Background to our Investment in Early Learning and Childcare
Research shows that attending high quality ELC improves outcomes for children in the early years and gives them important skills and confidence to carry into their schooling. 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 high quality, skilled practitioners is strongly associated with the best outcomes for children, both in terms of cognitive development and health/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 were highly qualified.
It is not just formal qualifications 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 development. Experienced and well trained staff have the knowledge and ability to engage, instruct and support children's learning from an early age and have the ability to make a real difference.
Access to high quality ELC not only plays an important role in improving outcomes for children, it also has an impact on the wider family. Research shows that affordable and high quality ELC, with an adequate number of hours per week, supports parents in employment. ELC can therefore play an important role in improving the lives of families and lifting them out of poverty. Around one in four children in Scotland lives in poverty, and we are working hard to reduce this through our Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
To ensure that the funded ELC entitlement is delivered in high quality settings, the sector was working towards the introduction of Funding Follows the Child and the underpinning National Standard for all ELC providers, to be delivered alongside the statutory roll-out of the expansion.
Funding Follows the Child is 'provider neutral' and is underpinned by a National Standard that to be a funded provider – regardless of whether they are in the public, private or third sector, or childminders – settings will have to meet. The criteria of the National Standard focuses on what children and their families should expect from their funded entitlement experience. And places choice in parents' and carers' hands. It ensures that families can be reassured that- regardless of where they access their funded entitlement- a high quality service will be delivered.
Important progress has already been made however, due to the impact of COVID-19 delaying the expansion, a new timetable for the full implementation will be set. We have the potential to make a significant impact on outcomes for children. As well as extending the hours of funded ELC, the earlier offer for eligible two year olds will help ensure even more support for those who stand to benefit the most.
'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
To stay up-to-date with progress with policy developments in ELC more generally, you may want to register with the Knowledge Hub (KHub). The KHub group is facilitated by the Scottish Government to provide an online space for all stakeholders and delivery partners to discuss issues and share knowledge relating to ELC in Scotland, with a particular focus on the commitment to increase the ELC entitlement to 1140 hours. To join the group, please sign up to Knowledge Hub and then visit the group's homepage, select "Request to join" and complete the relevant information.