Early learning and childcare: statutory guidance - July 2021

Statutory guidance to education authorities to support them in exercising their functions in relation to the delivery of early learning and childcare from 1 August 2021.

Deferred school entry and eligibility until 31 July 2023

65. When a parent has chosen to defer their child's primary school start for a year, a child's entitlement to funded early learning and childcare depends on their birth date. If a child's entry to school is deferred for a year:

a) they will automatically get an additional year of funded early learning and childcare if their 5th birthday is in January or February; or

b) parents can apply to their education authority and request an additional year of funded early learning and childcare if the child's 5th birthday is after the beginning of the autumn term, in August, and before 1 January. The education authority will decide if the child is eligible for an additional year of funded early learning and childcare.

66. Parents of children that are still 4 years old on the date they are eligible to start school, are entitled to defer their child's entry to school for a year regardless of whether they are eligible for funded early learning and childcare.

67. Education authorities will have their own local procedures, guidelines and policies on using their discretionary power under section 1(1C) of the 1980 Act to provide an additional year of funded early learning and childcare for August to December born children whose school entry is deferred[16]. These decisions should be based on an assessment of wellbeing, putting the child at the centre and working in partnership with families.

68. Good quality and transparent decision making will involve a holistic assessment of the 8 wellbeing indicators (safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible, and included). The GIRFEC National Practice Model (including the My World Triangle and the Resilience Matrix) provides a consistent way for education authorities to assess, understand and define the needs of the child, in partnership with their family and with advice from relevant professionals; and to record the outcomes of that assessment. In some cases, that assessment and analysis will lead to the development of a Child's Plan.

69. Education authorities' decisions about the provision of discretionary funded early learning and childcare should be separate from their considerations about children's additional support needs and the support that they may need to fully benefit from their education. Children with additional support needs (as defined by the 2004 Act and including those children with additional support needs arising from a disability within the meaning of the Equality Act 2010) will be supported through the provisions of the 2004 Act. Broadly, the 2004 Act places duties on education authorities to identify, provide for and review the additional support needs of children and young people who they are responsible for. Further information is outlined in this document in the guidance on Additional support needs.

70. Education authorities should ensure local policies and procedures are accessible for all parents, and can be easily understood so that they know how to request that their education authority provide discretionary funded early learning and childcare to their child using their powers under section 1(1C) of the 1980 Act. Education authorities may also wish to consider how they involve parents from the beginning of key decision making processes, ensuring that when a final decision is reached, they provide parents with a clear explanation of how and why the decision was taken. The Scottish Schools (Parental Involvement) Act 2006 (the 2006 Act) places duties on education authorities and schools to involve parents in their child's education, and this includes children attending nursery classes in a public school. Information on these duties can be found in the 2006 Act Statutory Guidance.

71. Good quality communication is central to building strong relationships with parents. It is also one of the key goals in the Scottish Government's 'Learning Together' Action Plan, a joint three year plan for 2018-21 between Scottish Government and COSLA. The main focus of the plan is on ensuring parents get the support and information they need in appropriate formats and at the right times to support, and be fully involved and engaged with, their children's learning.

72. Education authorities should consider how they make parents aware of the deferral process; the support children will receive when transitioning to school; and any appeals or complaints processes. Education authorities should use a variety of methods to ensure they are engaging parents in an ongoing dialogue, recognising that a 'one size fits all' approach may not be appropriate for all parents, and responding to feedback. Parents are often balancing competing demands for their time and education authorities should be mindful of this by providing information with sufficient time, in advance of key deadlines, to allow parents to respond effectively. The timing of communication, particularly involving decisions on individual cases, is also key in allowing families and settings to plan transitions or make other arrangements.

73. Education authorities should be mindful that parents whose children have additional support needs, may have particular questions and concerns about their child's transition to school. Early or timely planning is required to ensure continuity and progression to school, in line with the provisions set out in the 2004 Act.

74. When children do make the transition from early learning and childcare to primary school, Curriculum for Excellence provides a framework to ensure children are supported in an appropriate way. The Curriculum for Excellence Early Level begins at age 3, when most children will be in a range of early learning and childcare settings, and continues throughout their transition into a school setting and the early primary years.

75. All children and young people have an entitlement to a curriculum which they experience as a coherent whole, with smooth and well-paced progression through the experiences and outcomes, particularly when they transition between different settings, for example from early learning and childcare to primary. Those planning the curriculum have a responsibility to plan, in partnership with others involved in learning, how they will jointly enable children to move smoothly between settings, building on prior learning and achievement in a manner appropriate to the needs of the individual. Guidance on supporting transitions is included in National Practice Guidance on Early Learning and Childcare: Realising the Ambition, that builds on the current national framework of Curriculum for Excellence.


Email: ELCPartnershipForum@gov.scot

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