2.1 The Scottish Government is committed to increasing the Early Learning and Childcare ( ELC) entitlement to 1140 hours per year for all three and four year olds in addition to eligible two year olds (based on free school meal entitlement criteria) by the end of the next Parliament (2020).
2.2 Free pre-school education was introduced in Scotland in 2002 with 412.5 hours available for three and four year olds per annum. Since then the number of hours has increased incrementally. By 2007 475 hours per annum were offered, normally delivered 2.5 hours per day over 38 weeks. The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 supported the Scottish Government's policy commitment "to ensure that children have the best start in life". The 2014 Act increased entitlement to free ELC from 475 hours to 600 hours per year with a further pledge based on the Government's "One Scotland" programme (2015) to increase the hours further to 30 per week for each three and four year old and eligible two year olds by the end of the next Parliament.
2.3 The Scottish Government understands that the effectiveness of ELC depends on the quality of provision, its flexibility to meet local needs and its accessibility, including affordability. Emphasis has been placed on local response to local needs with different local authorities given scope to deliver ELC themselves and through their delivery partners in innovative ways.
2.4 By the start of the 2016 summer term, 120,000 three and four year olds in Scotland and 20,000 two year olds will benefit from free ELC. Whilst affordability and flexibility of provision can be promoted directly by the Scottish Government, quality of provision is more complex. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development's ( OECD) work has highlighted aspects of provision which are associated with quality of delivery including smaller staff to child ratios; qualifications and particular specialisms of staff; physical environment and staff diversity including gender.
2.5 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 including accessibility, the Scottish Government proposes to establish a number of trials to test different models of delivery. Experiences from these will illuminate what works well, where and why. Ways to establish and share best practice emerging from different models across local authorities and other providers will be examined.
2.6 The Scottish Government sought views of parents and other stakeholders and delivery partners on the scope and design of the trials. It published a discussion paper  which set out the policy context and background to the trials, the rationale for proceeding with these, and provided examples of current innovative ELC practice. The paper was published on 20 January with views invited by 18 March. 11 open-ended questions were posed which covered current and future provision of ELC and what people wanted to see from a modern, flexible, fair and responsive system by 2020. Responses were invited via Citizen Space or by emailing a dedicated mailbox. Emailed responses directly to the Scottish Government policy team were also accepted.
2.7 This report presents the analysis of views contained in the responses to the consultation. The views are those of the respondents to this consultation and do not necessarily represent the views of a wider population.
Consultation responses and analysis
2.8 The Scottish Government received 73 responses to the consultation. Table 2.1 shows the distribution of responses by category of respondent. A full list of respondents is in Annex 1. The respondent category applied to each response was agreed with the Scottish Government policy team.
Table 2.1: Distribution of responses by category of respondent
|Local Government Nurseries||2||3|
|Third Sector and Voluntary Providers||2||3|
NB Percentages do not add to 100% exactly due to rounding.
2.9 The largest categories of respondent were Local Government and individuals, each comprising 21% of all respondents. Amongst the individual respondents were parents; playgroup managers and workers; private nursery employers and employees; teachers, ex-teachers and early years' practitioners.
2.10 33 responses were submitted via Citizen Space with the remainder sent via email. Most respondents provided a response to all or most of the questions, although the length of responses to discussion questions varied considerably.  Content from all responses was entered onto one bespoke electronic database to enable direct comparison of views and analysis between respondents and across respondent sectors. Some responses contained lengthy text and detailed descriptions of examples of existing ELC provision. In such cases the analyst summarised the text, drawing on the key issues and themes to ensure that the main points were captured in the database and that analysis could be efficient.
2.11 The analysis of responses is presented in the following ten chapters which follow the order of the topics raised in the consultation paper. Throughout the report quotes taken directly from responses have been used to illustrate specific points. These were selected on the basis that they enhanced the analysis by emphasising specific points succinctly. They are identified by respondent category as opposed to individually as not all participants agreed to their contributions being made public.