6. National policy context: Scotland's vision and plans for transformational change
This section refers to the Scottish Government's broad national vision for transformational change which, for children and young people, is underpinned by their desire for 'Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up' (Scottish Government, 2015a). Later sections refer to specific policy areas considered pertinent to the Review. This section includes an outline of the National Performance Framework, strategic objectives and national outcomes leading onto a discussion of the relevant frameworks for early years and OSC - including early years outcomes, indicators and stretch aims. It also details the Scottish Government's work designed to engage communities and families and their processes of data collection, monitoring and improvement. Finally, it considers the policies and frameworks which impact particularly on ELC and OSC workforces and looks at future policy direction.
6.1. National Vision
The Scottish Government has set itself welcome aspirational goals for improvement within the ELC and OSC sectors - and for improvements generally within the country. The Scottish Government is committed to transformational change through a clearly laid out plan which details purpose, illustrates how this purpose can be enacted, and identifies a number of measurements to track progress over time.
The plan includes legislation, policies, frameworks and guidance which are linked together, and still evolving, to form a coherent vision for the future of the country. The National Performance Framework (2007) is vital to this plan. It states that the Purpose of government is:
'to focus government and public services on creating a more successful country, with opportunities for all Scotland to flourish, through increasing sustainable economic growth' (Scottish Government, 2015b).
To support this Purpose, the Scottish Government outlined five strategic objectives: Wealthier and Fairer; Smarter; Healthier; Safer and Stronger; and Greener (Scottish Government, 2015c). These are exemplified further by sixteen National Outcomes towards which all Government policy works. For example, the Early Years Division of Government, which commissioned this Independent Review, works towards three of these National Outcomes: no. 4, 'our young people are successful learners, confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens'; no. 5, 'our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed'; and no. 8, 'we have improved the life chances for the children, young people and families at risk'.
In order to track progress towards these National Outcomes and to further refine them, the Scottish Government identified a number of indicators. These describe what the Government wants to achieve over the following ten years. They cover key areas of health, justice, environment, economy and education, and allow progress to be measured over time. While not all the indicators, and accompanying outcome measures, are relevant to ELC and OSC, many are. They include: 'improve the skill profile of the population'; 'increase the proportion of pre-school centres receiving positive inspection reports'; 'improve levels of educational attainment'; 'increase the proportion of young people in learning, training or work'; 'improve children's services'; 'reduce the proportion of individuals living in poverty'; and 'reduce children's deprivation'. Clearly, there is an appetite to improve quality as well as to expand provision.
6.2. Focus on Children and Young People
The focus on children and young people, their rights and wellbeing, has been, and continues to be, strong within the Scottish Government. The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 is the most recent piece of legislation to enshrine in law some of the identified processes and services designed to support the Government's vision. Amongst other areas, it includes provision regarding the rights of children and young people ensuring that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC) (1989) continues to be secured and improved upon. It confers more rights to the Children and Young People's Commissioner to investigate service providers and ensure that children and young people's rights, interests and views are taken into account when decisions that affect them are being made.
The Act also coined the term 'Early Learning and Childcare' ( ELC) stating that it replaces all previous terminology related to pre-school provision and early education. It refers to different types of settings such as '… private providers, Gaelic medium settings, local authority settings, voluntary groups and childminding' (Scottish Government, 2014b, p 3). The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 defines ELC as a service consisting of education and care suitable for pre-school children which has '…regard to the importance of interactions and other experiences which support learning and development in a caring and nurturing setting' (Scottish Government, 2014b, part 6: 42). The Act refers to all of Scotland's children and young people's services, requiring local authorities to consult with parents about the ELC and OSC which would meet their needs.
The Act introduced new entitlements to ELC for eligible 2, 3 and 4 year olds. ELC is recognised as an important driver for the National Outcomes, and it was noted that the existing entitlements for 3 and 4 year olds, at the time of developing the Act, were insufficient to address the growing numbers of families who needed extended hours to support them while working or to meet the needs of younger children aged 0-3 years. The Act sought to address such anomalies and to benefit children and families in a much more cohesive way. As a first step, the hours and flexibility of funded places for 3 and 4 year olds were increased; and the entitlement to 600 hours of funded provision was extended to vulnerable 2 year olds.
