Information

Early learning and childcare expansion - learning and wellbeing project: EQIA

Potential impacts of early learning and childcare expansion policy on the outcomes of children with protected characteristics.


Key findings

The increase in the number of funded hours of early learning and childcare for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds has the potential to support outcomes for children with protected characteristics. This EQIA process identified that some equalities groups, for example some ethnic minority groups and those with disabilities, are over represented in the lower SIMD quintiles. These groups are part of the wider group targeted with an enhanced ELC offer to ensure that children’s outcomes are enhanced.

Characteristic - Age

Under the Equality Act 2010, age as a protected characteristic does not include children eligible for funded ELC. Guidance[17] states ‘In relation to services and in the exercise of public functions, [including ELC], the ban on age discrimination and harassment related to age only protects people who are aged 18 or above.’ Age is therefore out of scope of this EQIA.

Age will be a relevant protected characteristic in terms of parents’ engagement in their children’s learning and as we advance our work in this area we will either adapt our existing relevant EQIAs or develop a new one to support this.

Characteristic - Disability

Evidence

Not all children who meet the definition of disability will have additional support needs. For example, those with severe asthma, arthritis or diabetes may not have additional support needs in relation to their learning, but may have rights under the Equality Act 2010 if their impairment has a substantial and adverse long-term effect on their ability to carry out normal day to day activities. Similarly, not all children with additional support needs in terms of their learning, will meet the definition of disability under the Equality Act 2010. In particular, some children whose emotional and behavioural difficulties have their origins in social or domestic circumstances may fall outside of this definition. The needs of these children would be met under the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004.

There can be overlap between the Equality Act 2010 and the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004, and as such both will be considered throughout this section.

In relation to disability, the Scottish Government collects data on children in early learning and childcare through the annual ELC census. The ELC census currently collects data on whether a child is recorded as disabled and whether a child has an additional support need (ASN). Although the number of registrations for funded ELC for children assessed or declared disabled has gone down slightly between 2017 and 2018 (from 1130 to 1050), the percentage of children declared as disabled has remained broadly stable; it was 1.2% for 2017 and 1.1% for 2018. Data prior to 2017 is not available.

To improve the quality of the data collected in the ELC census we have established a transformation project. The census currently collects registrations data. This means that there can be double counting as children may be registered in more than one service. By 2022 the ELC census will be based on an individual child-level collection.

The ELC census also collects information on ASN. Prior to 2017, ASN for ELC was categorised into 4 categories[18] but from 2017 onwards, 10 categories[19] have been used. These 10 categories capture information about the same children but provides a more detailed breakdown of the reasons that children require additional support. The data (see Figure 1) shows that there has been an overall increase, since 2014, in the proportion of children registered for ELC who have an additional support need, from 9% in 2014 to 14% in 2018.

Figure 1: Registrations for children with ASN as a percentage of total funded ELC registrations

Figure 1: Registrations for children with ASN as a percentage of total funded ELC registrations

Source: https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/Pubs-Pre-SchoolEducation

The proportion of registrations in ELC for children with ASN, is lower than the proportion of primary school pupils recorded on the pupil census with ASN (25% in 2018)[20]. There are several possible explanations for this. Some needs cannot be identified at an early age (e.g. dyslexia) or do not apply in early years (e.g. risk of exclusion). Children currently spend less time overall in an ELC setting than at school, and so at the time of census in September may not yet have been attending an ELC setting for long enough for any needs to have been identified and diagnosed.

Data from the Health Visitor 27 – 30 month review report (2018) shows that 17.6% of children in Scotland had at least one developmental concern recorded at their 27-30 month review (See figure 2 below). Concerns for this age group are mostly recorded in the categories of speech, language and communication, personal and social and emotional/behavioural. It is therefore important that ELC settings are equipped to help support children with these developmental concerns.

Figure 2 Percentage of children with specified developmental concern recorded at 27-30 month review, Scotland, 2016/17

Figure 2 Percentage of children with specified developmental concern recorded at 27-30 month review, Scotland, 2016/17

Source: https://www.isdscotland.org/Health-Topics/Child-Health/Publications/2018-04-24/2018-04-24-Child-Health-27m-review-Report.pdf

In addition to analysing the statistics on disability in ELC, this EQIA process also reviewed relevant sources of literature and research.

