We know that the earliest years of life are crucial for every child, and the evidence tells us that if our early learning and childcare (ELC) offer is to help children fulfil their potential and contribute to closing the poverty-related attainment gap, it has to be of high quality.
That it is why quality is at the heart of the expansion in funded early learning and childcare entitlement for all 3 and 4 years, and eligible 2 year olds, to 1140 hours from August 2020.
To enable this, a 'provider neutral' Funding Follows the Child approach will be introduced alongside the national roll-out of the expanded entitlement in 2020. The approach will be underpinned by a National Standard that all providers delivering the funded hours – regardless of whether they are in the public, private or third sector, or childminders – will have to meet. This will provide reassurance to parents and carers that any provider offering the funded hours will be able to offer their child a high quality ELC experience.
It will also place choice in parents' and carers' hands, enabling them to access their child's funded entitlement from any provider that meets the new National Standard, has a place available and is willing to enter into a contract with their local authority.
Under a 'provider neutral' approach, it is essential that provision is financially sustainable in order to ensure that providers across all sectors are willing and able to deliver the funded hours.
The Scottish Government and COSLA have agreed a multi-year funding package to deliver the expansion. This will enable the payment of sustainable rates to funded providers delivering the entitlement – including funding to enable payment of at least the real Living Wage to all childcare workers delivering the funded entitlement.
It will also support the delivery of the commitment to provide a free meal to every child attending a funded ELC session from August 2020.
Meaningful and genuine partnership working between providers, local authorities and parents and carers will be essential to achieving high quality ELC for all our children.
Support for staff working in ELC will also motivate and empower them to develop their practice in innovative ways. Our commitment to continuous professional learning in the National Standard will support funded providers to improve outcomes for the children and families they work with. Sharing success and proactively engaging in staff development will ensure that children are supported by staff who feel valued, respected and are given opportunities to achieve the highest standards across early learning and childcare.
The move towards a Funding Follows the Child approach will represent a significant change for parents and carers, providers, and local authorities. We have worked closely with stakeholders to finalise the National Standard and define the principles of the Funding Follows the Child approach. Thank you to everyone who contributed to the development of the new approach, either through responding to the consultation that ran from March to June 2018 or through attending one of our engagement events.
We are very grateful to the members of the Service Models Working Group for their efforts in developing this new approach. They have worked collaboratively to develop the new model and this has had a strong focus on hearing the views of a range of providers and stakeholders.
This National Standard presents us with a fantastic opportunity to show our children and families the importance of ELC in improving outcomes for everyone. We have ambitious aspirations to help ensure that our children can realise their full potential and we hope that, by prioritising high quality ELC and unlocking choice, we will ensure that all our children have opportunities to learn, play and flourish. In our children, we see the measure of our worth as a nation. We are dedicated to providing the essential conditions of love, respect and understanding through which our children can become the happy, fulfilled and successful adults they all have a right to be.
Maree Todd Cllr
Minister for Children and Young People
COSLA Children and Young People Spokesperson
Email: Euan Carmichael