The delivery of ELC, OSC and indeed all children and young people's services across Scotland are underpinned by Getting it Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC) (Scottish Government, 2008 and 2012). GIRFEC provides a framework for all services for children and young people; it ensures that they are child-centred and promotes a national approach to improving the wellbeing of children and young people. The approach puts the best interests of the child at the heart of decision making; encourages an holistic approach to the wellbeing of a child; promotes working with children, young people and their families on ways to improve wellbeing; advocates preventative
work and early intervention to support children, young people and their families; and, promotes the idea that professionals must work together in the best interests of the child. In order to do this, eight indicators of wellbeing are used: Safe, Healthy, Achieving, Nurtured, Active, Respected, Responsible and Included. These are often referred to as SHANARRI, and are considered the basic requirements for all children and young people in order to grow and develop.
6.3. Focus on Early Years
Specific to the Scottish Government's ongoing commitment to ELC, a number of important frameworks have driven, and continue to drive, social policy. Three social policies aimed at reducing social inequality were launched in 2008. Particularly pertinent to this Review is the Early Years Framework ( EYF) (Scottish Government and COSLA, 2008) which was evidence-based and outlined the importance of a child's earliest years in laying the foundation for the future - including their health, social development, educational attainment and employability. The EYF, in conjunction with two other policies, were set to tackle and transform Scotland's social and health inequalities: Equally Well (Scottish Government 2008b) and Achieving Our Potential (Scottish Government 2008c). More recently, the Scottish Government's Child Poverty Strategy (Scottish Government, 2014d) specifically mentions the particular importance of improving children's outcomes in the early years.
The EYF supported at least 11 of the National Outcomes and was an important milestone in partnership working as the Scottish Government and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities ( COSLA) worked together to develop it. It included a 10 year strategic plan which focused on ensuring that children achieve positive outcomes (in relation to the policy indicators and outcome measures detailed by Scottish Government, 2015d). The EYF recognised that the early years service landscape was fragmented in terms of service delivery and workforce in Scotland. There was concern that services often failed to take the contribution of parents, families and communities into account when considering outcomes. It recognised the need for a fundamental shift and reconceptualisation of the influences on young children within children and young people's services generally. It promoted the ideas of putting quality at the heart of service delivery and the EYF as a mechanism to support this.
The EYF set out a wide-ranging vision of the best start in life for children based largely on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The vision was underpinned by Getting It Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC) and provided a common language across all children and young people's services. The Framework adopted a rights based approach which is current and evident across Scotland today. Many of its principles are relevant to this Review, but one seems particularly pertinent and relates to the workforce: 'Children and families are supported by a workforce which is highly skilled, well trained, appropriately rewarded, well supported, highly valued by all and with attractive career paths' (p13). The EYF included 10 key elements of transformational change to be actioned at a local level by all those working with, or having an impact on, children from pre-birth to age 8:
- A coherent approach
- Helping children, families and communities to secure outcomes for themselves
- Breaking cycles of poverty, inequality and poor outcomes in and through early years
- A focus on engagement and empowerment of children, families and communities
- Using the strength of universal services to deliver prevention and early intervention
- Putting quality at the heart of service delivery
- Services which meet the needs of children and families
- Improving outcomes and children's quality of life through play
- Simplifying and streamlining delivery
- More effective collaboration (Scottish Government and COSLA, 2008 p4)
The implementation of the EYF is ongoing and relies on the redrawn relationship between national and local government agreed through the Concordat (Scottish Government, 2007), Single Outcome Agreements ( SOA), and the previously mentioned National Outcomes and National Indicators outlined in the National Performance Framework (Scottish Government, 2007).
