Section 51: Method of delivery of early learning and childcare
The funded early learning and childcare entitlement must be delivered in sessions of 10 hours or less and must be delivered over a minimum of 38 weeks in any given year. This is sometimes referred to as the 'minimum framework' for the delivery of funded early learning and childcare.
Ministers may modify the framework for the delivery of funded early learning and childcare by order subject to affirmative procedure.
Framework for delivering funded early learning and childcare
135. Under section 51 of the 2014 Act, education authorities must ensure that funded early learning and childcare is delivered in sessions of 10 hours or less a day in duration. This must be delivered over a minimum of 38 weeks a year which need not be confined to term time. It is intended that children take up their entitlement at times that best support their needs, and that the increased hours are used as an opportunity to support consistency for the child.
136. There are a wide range of models or patterns that funded early learning and childcare can be delivered through. For example:
- Half day sessions around 4 hours
- School day sessions around 6 hours
- Full working day sessions up to 10 hours
- Short sessions of around 2.5 hours to 3.5 hours
- Sessions operating over the full year (more than 38 weeks per year) as well as term time sessions (38 weeks per year).
137. These are just examples, and it is for education authorities to ensure that families are able to choose from a range of types of setting, offering different patterns of provision and support across their local area. This should reflect local demand and circumstances and it is not expected that all options will be available in all areas and settings. The range of models and patterns of delivery should be informed by consultation carried out under Section 50 of the 2014 Act and should be reflected in education authorities' early learning and childcare delivery plans.
138. While the framework permits 10 hour sessions of funded early learning and childcare, this does not set an expectation that the statutory entitlement to funded early learning and childcare should be delivered only through full day sessions. Moreover, section 51 of the 2014 Act does not set a requirement for every early learning and childcare setting delivering the funded entitlement to deliver 10 hour sessions where these are not already delivered.
139. While flexibility for families is an important element of the expansion of hours, the key purpose of the approach is to ensure children have the best start in life. If evidence came to light showing that certain session lengths may have a detrimental impact on children's wellbeing and outcomes, then the Scottish Government will consider whether further amendments are required to the framework for how funded early learning and childcare is delivered.
140. The maximum session length only relates to the provision of funded early learning and childcare and does not place restrictions on the opening hours of settings or the provision of additional early learning and childcare out-with the funded early learning and childcare entitlement within in any setting, (i.e. regardless of whether it is an education authority, private, third, or childminding sector setting).
Providing less than the statutory funded early learning and childcare entitlement
141. The statutory funded early learning and childcare is an entitlement for children, and is not compulsory. This means that parents do not have to take up all, or any, of their child's funded early learning and childcare entitlement. Where parents request fewer hours than the full entitlement, it is at the education authority's discretion to make arrangements that meet the needs of the parent(s) and continue to meet the best interests of the child. Education authorities should seek to meet the needs of the parent(s) and the child, including by advising on the pattern of attendance that is likely to be in the best interest of each child. Clear policy and communication with parents should support and ensure working out the best, realistic and manageable arrangement for the child, parent, and education authority.
142. Settings offering the funded early learning and childcare entitlement do not have to be able to deliver the full amount of funded early learning and childcare entitlement. For example, there will be high quality settings across the sector who operate over shorter hours, or who may have limited capacity to expand, that limits their ability to offer the full funded early learning and childcare entitlement. Where this is the case, and a setting meets the requirements for offering the funded early learning and childcare entitlement, it is expected that the education authority and the setting will work closely together to develop delivery models informed by local demand and the education authorities' plan for the delivery of early learning and childcare (as required under section 50 of the 2014 Act).
143. Section 51(2) of the 2014 Act enables Scottish Ministers to modify or change the method of delivering early learning and childcare by order subject to affirmative procedure by virtue of section 99(2) of the 2014 Act.
144. All schools are required to keep an attendance register of every pupil to record if children are present. This applies to early learning and childcare where it is delivered as part of the entitlement for eligible young children. In addition, all early learning and childcare providers registered with the Care Inspectorate are required to maintain a record of children's attendance to show the total number of children in 'daycare of children' premises at any one time.
145. This has implications for practice in providers in the private, third or childminding sectors delivering funded early learning and childcare, and where there are blended placements, whereby education authorities should establish systems and procedures, e.g. links and communication between blended placements and clear responsibilities on settings delivering funded early learning and childcare to record, monitor and report changes in attendance. Providers in the private, third or childminding sectors delivering funded early learning and childcare need to work in an integrated way to ensure that a child's attendance is monitored and any concerns shared and acted upon. Guidance on the management of attendance and absence is provided within Included, Engaged and Involved part one.
146. As set out under section 14 of the 1980 Act, if there is a longer term absence of an eligible young child due to prolonged ill health, education authorities are under a duty to make alternative arrangements to ensure the child continues to receive early learning and childcare elsewhere and can access appropriate support with their learning. In these circumstances, and to support a consistent approach, it is absolutely essential that there is clear communication between the different agencies, services, professionals and the parent and child concerned. There is specific guidance and information available to education authorities in relation to their statutory duty, under section 14 of the 1980 Act.
147. SEEMiS Early Years will provide the functionality for settings to record attendance of children registered for funded early learning and childcare. If this functionality is used by settings, the respective education authority will be able to monitor attendance of children within their area.