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, and shape and build their worlds, is exceptionally important. As we continue to move towards expanding funded entitlement of ELC to 1140 hours per year, this is a very exciting time to be joining the profession.
The earliest years of life are crucial to a child’s development and have a lasting impact on outcomes in health, education and employment opportunities later in life. This is why we are making 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, there is also a renewed emphasis on ensuring that all children have access to a high quality ELC experience which ensures they are supported in all aspects of their early development.
We know that the most important driver of quality in ELC 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.
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 giving our children 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).
Plans for the expansion for funded entitlement to 1140 were necessarily delayed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the difficult decision taken to suspend the statutory duty on local authorities to provide 1140 hours of ELC from August 2020. This was in recognition of the fact that much of the work planned was necessarily put on hold, and to allow us to work with partners to address the more immediate impacts on the childcare sector arising from the pandemic; principally safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our workforce, children and families. After significant consultation the Scottish Government brought legislation back to the Scottish Parliament in early 2021 and reinstated the duty from August 2021. This means that from 1 August 2021 all 3 and 4 year olds and some 2 year olds will be entitled to 1140 funded hours of ELC per year.
Scotland’s routemap through and out of the crisis sets out a phased approach for moving out of lockdown. Alongside that routemap, we have published a Strategic Framework which sets out the high level plans for the reopening of schools, ELC settings and also wider childcare settings including school aged childcare and childminding. Specific ELC guidance is available for the continued safe operation of providers and staff, including links to further resources and FAQ. We have also developed an ELC sector guidance animation to support compliance with the COVID guidance.
While the Care Inspectorate have had to pause in person ELC inspection visits they have developed ‘Key Question 5; Operating an Early Learning and Childcare setting (including out of school care and childminders) during COVID-19'. This is a self-evaluation resource and tool which asks settings to evaluate how well they are supporting children and families during COVID-19, and will be a useful tool during the first month in your setting.
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.
We are absolutely committed to the benefits of the expansion and the universal 1140 provision for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds in line with COVID-19 guidelines. Full and up to date information regarding COVID-19 and the expansion is available from the Scottish Government webpages.