Early learning and childcare trials discussion paper: analysis of responses

Analysis of responses to a discussion on establishing delivery model trials to support expanding the early learning and childcare provision.

1. Executive Summary

1.1 The Scottish Government is committed to increasing the Early Learning and Childcare ( ELC) entitlement to 1140 hours per year for all 3 and 4 year olds in addition to eligible 2 year olds (based on free school meal entitlement criteria) by the end of the next Parliament (2020).

1.2 In recognition of the need to ensure the proposed wider provision of ELC to 1140 hours is supported with high quality delivery and responsive provision which meets local needs, the Scottish Government proposes to establish a number of trials to test different models of delivery.

1.3 On 20 January 2016 the Scottish Government published a discussion paper to seek the views of parents, other stakeholders and delivery partners on the scope and design of the trials.

1.4 73 responses to the consultation were received, 58 from organisations and 15 from individuals. A summary of views from the responses follows.

Views on what the key features of Scotland's ELC model should be
1.5 The three key features of Scotland's ELC model identified most frequently were: flexible provision; qualified workforce; and quality of provision.

1.6 Respondents identified priority features which were child-focused; parent-focused; workforce-focused; policy-focused; and focused on consistency across settings.

1.7 Child-focused models of provision were envisaged as demonstrating features such as: a qualified workforce delivering quality provision in a high standard physical environment. Innovative child-driven approaches to delivery were identified including creative and outdoor contexts in play-based and nurturing environments.

1.8 Parent-focused models of provision were identified as those offering flexibility and choice; and which provide some form of capacity-building for parents, perhaps improving parenting skills and/or opportunities for training.

1.9 Workforce-focused features of provision were described as those in which staff are remunerated fairly, are valued and have well defined career structures.

1.10 Policy-focused models had narrowing the attainment gap as a clear aim and were underpinned by GIRFEC principles.

1.11 Consistency across settings was prioritised in terms of quality, terms and conditions for workforce, ratio of teacher time per child and regulatory reviews.

Views on which specific principles of ELC models should be prioritised within the programme of trials
1.12 The specific principles of ELC models identified most frequently as priorities were: quality of provision; flexibility of provision; child-centred approaches; and parental choice over provision.

1.13 Trialling a range of settings and patterns of provision was recommended in order to cater for parents' variety of work, training and education commitments.

1.13 Other significant principles mentioned less frequently were: fairness/equity of access; integration between services; holistic partnership approach with parents; and evidence-based models.

Views on the key barriers to successfully implementing the 1140 hours commitment
1.14 A prevailing concern was that quality of provision should not be compromised during trials and subsequent implementation and that the focus should remain child-centred throughout.

1.15 The two main barriers to successful implementation which were identified repeatedly were lack of ELC places to meet demand; and lack of staff suitably qualified and experienced to deliver the expanded hours. Problems were envisaged particularly in rural locations and in achieving diversity in the workforce.

1.16 Low pay and status not commensurate with qualifications and skills were perceived to be the key barriers to attracting and retaining staff.

1.17 A common theme across private, third sector and voluntary providers was that the funding they receive from local authorities for free places at their setting is not adequate to cover their costs, leading to an uneven playing field which hinders further expansion in provision.

1.18 Other barriers identified included: increased bureaucracy; lack of consistency across settings and local authorities; lack of effective partnership working; questions over sustainability of 1140 hours under different Government administrations; lack of information for parents about expanded provision; and concerns over the adequacy of data collection systems to capture learning from the trials.

1.19 To address some of these issues, recommendations were made for: a programme of purpose-built settings to accommodate the extra ELC space required; a significant culture and attitudinal change to improve perceptions of ELC as a positive career choice; and increased transparency in the funding from local authorities to commissioned providers.

Examples of current best practice within ELC provision
1.20 49 examples of best practice within ELC provision were identified by respondents. The largest body of examples related to those where flexibility had been offered to families to enable parents to be supported to take up employment and other opportunities. Other examples focused on: increasing and upskilling the workforce; partnership working with parents; child-centred approaches; effective use of outdoor space; provision for vulnerable children; increasing parental choice; and creative pedagogies.

Examples of innovative delivery within ELC provision
1.21 16 examples of innovation in delivery were identified by respondents. These covered examples of increased flexibility; increasing parental choice; partnership working with parents; sharing innovative practice via a databank; use of expressive arts; child-centred approaches and multi-agency working.