Scottish local authorities are required to provide funded early learning and childcare provision to all eligible children. Some research suggests there is scope for improvement in ensuring there is sufficient easily accessible ELC provision for children with a disability. Coram Family and Childcare publish an annual survey of childcare costs and sufficiency in the UK[21]. Of the Scottish local authorities responding in 2018, 23% stated that they had sufficient childcare for disabled children in all areas. However, we do not know how local authorities interpreted this question. It might be that respondents interpreted ‘in all areas’ as meaning ‘can every child access a place in their local nursery/cluster?’ As such this is unlikely to provide a measure of uptake of funded early learning and childcare provision.

Findings from the Scottish Government’s ‘Exploring parents’ views and use of ELC in Scotland, 2018’ provides further evidence on access to suitable ELC for children with a disability. The research included a question about access for children with ASN and so it is important to note that the definition is much broader than children with a disability. The research found most parents of children with ASN (57%) were satisfied with access to ELC that meets their child’s needs, with 18% dissatisfied with their access to suitable provision. 48% of parents of children with ASN mentioned having experienced one or more difficulties accessing suitable provision. Feedback from these parents indicated that difficulties were most commonly related to a lack of information on how providers support children with ASN, and concern that staff do not have the time required to meet their child’s needs. Parents also mentioned concerns that staff may lack the required qualifications, skills and experience to support their child’s needs. Staff were typically seen as the key factor in parents’ choice of provider. Parents of a child with ASN were also more likely than others to mention staff skills and experience as a factor in their choice of current provider.

Parents also highlighted the importance of stability in ELC provision for children with ASN. Parents noted difficulties when required to use multiple providers, and where handovers between multiple providers have a negative impact on their child’s needs.

In their response to the consultation on the National Standard, ‘Children in Scotland’ provided similar feedback on access to ELC for children with ASN. Through their role in managing Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning, they are aware of barriers that children with additional support needs face due to a lack of capacity or resources to support them. The main issues raised by callers to the service about early learning and childcare were: the level of support for their child, transitions to primary school, school (or nursery) placement options, identification and assessment of additional support needs and relationship difficulties with school, nursery or education authority. They have examples that illustrate that children with additional support needs are being offered less flexibility and choice of provision and that some families are struggling to find an ELC placement that will meet their child’s needs. They called for more staff knowledge and training to support all children and reinforcement of the laws and duties already in place.

The National Deaf Children’s Society also responded to the consultation on the National Standard and called for national guidance to inform standards of ELC provision following the diagnosis of deafness.

We are promoting outdoor learning and play as a defining feature of ELC in Scotland and so we also considered whether there was any evidence about how this could support children with additional support needs. We found that outdoor learning and play has a fundamental role in a child’s development[22], and has proven benefits in engaging children with additional support needs. Education Scotland’s 2014 paper on outdoor learning reported that learners with additional support needs were more likely to interact and work in a group session in the outdoors, and would become more imaginative and willing to collaborate with other learners[23]. Further to this international research from the University of Minnesota found that learning and playing in nature can improve cognitive function and self-regulation which can enhance the process of learning[24]. Similarly, a study published in 2004[25] found that the parents of children with ADHD reported that their children showed fewer symptoms after spending time in nature. They were reported to be better focused on unappealing tasks, completing tasks, listening and following directions, and resisting distractions.

We also expect that the earlier ELC offer for eligible two year olds and the extra hours of funded ELC for them and for children aged 3 and 4, will help with earlier identification of and support for ASN. Evidence from an assessment of the 2 year old offer in England[26] states that early assessment of ASN within pre-school provision can support children’s outcomes at the early stage, and therefore throughout their school education. This is particularly important because evidence from the Scottish Government’s pupil census (figure 3) shows that children with additional support needs in primary school perform significantly poorer than those without additional support needs.

Figure 3 - Percentage of primary pupils achieving expected CfE levels by Additional Support Need (ASN) Status, 2017/18

Figure 3 - Percentage of primary pupils achieving expected CfE levels by Additional Support Need (ASN) Status, 2017/18

Source: https://www2.gov.scot/Publications/2018/12/6014/downloads

Data within the Every Child, Every Chance: Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan[27], and the Scottish Government’s data collection on poverty[28] shows that poverty rates within households with a disabled adult are higher than those without. This suggests that children with this protected characteristic are at greater risk of poverty as they move into adulthood. We also know that there is a significant attainment gap between children from the most and least affluent backgrounds. The provision of high quality ELC could therefore support the closure of the attainment gap for children with a disability or additional support need and subsequently protect children with this protected characteristic from poverty in later life.

