The Early Learning and Childcare ( ELC) trials aimed to test different models of delivery to inform the wider ELC sector of key successes and challenges related to the implementation of 1140 hours. The purpose of this evaluation is to provide useful learning from a range of sources. The evidence reported has been gathered through structured conversations with trial leads, and a joint evaluative review of settings by the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland. It should be noted that the evidence is largely observational in nature and should be considered a preliminary reflection of e.g. improvements in children’s progress, rather than a formal assessment of what will happen when the expansion is rolled out.
Overall, several key messages have been identified:
- Clear and meaningful communication to parents/carers on the benefits of the funded entitlement for their child is important, alongside clear process guidelines on how to register and reassurance on what take up of the entitlement means for them.
- To encourage uptake among eligible two-year olds in particular, positive non-stigmatising language was seen as key, talking about positive benefits for the child as a result of early access to services.
- Sufficient time should be built in to recruit qualified staff, and workforce engagement is important when changing work patterns to accommodate additional hours.
- Several trials commented very positively about working with childminders, however time should be built in for recruitment, logistics planning and communicating the offer to parents to increase uptake.
- Consulting with parents/carers on the flexibility of the offer gave them a positive sense of ownership over the provision, and in some cases revealed that certain offers may not be popular and therefore not viable.
- ELC staff and parents were supportive of the expanded offer and reported positive outcomes for children, particularly in relation to outdoor learning.
- There was no single delivery model that could be identified as more effectively delivering high quality.
- There is a need for a continued focus on high quality professional learning for the existing and new ELC workforce as the expansion continues.
- The benefits of partnership working and sharing of practice within and across local authorities as the expansion of ELC continues were evident.