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.


The previous sections have set out what we want to achieve and a number of elements that will take us towards those goals. This section moves on to look at how the Scottish Government and local partners will move forward in partnership to deliver this agenda and measure our success in doing so.

Single Outcome Agreements

Single Outcome Agreements are the key mechanism for bringing local partners together to identify priorities and actions to improve outcomes. They are also a key mechanism in the relationship between national and local government through which shared priorities can be developed and progressed. We therefore need to define how the early years framework will relate to Single Outcome Agreements in 2009-10 and beyond.

The Scottish Government and COSLA have developed guidance for Community Planning Partners that will support the preparation of SOAs from 2009-10. A key principle is that SOAs are agreements between local authorities and the Scottish Government. There will therefore be a high level of engagement between the Scottish Government and local partners during this process.

The Scottish Government supported the first round of Single Outcome Agreements through a set of Directors who worked alongside local authorities. This approach will be extended for the 2009-10 SOAs by doubling the number of Directors involved to provide scope for a greater level of engagement.

Single Outcome Agreements are necessarily pitched at a strategic level as they cover the wide range of responsibilities that reside with community planning partnerships. It will therefore be important for the SOA process to set out clearly what those strategic priorities and actions are, and to link effectively to more detailed local plans for children's services.

A continuing partnership

This document is an important milestone in the partnership between the Scottish Government and national and local partners that has given new impetus to the early years agenda. That partnership will need to be sustained as we move forward into implementation if we are to achieve the improvement in outcomes that we seek.

A priority area for ongoing partnership will be developing a systematic way of recording, reviewing and learning from innovation and evidence. A particular area that partners are keen to see developed is the evidence base around parenting support and parenting interventions.

There is also a need for an ongoing partnership to support and develop the model of resource alignment and transfer set out in Section 7. This is recognised as being one of the most challenging parts of this framework and we need to ensure that all partners have an opportunity to share and work through challenges and solutions in this area.

Development of indicators and data collection and dissemination to support those is also an area where continuing partnership will be essential. In particular, work is needed to define how national and local data collection will complement each other. The Scottish Government and COSLA will therefore develop a joint proposal for an ongoing structure which will sustain and develop the model of partnership established in the development of this framework. This will be refined and agreed with a range of national and local partners.

Measuring progress

As highlighted in previous sections, measures of success will be based on outcomes and appropriate indicators, rather than on implementation of specific actions.

Sitting at the top level of the outcomes framework is the Scottish Government's Purpose, which is to create a more successful country, with opportunities for all of Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth. Sustainable economic growth does not just mean building up a rich economy - it will also mean building up a rich and responsible society.

The case for action highlights the contribution that early years policies and services can make to the learning, skills and wellbeing and equity strands of the Government Economic Strategy. Early years will also support the participation, solidarity and cohesion targets within the Strategy. In the longer term, we also believe that improving early years development can contribute to productivity and growth. It will be important, in taking forward the priorities of this framework, to maintain a focus on how they contribute to these top level objectives and targets.

Participation, Solidarity and Cohesion Targets:

  • Maintain our position on labour market participation as the top performing country in the UK and close the gap with the top 5 OECD economies by 2017
  • Increase overall income and the proportion of income earned by the 3 lowest income deciles as a group by 2017
  • Narrow the gap between Scotland's best and worst performing regions by 2017

The National Performance Framework supports the purpose and sets out 15 national outcomes and 45 National Indicators.

The Early Years Framework supports at least 11 of the National outcomes:

  • Our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed
  • Our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens
  • We have improved life chances for children, young people and families at risk
  • We realise our full economic potential with more and better employment opportunities for our people
  • We are better educated, more skilled and more successful, renowned for our research and innovation
  • We live longer, healthier lives
  • We have tackled the significant inequalities in Scottish society
  • We live our lives safe from crime, disorder and danger
  • We have strong, resilient and supportive communities where people take responsibility for their own actions and how they affect others
  • We take pride in a strong, fair and inclusive national identity
  • Our public services are of high quality, continually improving, efficient and responsive to local people's needs

Relevant National Indicators:

  • Increase the proportion of schools receiving positive inspection reports
  • Increase the overall proportion of area child protection committees receiving positive inspection reports
  • Reduce the number of working age people with severe literacy and numeracy problems
  • Improve people's perceptions of the quality of public services delivered
  • Decrease the proportions of individuals living in poverty
  • 60% of children in Primary 1 will have no sign of dental disease by 2010
  • Increase the proportion of pre-school centres receiving positive inspection reports
  • Improve the quality of healthcare experience
  • Reduce the rate of increase in the proportion of children with a body-mass index outwith a healthy range by 2018
  • Reduce the percentage of the adult population who smoke to 22% by 2010
  • Increase the population of school-leavers from Scottish publicly funded schools in positive and sustained destinations ( FE, HE, employment and training)

Within the first round of Single Outcome Agreements, a number of local indicators have been developed. Several of these have specific relevance to the early years:

Local indicators relevant to early years:

  • Proportion of live singleton births of low birth weight
  • Proportion of new born children exclusively breastfed at 6-8 weeks
  • Proportion and number of obese children in Primary 1
  • Pregnancies amongst under 16 year olds per 1000 relevant population
  • Life expectancy at birth
  • Proportion of children that are living in households that are dependent on out of work benefits or Child Tax Credit more than the family element
  • Number and percentage of children with dental cavities in Primary 1
  • Numbers and percentage of children walking or cycling to school

A number of other local outcomes concerning regeneration, health and domestic violence are also relevant to early years in that they are strongly correlated with higher risks of poor outcomes for children living in households or communities where such vulnerabilities exist.