Policy Implications and Actions to Advance Equality of Opportunity

(text in bold indicates policy implication)

  • This EQIA process has highlighted that a sizable proportion of children in receipt of funded ELC report to either have a disability or additional support needs. It is therefore essential that the funded ELC offer meets the needs of all children with this protected characteristic. Information collected within the ELC census and the 27 – 30 month review also tells us the nature of the support that children require. This information helps the Scottish Government to plan how to support the sector in relation to duties to support disabled children and children with ASN.
  • The operating guidance for Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare[29] emphasise the expectation that local authorities and funded providers will work together meaningfully and in genuine partnership to deliver ELC provision. This includes working closely with, and supporting, funded providers to make reasonable adjustment to the care and learning environment in order to meet any additional support needs that a child may have (in accordance with duties under the Education (Additional Support Needs)(Scotland) Act 2004 and the Equality Act 2010. This will be done while ensuring a high quality ELC experience is maintained and accessible to all children.
  • The operating guidance for Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare also recommends training and development for staff on the features of the duties under the Equality Act 2010 to further understand how they can meet this duty. The Scottish Government is currently developing an online programme of continuous professional learning for the ELC sector. This includes a module on building confidence in identifying and supporting additional support needs. The development of this module is being led by The Open University and supported by a steering group of experts to ensure the quality of the content. We will include the National Deaf Society in the development of this module to address the training gap that was highlighted in the society’s response to the Blueprint for 2020 consultation.
  • Evidence suggests that early assessment of ASN is important to support children to attain their full potential. The online module on building confidence in identifying and supporting additional support needs will help the sector to do this.
  • The data contained in the report on the 27 – 30 month health visitor reviews highlights that the second most common developmental concern at this stage is speech and communication. The online programme of continuous professional learning will also include a module on speech and language development. This module will support the ELC sector to develop an understanding of how early language and literacy are linked to other aspects of child development, and practices to support this early development, including planning learning to support children’s progression towards relevant milestones.
  • Within the online programme of continuous professional leaning there is a module ‘Tracking and monitoring of children’s learning to ensure continuity and progression, including during key transition stages’ will support ELC practitioners to engage with and share information with health visitors and other professionals to ensure that and additional support needs are identified as early as possible.
  • Local authorities are required to have regard to the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 in relation to any child entitled to funded ELC who has additional support needs. In addition, responsible bodies also have a duty under the Equality Act 2010 to make reasonable adjustments for disabled young children and provide auxiliary aids and services to avoid substantial disadvantage.
    The ELC Inclusion Fund was launched in 2018 and provides funding to ELC settings to support children with additional support needs access their funded ELC entitlement. Funding can be awarded to pay for staff in ELC settings to receive appropriate training and funds resources, equipment and adaptations. The £2 million fund invites bids from settings delivering funded ELC. A total of £521,145.60 was awarded to 455 applicants in 2018/19. We have recently invited Children in Scotland who administer the fund on behalf of the Scottish Government to undertake a review of year 1 of the fund to help us understand the impact that it has had to date. This review will take place during summer 2019 and will inform the application criteria of the Inclusion Fund going forward to ensure that funding is targeted appropriately to support children to access their funded ELC entitlement.
  • Data contained with the Tackling Poverty Action Plan indicates that children with a disability are at greater risk of poverty as they move into adulthood. The Scottish Government is committed to closing the poverty related attainment gap, and one of the main aims of the ELC expansion programme is linked to this national aim.
  • To support our work in closing the attainment gap we have created 435 new additional graduate level posts in settings throughout Scotland called ‘Equity and Excellence Leads.’ These will be filled either by a teacher or early years graduate with or working towards, for example, the BA in Childhood Practice. We recognise that providing access to support from an additional graduate level practitioner for children attending nurseries serving the most disadvantaged areas is a key part of our Early Learning and Childcare strategy for achieving greater equity in child outcomes. We know that the Equity and Excellence leads are already working with children with ASN.
  • We know the benefits of outdoor learning, exercise and play for children. Playing, learning and having fun outdoors helps to improve well-being and resilience as well as physical and mental health and also provides children with the opportunity to develop a life-long appreciation of the natural world. Evidence shows that good access to outdoor learning and play is crucial for cognitive and physical development for all children, and specifically children with disabilities or additional support needs. The operational guidance for Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare ensures that all children accessing their funded ELC have daily access to outdoor play and regularly experience outdoor play in a natural environment. To support this the Out to Play[30] resource provides guidance to all early learning and childcare providers on how to access local outdoor space and how to set up an outdoor nursery experience, and the Space to Grow[31] design guide includes examples of how to utilise outdoor space effectively.
  • The Scottish Government has also provided £860,000 of funding to Inspiring Scotland to work with eight local authorities to increase and improve their outdoor learning, which will include the establishment of two outdoor nurseries. The Inspiring Scotland partnership will allow us to explore delivering ELC in a different and more cost effective way, support a range of child outcomes (including raising attainment) and provide increased choice for parents and families. Actions they will take include:
    • Working with 8 local authorities to deliver outdoor learning opportunities
    • Producing the Out to Play[32] guide for practitioners, with practical advice on how to access outdoor spaces
    • Driving partnership working between councils, third sector and private companies in promoting outdoor learning
    • Helping organisations review the impact of outdoor learning when delivering the expansion to 1140 hours of funded childcare
  • Inspiring Scotland are working with the Scottish Government to produce some focused guidance on the use of outdoor learning and play for children with disabilities and ASN.
  • We know that parents of children with ASN need clear information about what provision is available for their children, as well as their rights under the Education (Additional Support for Learning)(Scotland) Act 2004 and the Equalities Act 2010. The Parent Club website[33] now contains information specifically for parents of children with additional support needs. Further to this the Scottish Government funds Enquire[34], which is the national helpline for ASN which any parent can access for support in understanding their rights. The Enquire webpage also has a variety of helpful factsheets to support parents in making decisions for their children.

