Section One - Introduction
Welcome to your career in Early Learning and Childcare (ELC). Working with children to help nurture their development, support their learning, and shape positive futures is exceptionally important. We have recently expanded the funded entitlement of ELC to 1140 hours per year, and this is a very exciting time to be joining a truly satisfying and rewarding profession.
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.
High quality ELC, including childminding, can make an important contribution to children’s outcomes, particularly when they are growing up in more disadvantaged circumstances. It is also critical to supporting children to recover from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and to closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
We know that children benefit most from high quality, sensitive, responsive and stimulating interactions, provided by highly qualified and knowledgeable practitioners . We also know that the best experiences for children are found where professionals hold higher-level qualifications specific to early childhood, or those with a background in early years methodology, and -in settings - where there is a range of staff with complementary skills. Ongoing continuous professional learning (CPL) further enables professionals to fulfil their own potential, and equip our young children to do the same.
Realising the Ambition – Being Me explains that the early childhood curriculum is holistic. It values children and early childhood. 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.
Scotland is already leading the way across the UK in its ambition to have a highly qualified and regulated profession, and this resource has been developed collaboratively with leading organisations to support you during the initial stages of your career in ELC. This resource must be used if your employer provides funded ELC, however it is also available for use by settings where families purchase ELC themselves. It sets out the support you can expect your employer in your new role, and provides links to the suite of national resources which are available as you develop in your role. It has been developed specifically to support staff working in ELC centres rather than in childminding settings.
We know that our professionals are working really hard to support children and their families, and to provide safe and nurturing settings. This is of particular importance at this time as we continue to move forward and address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. All children, young people and their families have been impacted by the pandemic, but it has not affected everyone equally. We know that there is a greater impact on families with low-incomes and children under the age of five. Specific ELC guidance for the continued safe operation of providers and staff is available, including links to further resources.
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. Additional reflection questions in section two of this document can help you to consider safety and risk assessment as a key part of your role. The Care Inspectorate 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).
A key aspect of supporting children’s emotional attachment within the setting- particularly important following the pandemic- is family involvement. Ensuring parents and children are welcomed into the setting together and that families are able to share children’s experiences in person as well as virtually, will support positive and effective relationships.
To further support our professionals, Early Years Scotland provides a Team ELC Wellbeing Hub; a resource which sets out vital information for the sector on maintaining their wellbeing, and creates opportunities for staff to connect with each other and experts. The Wellbeing Hub has been accompanied by a series of online events and recordings which provided practical advice in the shape of a self-care toolkit.
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