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Early learning and childcare - statutory guidance: consultation analysis

Analysis of responses to a public consultation on updated statutory guidance for early learning and childcare.


Clarity of the Guidance

Two questions were asked to determine whether the draft Guidance was clear and readable, and to identify any areas that could be improved in this respect. These questions were:

  • Q2a - Do you find the Guidance clear and readable?
  • Q2b - Are there any specific areas of the Guidance where we could improve readability?

The key issues discussed by respondents at each question are outlined below.

Clarity and Readability of the Guidance

Q2a - Do you find the Guidance clear and readable?

A total of 147 (76% of all) respondents provided a response to this question, including 95 (72% of all) individuals and 52 (84% of all) organisations.

Around three quarters of those who responded to the question (77%, n=113) indicated that they felt the Guidance was clear and readable. However, 17% (n=25) either stated they did not find the Guidance clear and readable and/or identified readability issues, and the remainder either provided mixed views or provided a comment which did not clearly identify whether they perceived the Guidance was clear and readable or not.

Organisations typically indicated that the Guidance was clearer and more readable than individuals, with 85% (n=44) of organisations who responded indicating the Guidance was clear and readable compared to 73% (n=69) of individuals.

A few organisations identified several specific points that they considered helpful in ensuring the Guidance was clear and readable, including: the use of dedicated sections; the use of examples, which was seen as helpful and assisted in clarifying points; the use of tables, which was considered to provide a clear format for information; the inclusion of short succinct points (with less direct reference to legislation); and the Glossary to enable a common and consistent understanding of the terminology used:

"It is clearly laid out, very readable and clearly explains our statutory duties in relation to the delivery of Early Learning and Childcare. The sections are well laid out and easily referenced." (Organisation)

Two key issues, however, were identified by respondents, including accessibility issues and that the Guidance was open to interpretation. These issues were discussed by both those who felt the Guidance was clear and readable and those who did not.

Some respondents (including individuals and organisations) suggested there may be possible accessibility issues with the Guidance for lay persons, parents/carers and some ELC practitioners. It was felt that the use of jargon, 'legal speak', the length of the document, and numerous external references and lengthy definitions could make the Guidance less user friendly and accessible to some. It was also felt the reader required some background knowledge of legislation and/or childcare in order to easily follow the document:

"…too much legal speak. Long winded and unless you have a prior knowledge it's difficult to track." (Individual)

Similar to the issues discussed at Q1 above, some respondents (mainly individuals, although several organisations also discussed this) felt that much of the Guidance was open to interpretation by local authorities, which they expected would lead to differing approaches being adopted/maintained across the country. Specific issues discussed, as for Q1 above, included both the discrepancy in funding between local authority and PVI settings and discretionary funding for those with August-December birthdays who defer:

"It is clear and readable, but allows LAs to interpret and implement as they wish." (Organisation)

"Even after August 2020 we will still have a postcode lottery in relation to how each child is valued within each authority. That is not fair, equitable or in line with the policy objectives." (Individual)

"We feel the Guidance requires more of mandatory, compulsory and required statements for councils who are not complying with Scottish Government outcomes for our children." (Individual)

Areas for Improvement

Q2b - Are there any specific areas of the Guidance where we could improve readability?

A total of 127 (65% of all) respondents provided a response to this question, including 76 (58% of all) individuals and 51 (82% of all) organisations. Of these, 50% (n=64) said 'no' or could not think of any way to improve the readability of the Guidance.

Of those who provided suggestions, the key area for improvement in relation to readability was to make the Guidance more user friendly and accessible for parents/carers, the general public, and practitioners. This included:

  • concerns over the length and 'wordiness' of the Guidance, with suggestions for improvement being to use plain English and less legal language;
  • that the information/statements should be prioritised, using bullet points for key information;
  • a need to reduce or find a more manageable way to reference the various legislation, with suggestions including the use of tables, footnotes, hyperlinks or bracketed text for legislative references/information; and
  • a summary version may be beneficial for some audiences:

"It is essential that the information provided in the Guidance can be fully understood by partner providers, families and other relevant organisations to ensure transparency and equality of access." (Organisation)

"It was felt that a 'more user friendly' and abbreviated version would be beneficial for Heads [service provider managers]." (Organisation)

Other suggestions to improve readability or add clarity, mentioned by just a few respondents each, included:

  • defined parameters in relation to the increased flexibility to be available for eligible 2s, and whether this will be updated and extended, for example, to include working families;
  • make charges for, and opting out of, optional extras clearer in the Guidance;
  • provide clarity around whether food/meals will be free or chargeable across all providers, and more detail regarding healthy snacks;
  • specify if kinship care is only for those registered as official kinship carers or to include informal kinship care;
  • provide clearer guidance about the terminology to be used in relation to transitions and split placements i.e. 'split' or 'blended', and if both are acceptable. Ideally, this would include an outline of how they are defined, and provide clearer information in relation to the management and support, and the need to promote the child's wellbeing in such models;
  • provide clarity over key phrases of particular relevance to parents/carers earlier in the document, specifically on what flexibility and choice mean. It was expected that, in most cases, this would be restricted by what local authorities can and will offer, and so it was suggested it may be more factual to revise statements relating to choice and flexibility e.g. 'depending on the model delivered, the availability of spaces, if the provider meets the National Standard and is in contract with the local authority, parents/carers may have choice and flexibility about how they use their entitlement';
  • explaining in more detail the areas of the Children and Young People's Act 2014 that is referred to;
  • making consistent all references to the type of provision offered by childminders. At present, the Guidance includes references to childminders both as being part of the private sector and as additional to the private and third sectors;
  • being clearer what elements are mandatory and what is advisory; and
  • explain how parents/carers can complain when local authorities are not complying with the Guidance.

Again, several respondents also suggested that it would be helpful for the Guidance to be provided in alternative formats and supportive information, including hard copies, leaflet form, summary documents, best practice information and toolkits.

Contact

Email: ELCProgrammeOffice@gov.scot

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