Data Gaps and Actions

  • The current ELC census collects registration data at an aggregate level. The EQIA process highlighted that individual level data would be preferable. An individual level census is being developed which will allow reporting of the number of children assessed/declared as disabled and with ASN. This data collection is expected to be fully established by 2022.
  • Local authorities are required to have regard to the Education (Additional Support for Learning) (Scotland) Act 2004 in relation to any child entitled to funded ELC who has additional support needs. However, we do not have any data on how local authorities interpret their duties under this legislation. Children in Scotland are undertaking a review of the ELC Inclusion Fund, and as part of this will interview a number of local authorities to determine how this legislation is interpreted. This review will be undertaken in summer 2019, and will help us to understand if/where there are any gaps in provision for children with ASN.

Characteristic – Sex

Throughout this section both gender and sex have been referred to. Sex is the protected characteristic. However, where data is currently recorded on gender this is referred to.

Evidence

No data is currently collected on the sex of children accessing ELC. However, our latest ELC census[35] data shows near universal uptake of funded ELC by 3 and 4 year olds, and that uptake for 2 year olds has gradually increased over the last few years. Given that uptake for 3 and 4 year olds is near universal, we do not have any basis to conclude that uptake of children of different sexes is systematically or significantly different.

A recent literature review by Education Scotland[36] on gender balance in ELC found that there are no inherent differences between genders which should limit a young person’s interests, capabilities or ambitions. It also found that gender stereotypes and unconscious bias have an impact on children’s outcomes in ELC. Practitioners may have differing expectations of boys and girls, and it can be either boys or girls who can be disadvantaged by this. Identifying and addressing gender stereotyping in ELC settings can help reduce a range of gender imbalances, and the guidance document Gender Equal Play in Early Learning and Childcare[37] supports practitioners to recognise and address this.

Policy Implications and Actions to Advance Equality of Opportunity

(text in bold indicates policy implication)

  • It is essential that practitioners do not discriminate or differentiate between boys and girls.
  • ‘Gender Equal Play in Early Learning and Childcare’ supports the sector to challenge gender stereotyping and to increase awareness of the positive benefits of encouraging and supporting gender equality from an early age.
  • The National Induction Resource[38] for all new ELC practitioners includes a reflective question which focus on the promotion of gender neutral approaches to supporting children’s learning through play.
  • Within the national programme of continuous professional learning there will be a module on STEM which will focus on gender equality in the delivery of STEM in ELC.

Data Gap and Action

  • No information is currently collected on sex in the ELC census. An individual level census is being developed which will allow reporting on the sex of children accessing their ELC entitlement. This data collection is expected to be fully established by 2022.

Characteristic: Sexual Orientation, Gender Reassignment, and Pregnancy and Maternity

This EQIA process did not identify any positive or negative impacts relating to advancing equality of opportunity based on the protected characteristics sexual orientation, gender reassignment, and pregnancy and maternity within the expansion of ELC. However, as we continue through the policy development, this will be kept under review and any additional data as a result of these reviews will be published in future versions of this EQIA.

Characteristic – Race

The protected characteristic for this equalities group is race. However, where ethnicity is referred to in evidence this is recorded here.

Evidence

No data is currently collected on the race of children accessing their funded ELC entitlement. The only proxy measure of race at present is the percentage of children whose home language is not English (figure 4). The number of children whose home language is not English has increased slightly between 2014 and 2018, but in recent years, as a percentage of registrations for funded ELC, this group has remained stable at 9%. The pupil census shows that the same proportion of school-age children have a main home language other than English. We do not consider that information on whether a child’s home language is not English is sufficient to assess uptake of ELC based on the protected characteristic of race. The future ELC census will therefore collect information on a child’s ethnicity.

