The Early Years Framework

Steps the Scottish Government, local partners and practitioners in early years services need to take to give all children in Scotland the best start in life.


This framework starts from a series of vision statements that articulate what the best start in life looks like for children. Many of these reflect the rights of children enshrined in the UNCRC. The framework then goes on to set out how parents, communities, services and the workforce can support children and deliver those entitlements.

Our Vision

Children and families are valued and respected at all levels in our society and have the right to have their voices sought, heard and acted upon by all those who support them and who provide services to help them. (Article 12 of UNCRC)

Children with disabilities and from minority communities have their individual needs recognised and responded to. (Articles 2 & 23)

Children grow up free from poverty in their early years and have their outcomes defined by their ability and potential rather than their family background. (Article 27)

Children have good infant nutrition and a healthy diet. (Article 24)

Children are not harmed by alcohol, tobacco or drugs during pregnancy.

Children have a safe and warm place to stay. (Articles 19 & 20)

Every child fulfils their potential as a successful learner, confident individual, effective contributor and responsible citizen. Every child has access to world class learning and healthcare services that meet their individual needs and which promote resilience and wellbeing. (Articles 24, 28 & 29)

Children have safe, stable, stimulating and nurturing relationships with parents that develop resilience and a sense of security and trust in the relationship. Where birth parents are unable to provide those conditions, children are entitled to expect the state to move swiftly to address these needs, including alternative care that fulfils these requirements. (Articles 3, 5, 19 & 20)

Children and families are given the support they need to help them build resilience and confidence about dealing with their problems themselves, wherever this is possible, and to have the confidence to approach services for help where this is needed.

Young children are protected from harm and have their rights respected. Children have their welfare put at the centre of decisions made by parents and services, including adult and community services. (Articles 3, 4, 12 & 19)

Children are entitled to take part in physical activities and to play, including outdoors, and have an opportunity to experience and judge and manage risk. (Article 31)

Transformational change is needed in order to deliver the vision and a step change in long-term outcomes. The sections below set out what transformational change would look like in relation to parents, including anyone who plays a parental role in the life of a child, communities and the workforce.


Parents are given appropriate support to help them understand the responsibilities and sustained commitment associated with bringing up a child and to develop the skills needed to provide a nurturing and stimulating home environment free from conflict.

Parents have access to world class antenatal, maternity and postnatal care that meets their individual needs.

Parents are involved in their children's learning and are given learning opportunities that will help them support their child's learning and development.

Parents are supported to access employment and training to help reduce the risk of child poverty, including through the provision of flexible, accessible and affordable childcare.

Parents and children have integrated support from services to meet a range of needs they may have. This includes help for parents to develop relationships to their child and to address stresses which may impact on their ability to perform their parenting role.


Children, young people and families are regarded as assets to our communities.

Communities accept the benefits of play for children and encourage play.

Communities feel empowered and responsible about supporting children and families and parents take responsibility for their children.

Communities are enabled to develop their own aspirations and challenged to deliver their own outcomes.


Historic cycles of poor health, poor attainment and other inequalities are broken by shifting the balance of support from crisis intervention to prevention and early identification and intervention.

Universal services are empowered and confident about identifying needs and assessing risks. Service providers use their skills to address individual needs and bring in more specialised support where that is necessary.

All services for children, young people and families are planned and delivered in an accessible, flexible and affordable way where providers feel confident about working together to provide a holistic service and sharing information to bring about improved outcomes for all.

Services are ready and able to deal with children and families whatever their circumstances.

All service providers engage with service users and the wider community to ensure that their needs are identified, assessed and addressed.

Access to services is not restricted by disability or additional needs, by ethnicity or language, by where people live or their social or economic circumstances.

All service providers develop and implement services which take account of and learn from research evidence and evaluation, best practice and the outcomes from pilot and test projects.


Children and families are supported by a workforce which is highly skilled, well trained, appropriately rewarded, well supported, highly valued by all and with attractive career paths.

All those who work with children in the early years, whether in the statutory, voluntary or private sectors, are committed to delivering the highest quality provision for children and families. They are outward looking; confident about working together across organisational and professional boundaries; share information and resources; and have strong interpersonal skills and understanding of relationships.

Those who work with children and families in the early years are committed to their own continuous professional development to improve their knowledge and skills. Employers provide resources, advice and support to deliver this effectively.

People working in adult services recognise the contribution they can make to outcomes for young children and make this a priority within their service planning and delivery.

Personalising the Vision: David's Story

David was born in one of the most deprived areas of Scotland to a mother who used drugs, drank and smoked throughout the pregnancy. He was brought up in an extended family none of whom have ever worked; 3 "uncles" have convictions for serious violence. Before he was 9 David moved or was rehoused 8 times, 4 times due to domestic abuse. David is one of the smallest boys in his year when he starts high school, in an area with high crime levels. He is soon truanting, involved in gang activity and identified as "outwith parental control"; he is known to various agencies including the police and social work. At 14, after a series of exclusions, he has left mainstream education. He drinks, takes drugs and abuses solvents. His family resist offers of help. At 15 he commits 3 assaults, theft, breach of the peace, robbery, steals 2 cars, commits various road traffic offences and is charged with attempted murder. While awaiting action to be taken for these offences, David visits the nearby city centre. David has been drinking and is carrying a knife. David bumps into complete stranger John and stabs him once in the upper torso. John dies 15 minutes later. David is sentenced to 7 years for culpable homicide.

David's story is a true story. It highlights a downward spiral from poor parenting and family environment into disengagement, youth crime, substance abuse and eventually murder. The diagram below highlights some of the opportunities to support the family and break the cycle of poor outcomes that David's story represents.


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