The Scottish Government recognises that access to highly qualified practitioners with expertise in early childhood learning and development plays a key role in realising our ambitions for our youngest children. This is particularly true for young children who face the greatest disadvantages, where additional support may be required to ensure equity of outcomes.
We committed to provide an additional graduate in early learning and childcare settings in Scotland's most deprived areas by August 2018. Funding was provided for 435 Leads across all Scottish local authorities, with the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) 2016 used to decide allocation. £18 million per annum has been committed to local authorities as part of the funding for the expansion of ELC.
These posts could be either: a teacher with existing early years expertise (or a willingness to develop this expertise) or; a practitioner with a graduate level qualification as recognised by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) (including the BA/PDGE Childhood Practice or the Level 9 Professional Development Award). A key element of the original aim of these additional posts was to contribute to addressing the poverty-related gap in children's outcomes.
The 'Rapid evidence review: Childcare quality and children's outcomes' (Health Scotland 2017), found that higher quality learning experiences for children are more likely to be offered by staff with higher level and early childhood specific qualifications, and complementary skills. Working with key partners, the Scottish Government has enhanced the range and accessibility of learning and development opportunities at a degree qualified level. By ensuring settings comprise of staff with the knowledge and skills to provide high quality, child-focused experiences, we are able to support children in reaching their potential and improve their lifelong outcomes.
Nationally, the posts are known as Equity and Excellence Leads ('EE Leads') although locally have different names. While the original commitment was described in terms of a national allocation of posts, local authorities are responsible for the recruitment and management of EE Leads and they are part of the local early years work force. Local authorities were given freedom to shape the EE lead role depending on local needs and priorities and on the individual practitioner's experience and expertise. The focus of the role therefore differs across settings and across local authorities.
Local authorities work with funded providers in the private and third sectors on the delivery of the commitment. Whilst the majority of the EE Leads were allocated to local authority settings, some private and third sector organisations (who are funded providers) were identified in some local authority areas.
What do EE Leads do?
EE Leads, using a rights based approach, are a key partner in delivery of effective multi agency working. Leads are not tied to settings' adult-child ratios like other staff and therefore have greater flexibility and reflection time for this purpose.
The Theory of Change (Annex A) was developed in 2019 with key stakeholders including EE Leads and local authority strategic leads and sets out the commitment's desired outcomes and the required outputs. The desired long-term outcome for the EE Leads posts is to contribute to closing the attainment gap between the most advantaged and disadvantaged children. In order to achieve this, we must communicate the purpose of the roles clearly while ensuring Leads have the necessary tools to develop and progress their professional skills.
Snapshot national figures for numbers of EE Leads are published annually in the additional ELC tables that support the 'Summary Statistics for Schools in Scotland'.While we have previously reported on national numbers of posts filled, Scottish Government no longer track local recruitment and retention of these posts and our focus is now on building and supporting the community of practice.