Figure 4: Number of registrations for funded ELC for children whose home language is not English

Figure 4: Number of registrations for funded ELC for children whose home language is not English

Source: https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/Statistics/Browse/Children/Pubs-Pre-SchoolEducation

There is no evidence to suggest that race is a factor in the outcomes children develop through ELC. However, the Race Equality Framework for Scotland[39] suggests that not all children from a minority ethnic background have a positive overall educational experience. The framework aims to create an inclusive approach to education which takes account of the individual needs of pupils from all ethnic groups, and commits to working with the National Parent Forum of Scotland (NPFS) to support the ELC sector to fully involve parents from minority ethnic communities in their child’s ELC setting and learning.

Evidence from Every Child, Every Chance: Tackling Child Poverty Action Plan[40] and the Scottish Government Poverty and income inequality in Scotland data publication[41] shows that minority ethnic families are at higher risk of poverty, with 37% living in poverty in 2018. The plan focuses its poverty tackling actions on high risk families, and aims to drastically cut the overall number of children and families living in poverty by 2030.

Policy Implications and Actions to Advance Equality of Opportunity

(text in bold indicates policy implication)

  • One of the main aims of the ELC expansion programme is to close the poverty related attainment gap. Evidence suggests that children from minority ethnic backgrounds may be more likely to grow up in poverty than others. Access to high quality ELC will support these children to achieve their potential both throughout ELC and into school.
  • While there is no evidence race impacts on children’s ability to benefit from ELC, it is likely that language could be a barrier to accessing some of the benefits. English as an additional language has been identified as a potential additional support need within the Act’s Code of Practice[42]. It is the responsibility of individual local authorities to take their duties in relation to the Act into account, and allocate support as appropriate.
  • The SSELC collects information on the ethnicity of parents and asks which language is usually spoken at home (the options for this are “English only”, “English and other language(s)”, and “Other language(s) only”). Provided there are enough cases for meaningful sub-analysis, it may be possible to explore the relationship between home language and impact of ELC.
  • As we develop our policy on parental engagement and update our suite of EQIAs accordingly, we will stay engaged with NPFS (as set out in the Race Equality Framework) and others, to explore if there is anything more we could be doing to ensure that there are no barriers to children’s outcomes or to parents engaging in their children’s learning and development in ELC.

Data Gaps and Action

  • No data is currently collected on race in the ELC census. An individual level census is being developed which will allow reporting on the ethnicity of children accessing their ELC entitlement. This data could then be compared to population data for this age group to help assess if ethnicity is a barrier to children’s outcomes at this age. This data collection is expected to be fully established by 2022.

Characteristic – Religion or Belief

Evidence

No data is collected on the religion of children accessing ELC. There is also no evidence to suggest that a child’s religion or belief presents any barriers to them benefitting fully from funded ELC.

Data from the Poverty and Income Equality publication[43] suggests that Muslim families are more likely to live in poverty with 41% of Muslim adults in 2013-18 reporting to be living in poverty, compared with 14% of families who stated their religion as Church of Scotland.

Policy Implications and Actions to Advance Equality of Opportunity

(text in bold indicates policy implication)

  • ELC curriculum and delivery in Scotland is non-denominational. Religious and moral education (non-denominational) is part of Curriculum for Excellence and involves exploring Beliefs, Values and Issues and Practices and Traditions through the context of Christianity, World Religions selected for study and belief groups independent of religion. It supports children in the development of their own beliefs and values.
  • One of the main aims of the ELC expansion programme is to close the poverty related attainment gap. Evidence suggests that children from Muslim families may be more likely to grow up in poverty than others. Access to high quality ELC will support these children to achieve their potential both throughout ELC and into school.

Data Gaps and Action

  • The ELC census does not collect data on a child’s religion or belief. In order to reduce the burden of the ELC census on ELC settings and local authorities who collect and process the data, we seek to limit the amount of data we collect from families and keep it similar to the data that settings already hold. Although information on this protected characteristic would be useful, asking questions about some protected characteristics may be deemed as sensitive and parents may not be willing to share this information. We have no plans for the ELC census to collect data on religion or beliefs in future.
  • Questions on ELC have been added to the Scottish Household Survey. If the sample size is large enough, this may provide us with more information about the use of ELC in families by religion.

Contact

Email: katrina.troake@gov.scot

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