Improving local indicators

These national and local indicators have been built up from existing datasets rather than from first principles. A first step must therefore be to go back and ask what kind of indicators we need to measure in early years in order to be confident that early years policies are supporting progress towards higher level national outcomes. Our current indicators are too focused on measuring deficits and trying to reduce these. Ideally, we want to have a more balanced approach which allows us to measure both positive elements that support resilience as well as targeting negative indicators that highlight increased risks.

An ideal set of early years indicators would encompass the following:

  • incidence of vulnerable pregnancies;
  • measures of child development and reducing development gaps;
  • breastfeeding, nutrition and healthy weight, including at birth;
  • measures of the quality of parent/child interaction;
  • measures of children's physical and mental health and reducing health inequalities;
  • children's involvement in play and physical activity;
  • children's engagement in pro-social activities and behaviour;
  • numbers of children living in poverty;
  • inclusion/outcomes for disabled children and those from minority communities.

It can be seen that comparing the ideal data set with the existing set of indicators that some elements are already embedded within existing performance management frameworks. However, there are also significant gaps. The Scottish Government and local partners will jointly launch a process to develop new indicators for early years that will fill this gap. New measures that are developed through this process will replace existing local indicators. Local indicators are not mandatory but they will provide a guide to local partners as to how they can measure both the success of early years policies and start to assess whether they are on course to improve a range of higher level outcomes in the longer term.

Input and process indicators

Improving outcomes is our first priority but achieving this relies on changing inputs and processes which contribute to outcomes. There is still therefore a role for indicators that measure inputs and processes where these are seen as key to delivering improved outcomes. Some input and process measures already feature in the national indicators and related performance management frameworks such as HEAT targets. Beyond these existing national indicators, it will be for local partners to decide which input and process indicators are most relevant to their local area.

Specific commitments and actions

As part of the Concordat agreed between the Scottish Government and COSLA, a number of specific commitments relevant to early years have been agreed. Similarly, specific targets, actions and commitments have also been developed for the NHS and other public bodies with an interest in early years policy.

A key objective of this framework is to provide the broader context for the implementation of those specific commitments. In essence, those specific commitments have value in themselves in improving children's experiences, but they should also be implemented in a way that makes the greatest contribution to improving outcomes.

Local early years profiles

The development of Single Outcome Agreements starts from an assessment of local needs. To assist local partners in doing so, the Scottish Government will work with local partners to develop local early years profiles highlighting how each local area is positioned relative to others on a number of key early years outcomes and indicators. This will also provide a baseline against which local partners can measure progress.

One Nottingham - Nottingham as an Early Intervention City


One Nottingham's mission - 'early intervention, pre-emption and prevention' - has led to an extensive and potentially ground-breaking Early Intervention Programme, aiming to break the cycle of intergenerational underachievement and deprivation in Nottingham.

The purpose of the early intervention approach is to involve all Partners in the City in a coherent and systematic attempt to improve outcomes for children, young people, adults and families who are very likely to experience difficulties and to break the inter-generational cycle of problems in the long-term.

The initiative involves a long-term shift to focusing on the causes rather than symptoms within cycles of challenge. The aim, through investment in prevention and early intervention, is to reduce the demand on specialist services, reducing costs in the long-term. The number of children, young people, adults and families with high needs at present is significant. Success will therefore require continued work on access to integrated services at universal and preventative levels. Part of the plan is the development of a holistic, early warning system that will facilitate more effective targeting of services at an earlier stage.


The early intervention programme has a whole-City approach. The Programme Team, who work across all of the Strategic Partnerships, are funded by One Nottingham, the local strategic partnership, and hosted within Children's Services. A number of scoping days were held at the beginning of the Programme to scope the remit and to collect information around what the barriers were to this as a way of working, in the different organisations and contexts across the City. A high-level strategic scoping day was held, which was facilitated by the University of Nottingham's Business School, which was replicated in-house with colleagues from as many organisations and levels as possible. There was a lot of enthusiasm in the City to get involved and shape this. These sessions provided a valuable insight into the experiences of colleagues across the City, from front-line to strategic.

A definition of the remit of the Programme was formed from these scoping sessions and the lead for each Strategic Partnership was asked to write a personalised 'statement of intent' for their partnership, to personalise their own vision within the Programme.

Early intervention has become an important focus within Nottingham's Local Area Agreement. The LAA identifies a set of first tranche projects that:

  • focus on inter-generational issues;
  • focus on activities that can reduce the number of specialist interventions;
  • focus on bringing partner resources together to make this happen;
  • target work at those individuals at highest risk of poor outcomes without effective support and intervention;
  • focus on coherence for children and families within the delivery model.
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