The Scottish Government and local authorities have committed to making an unprecedented investment in early learning and childcare (ELC) through the near doubling of the funded entitlement from 600 to 1140 hours per year from August 2020 for all 3 and 4 year olds, and eligible 2 year olds.
This will be high quality, flexible early learning and childcare that is accessible and affordable for families.
In order to ensure that the funded ELC entitlement is delivered in high quality settings, a Funding Follows the Child approach will be introduced in August 2020 alongside the statutory roll-out of the expanded entitlement.
It will ensure financially sustainable provision across the ELC sector. The Scottish Government and COSLA have agreed a multi-year funding package which includes funding to support the payment of sustainable rates to providers delivering the funded entitlement; to enable payment of at least the real Living Wage to all childcare workers delivering the funded hours; and to provide a free meal to every child attending a funded ELC session from August 2020
The approach is 'provider neutral' and is underpinned by a National Standard that all settings who wish to become a funded provider – regardless of whether they are in the public, private or third sector, or childminders – will have to meet.
The criteria in the National Standard focus on what children and their families should expect from their ELC experience, regardless of where they access their funded entitlement.
Quality at the Heart of Early Learning and Childcare Entitlement
International research and evidence from our own Growing Up in Scotland Study shows that all children, but especially those from more disadvantaged backgrounds, can benefit from attending ELC. However, that evidence also tells us that if our ELC offer is to help give children the best start in life and contribute to closing the poverty-related attainment gap, it must be of high quality.
That is why at the heart of the National Standard are a clear and consistent set of quality criteria, recognising that the ELC expansion is fundamentally about improving the early years' experience of our youngest children.
The quality of ELC provision in Scotland is already high. Care Inspectorate data shows that, in 2017, 91.1% of all settings providing funded ELC achieved Care Inspectorate evaluations of good or better on all four themes: Quality of care and support; Quality of staffing; Quality of management and leadership; and Quality of environment. 42.8% of all funded providers achieved evaluations that were very good or excellent across all themes.
Whilst the National Standard sets a minimum quality threshold for funded providers, we want to see quality enhanced further still – and more settings continuously striving to improve the quality of ELC across the sector. The Quality Action Plan published in October 2017, which contains 15 actions to further embed and strengthen quality in ELC, builds on this.
The 2017 NHS Health Scotland evidence review on Childcare Quality and Children's Outcomes highlighted a number of structural and process indicators of quality including: higher qualified staff; an experienced, competent and confident workforce; good working conditions (which includes continuous development and fair pay); and an age-appropriate curriculum. The Quality Action Plan also highlights the benefits of outdoor learning and play for young children, appropriate and stimulating care and learning environments, parental engagement and a focus on self-evaluation, quality assurance and improvement. All of these indicators are reflected in the quality criteria of the National Standard.
Overview of this Document and Supporting Material
This document sets out the Funding Follows the Child approach, and the National Standard which will underpin it and which all providers wishing to deliver the funded entitlement will have to meet from 2020. It also details the next steps we will take to support the transition to implementing the approach by August 2020.
This document should be read in conjunction with A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland – Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare Providers: Operating Guidance and A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland – Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare Providers: Frequently Asked Questions for Local Authorities and Providers.
Email: Euan Carmichael