Early years and early intervention: joint Scottish Government and COSLA policy statement

This document sets out a joint approach to early years and early intervention by the Scottish Government and COSLA.



The focus of the early years framework will be from pre-conception through pregnancy, birth and up to age 8. It will be a framework for the long term, with a time horizon of 10 years. Our ambition is to build a public and political consensus about the priorities over that period which will sustain the policy through successive Parliaments.

By combining the Purpose, the principles of solidarity and cohesion and an early intervention approach with the needs of children and parents in the early years, we have identified four themes for the early years framework. These are -

  • Building parenting and family capacity pre and post birth.
  • Creating communities that provide a supportive environment for children and families.
  • Delivering integrated services that meet the holistic needs of children and families.
  • Developing a suitable workforce to support the framework.

Because these themes are drawn from the higher level principles, it is readily apparent that they need not be confined to the early years and potentially have relevance for children, young people and families more generally.

An Evidence-Based Policy

The early years framework will be based on what works and on evidence-based approaches to supporting children and families. The evidence base is complex, and it is clear that action will be needed across many fronts in order to improve outcomes.


In seeking to identify a set of tasks to take forward the early years framework, we have drawn on the Purpose, the national outcomes and the strategic priorities within the Government Economic Strategy. We have combined these with the themes and principles set out above and an analysis of Scottish, UK and international research. The list of tasks identified through this process is as follows -

  • Identifying effective interventions to target high risk groups before conception.
  • Identifying risk early in pregnancy and moving to put supports in place immediately. Improving access to antenatal care for parents with higher needs; linking this to improving outcomes for children by addressing key factors such as maternal nutrition and breastfeeding rates, and reducing tobacco, alcohol and drug use.
  • Developing a clear view of the most effective approaches to supporting families and how these can be applied at local level in Scotland. Helping parents and carers provide a nurturing and stimulating home environment, including help for parents with any literacy and numeracy issues of their own so that they can in turn help their children.
  • Examining the use of key workers, family care workers and pedagogue roles and multi-disciplinary structures in early years services.
  • Improving workforce skills in engaging with families, especially those with higher needs.
  • Increasing the contribution of adult services to supporting families, especially those with young children.
  • Identifying specific measures that would improve the physical and social environment for young children.
  • Identifying measures to encourage more mutual support between parents and from others in the community.
  • Examining various models for delivering more integrated services e.g. children's centres, networks or partnerships, etc. Consider the practicality of a holistic family support service approach and the role of advice and information services.
  • Implementing existing pre-school commitments and examining targeted additional services for 0-3s.
  • Refreshing the direction in childcare including reducing fragmentation and addressing cost/funding issues. Considering the future role of childcare partnerships in the new strategic context. Providing high quality, reliable childcare that can give those furthest from employment confidence to take initial steps towards employability.
  • Joining up the education experience for children, managing more effectively the transitions from pre-school to school including the wider applicability of approaches such as nurture groups.
  • Implementing the planned reduction in class sizes to 18 in P1-3 in a way that has greatest impact on outcomes for children.
  • A continuing focus on equipping children with good literacy and numeracy skills.
  • Optimising health protection and health promotion for pre-school and school children, including the proposed phased introduction of free school meals.
  • Developing a sense of how to sustain the intervention beyond early years and how the early years framework will connect to Curriculum for Excellence, the More Choices, More Chances agenda and Getting it Right for Every Child, with the aim of improving outcomes for all children.
  • Developing success measures and accountability arrangements for implementation of the framework.
  • Securing the place of Gaelic within early years services. Embedding equality and diversity principles within all the work on the framework.
  • Developing an approach to support for disadvantaged and vulnerable families that integrates with the Government's development of a framework for tackling poverty, inequality and deprivation.


The Scottish Government and COSLA believe the National Performance Framework plus the themes, principles and tasks put us in a strong position to launch a phase of more detailed policy development. But we are conscious that the tasks in particular would benefit from the active contribution of all those with an interest in early years before this detailed policy work commences. We are therefore launching a short period of consultation on the tasks for the early years framework that will last approximately one month. We will be aiming to involve a wide range of stakeholders from early years and beyond in this process, including frontline staff from across various sectors.

If you have any comments on whether the list of tasks on pages 10 and 11 is comprehensive, and covers what the early years framework should cover, you can email us at earlyyearsframework@scotland.gsi.gov.uk by 18 April 2008.

In parallel, we will be actively engaging children and families in development of the framework, seeking their views on current services and analysing the supports they think they need at various ages and stages. We will use this approach to test the definition of the tasks and to ensure the needs of end users are central in the policy development phase.

Launching the Policy Development Phase

The Scottish Government and COSLA will establish a number of task groups, each taking forward consideration of one of the themes for the framework set out above -

  • Building parenting and family capacity pre and post birth.
  • Creating communities that provide a supportive environment for children and families.
  • Delivering integrated services that meet the holistic needs of children and families.
  • Developing a suitable workforce to support the framework.

These task groups will involve a broad range of stakeholders, from the full range of early years interests, including all sectors and all levels. The groups will be supported by a team of policymakers, service managers, researchers, economists and statisticians from within the Scottish Government and local government.

Each group will be asked to identify:

  • where we are now;
  • where we want to get to;
  • what we need to do to get there;
  • how we need to do it;
  • who needs to do what to ensure delivery;
  • what the resource implications are and how those resources will be secured;
  • what the barriers are; and
  • in the context of the National Conversation, identify those areas of reserved responsibilities where a distinctive Scottish approach would bring benefits and identify how this can be achieved.

Each group will be asked to set its work clearly within the context of the Purpose, the strategic objectives and Government Economic Strategy and will be asked to identify how their proposals will contribute to the achievement of the Purpose and the national outcomes.

The outputs from the task groups will provide us with the material from which we can identify a set of short, medium and long term priorities/actions that will provide the basis for a final framework document to be published in the Autumn.

Back to top