with improved outcomes for children. This is both in terms of cognitive development and health and wellbeing. Again, this is particularly the case for children affected by poverty, who have been shown to make more progress in settings where staff and managers are highly qualified.
It is not just the formal qualifications of staff that have been shown to make a difference to children’s outcomes. By undertaking continuous professional learning (CPL) you can also strengthen your ability to support children with their learning and development. Experienced and well trained staff have the knowledge and ability to engage with and support children’s learning from an early age and have the ability to make a real difference.
The benefits of access to high quality ELC go beyond improving lifelong outcomes for children; it also has a direct impact on the wider family and in tackling child poverty. Research shows that affordable, flexible and high quality ELC, with an adequate number of hours per week, supports parents to increase their earned incomes by facilitating access to training, learning and paid employment. Childcare providers, holding a trusted relationship with parents, can also play a key role in making parents aware of other support available to them – including money advice and other local services.
Tackling child poverty is a national mission for Scotland and, with around one in four children in Scotland living in poverty, ELC has a key role to play in helping parents to access and progress in the labour market. Investment in ELC is one of a range of measures set out in our Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan, helping to reduce child poverty in Scotland.
To ensure that the funded ELC entitlement is delivered in high quality settings, the sector has been working towards the introduction of Funding Follows the Child.
Funding Follows the Child is a ‘provider neutral’ model which is underpinned by a National Standard that all services – regardless of whether they are in the public, private or third sector, or are childminders –will have to meet in order to be able to offer the funded ELC entitlement for eligible families in Scotland. For families this means that they will be able to access high quality funded ELC with the provider of their choice –if that provider meets the criteria set out in the National Standard, wishes to deliver the funded entitlement, has a space available and is in contract with their local authority to deliver the funded hours. The criteria of the National Standard focuses on what children and their families should expect from their funded entitlement experience. It also ensures that families can be assured that regardless of where they access their funded entitlement- a high quality service will be delivered.
In recognition of the impact of the COVID pandemic, Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard for early learning and childcare (ELC) providers is currently subject to Interim Guidance, which allows local authorities to apply flexibilities to a small number of criteria in the National Standard.
With the implementation of the expansion of funded ELC now in effect, we are setting out our ambition to provide funded early learning to all 1 and 2 year olds. This will start in the course of this Parliament with children in families facing the most disadvantage. We want early learning provision for 1 and 2 year olds to best meet the needs of those children and families who will benefit most from access to it. We have also committed to building a system of school age childcare to support children and families, particularly those on the lowest incomes. This will deliver ‘wraparound’ childcare, before and after school, and in the holidays.
This year we will begin engagement with families, the early learning sector and academic experts to design how the new offer can best support children and families.