Approaches to measurement of trials
1.22 Respondents recommended that trials be specific in their aims, with meaningful indicators and outcome measures in place from the start.

1.23 Trials which encompassed a wide range of settings and sectors were called for. An electronic monitoring system was recommended which could store data emerging from the trials.

1.24 Both qualitative and quantitative methods of evaluation were proposed including focus groups, case studies, self-evaluation and interview techniques. Innovative, participatory approaches were envisaged for engaging with young children to seek their views.

1.25 Assessing longer-term outcomes was identified as a particular challenge for the trials, given their limited time-span prior to full roll-out. It was acknowledged that some impacts would not emerge during the trial period.

1.26 Most respondents identified child-focused outcomes as integral to the evaluation of trials, with focus on measuring children's developmental achievements, their wellbeing and the quality of the ELC received.

1.27 Other priorities for outputs and outcomes recommended by respondents were family/parent-based such as family satisfaction with ELC provision and positive parenting and confidence. Outcome measurement of impact of the trials on the uptake of employment or training opportunities by parents was also envisaged.

Views on opportunities for integrated services
1.28 There was much support for establishing integrated approaches to ELC provision, however, this was generally viewed as a relatively untapped area with much potential for development.

1.29 A common theme was that linking health and specialist additional support services to ELC provision would bring benefits in terms of targeting those most in need and increasing efficiencies in provision.

1.30 Some identified support needs of parents and recommended that service provision for them could usefully be integrated with provision of ELC for their children.

1.31 Calls were made for greater collaboration between local authorities and private nurseries over delivering seamless provision. Potential was identified also in exploring ways to integrate childminding provision with that of other providers.

1.32 A recurring view was the potential exists for development of out of school provision which links with ELC.

1.33 A few respondents considered further potential in developing links with informal pre-school provision such as holiday clubs, toddler and other playgroups and with local leisure centres.

1.34 A partnership approach between training providers and ELC workforce was recommended by a few respondents in order to facilitate effective and flexible ways to combine study and practice.

Views on addressing diversity across Scotland
1.35 There was general agreement across respondents that a "one size fits all" approach to ELC in Scotland will not work on account of the diversity of environment across and even within local authorities. A common view was that the trials should aim to represent this diversity.

1.36 Rurality was identified as potentially the most challenging of setting for ELC provision with reduced parental choice, greater travel times and transport costs and lack of adequate wrap-around provision just some of the issues which were problematic in rural and remote rural areas.

1.37 Urban areas were also viewed as problematic in terms of lack of available places due to higher populations, and higher numbers of eligible two year olds in areas of deprivation.

1.38 Respondents recommended trials also address areas where parents work patterns were challenging for ELC, perhaps due to seasonal working or shift patterns, or where they worked out with their local area, and required cross-border arrangements.

1.39 Diversity across Scotland was seen as presenting issues for recruitment and retention of workforce, particularly in cities with a higher cost of living (such as Aberdeen) or where inconsistencies between pay offered in different local authorities prevailed.

1.40 Diversity was identified in ethnicity, language spoken, religious beliefs and different support needs, all of which were seen as presenting challenges for ELC provision.

Views on designing trials for scalability
1.41 In order for successful aspects of trials to be scaled up, respondents identified a number of design features to be incorporated from the start. These included ensuring they are set up as learning mechanisms; are simple and focused to enable lessons to be clearly identifiable; that thorough groundwork is undertaken to make sure they are evidence-based and testing clearly specific concepts and approaches; that they test a variety of settings which will produce relevant learning for different locations across Scotland; that they are underpinned with robust evaluative methods and have firm baseline data; that budgets for the trials are realistic and provide a genuine picture of funding and supporting infrastructure required; and that dissemination of lessons is robust and information widely shared post-trial.

Offers of involvement in the programme of trials
1.42 Most of those responding to the consultation offered their involvement in taking forward the programme of trials, either as trial setting or by supporting the organisation, implementation, evaluation of trials and/or sharing information post-trial, suggesting that there will be much support and buy-in for the trials.

12.5 20 different local authority areas were represented amongst respondents offering to provide settings for trials, including urban, rural and remote rural locations. However, significant gaps included locations in Fife, Perth, Stirling and Dundee, suggesting that more work may be required to engage ELC providers within these areas with the trials.


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