Funding follows the child and the national standard for early learning and childcare providers: interim guidance - update March 2021

This update sets out the requirements on early learning and childcare (ELC) settings and local authorities from August 2021.

Next steps

We recognise that the impact of the pandemic continues and that some of the flexibility that the interim guidance published in July 2020 afforded will, as we have set out in this document, still need to remain in place. This guidance is intended, unless it is advised otherwise, to cover the full 2021-22 academic year (starting from August 2021).

We will ask the Joint Delivery Board to undertake a review of the timetable for moving to full implementation of Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard following the national roll-out of 1,140 hours. This will take account of the need for sufficient notice required for both education authorities and ELC providers.

In the meantime, all local authorities should continue to use the principles and criteria of Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard respectively as a framework to shape local funded ELC delivery. Important progress continues at pace and all partners are determined to maintain and build on this on the journey to the full national roll-out of 1,140 hours.

Local authorities will continue to have regard to the prevailing public health guidance and any adjustments required of ELC settings, and work with their funded providers to understand the practicalities and challenges of delivering ELC in the period up to and beyond August 2021. In doing so, they will ensure that quality of care and improving outcomes for children remain central to delivery of the funded entitlement, with child development and wellbeing at the heart of the ELC sector’s approach.

There will also be a shared and vital need to ensure that there is clear, concise and timely communications with parents and carers to ensure that they have clarity as to what children will be to access on the period up to August 2021. The Parent Club Website will provide a significant support in this regard but local authorities and settings will also play a critical role in ensuring that families have access to the appropriate information to support their choices.

The Care Inspectorate will be launching their new Quality Framework for early learning and childcare including day care of children, childminders and out of school care in April 2021. This has been consulted on widely, but the Care Inspectorate has not yet tested the framework at inspection. This will therefore be a ‘soft launch’ to allow the sector to become familiar with the framework, as a resource primarily for self-evaluation.

At this time, inspections will continue to be focused on Key Question Five – Operating an early learning and childcare setting (including out of school care and childminders) during the pandemic – or the Quality Framework detailed in the national standard: quality of care and support; quality of environment; quality staffing; and quality of management and leadership. Later in 2021, depending on how the pandemic progresses, the Care Inspectorate plans to pilot the framework with some providers and review the content before a full launch. The sector will be informed in advance of when this new framework will be used at all inspections. No date has yet been set for this. The Care Inspectorate will keep providers informed of any developments through the regular provider updates.

Prior to the launch of the Care Inspectorate’s Quality Framework, the National Standard will be updated to reflect the Key Questions in the revised Framework, rather than the current Quality Themes. These map very closely to the existing quality themes (see table below).                 

Existing quality themes      

Key questions in the revised framework

Quality of care and support

How good is our care and learning?

Quality of environment

How good is our setting?

Quality of staffing

How good is our staff team?

Quality of management and leadership

How good is our leadership?

Over the coming months we will also be working with all partners to consider what information and support through events, training and good practice would be helpful to the ELC sector to support progress towards delivering Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard in full.



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