This partnership between national and local government set out the vision for improved outcomes for children in later life, while the 32 individual Community Planning Partnerships ( CPPs) already established across Scotland planned for and oversaw the implementation of the changes. The CPPs include personnel from social services, health, education, police and third sector professionals - essentially all those seen as the relevant public, private, voluntary and community bodies in the area. The SOAs, agreed in 2009, outline the outcomes towards which each CPP is working. Each outcome is individual and represents each CPP's unique set of agreed priorities. The EYF stresses that change should be demonstrated by the improvement in outcomes for children, rather than by the implementation of individual elements of the change process itself. It does not, however, specify those outcomes at the local level. While this approach demonstrates the collegial and collaborative culture which underpins the new relationship, there are some issues associated with the resulting outcomes. According to the Children's Voluntary Sector Policy Officer's Network, (2010) the National Outcomes appear to be set at too global a level for CPPs to use, and the National and Local Outcomes are disjointed, too broad and unspecific.
In 2009, a Scottish Government-led group, the EYF Data and Indicators Group ( DIG), was brought together to develop an outcomes framework specifically for early years. They defined a range of 35 indicators which could be used to measure early years outcomes (Scottish Government 2015e). The indicators were designed to be helpful but not restrictive, and were neither mandatory nor prescriptive. They were devised to be used as a tool for the CPPs to support them in measuring progress and in achieving better outcomes for children in their local communities.
A number of these early years outcomes/indicators appear to be pertinent to the definition of children's outcomes used internationally within ECEC and also within this Review. For example:
- 15. Percentage of children scoring at or above the mean for their age on the British Ability Scales ( BAS).
- 16. Percentage of children displaying age appropriate communication skills.
- 17. Early Home Learning Environment - a) % of pre-school children who have been read to on 4 or more days in the past week; b) % of pre-school children who have done activities involving painting or drawing on 4 or more days in the past week; c) % of pre-school children who have played at recognising letters, words, shapes or numbers in last week.
- 18. Percentage of children who are physically, emotionally, behaviourally and cognitively ready for school at primary 1.
- 19. Achievement in literacy and numeracy by P3/P4 - a) % of pupils demonstrating 'well-established' or better reading skills at the expected level for their stage; b) % of pupils writing at the expected level or above for their stage; c) % of pupils demonstrating 'well-established or better' skills at the expected level in mathematics.
- 20. Percentage of parents who rate a range of play activities as 'very important'.
DIG chose their 35 outcomes because they were linked closely to the values and policy contexts within Scotland, and also because local partners were currently collecting data in these areas (or could choose to do so in the future). During an analysis of outcomes in Scotland, Children's Voluntary Sector Policy Officer's Network (2010) suggested that whilst early years indicators were more consistently presented than other topics in the SOAs, references were over-reliant on existing data sets, and tended to focus on measurement of 'deficits, rather than the more positive elements of early years (such as play, pro-social behaviour or parent/child interaction' (p.11).
The indicators outlined above, which link directly to children's socio-emotional and cognitive development, were measured through the Growing Up in Scotland ( GUS) cohort studies. It is important to note that these studies were national and the outcomes measured were generalised from a randomly chosen group of children across Scotland (Scottish Government, 2014c). It was, therefore, not clear how these measures would/could be used at a local level by CPPs. Further, as the last cohort of children included in the GUS studies have now reached school age, no similar national data will be available in the future and so they are unlikely to continue to act as indicators.
There is a potential issue for the Scottish Government around how to monitor the impact of ELC nationally without any national measurements being made within early years. Geddes et al (2010) pointed to the need to develop a system to monitor what they called 'the more proximal effects of early childhood interventions especially in relation to cognitive-language and social-emotional development' (pXI).
6.4. Current Government initiatives supporting Quality Improvement
In recent years, the Scottish Government's commitment to developing a universal approach to prevention, with early intervention as key in tackling significant inequalities in Scottish society, has become embedded. The Scottish Government's shared vision is to make 'Scotland the best place in the world to grow up' by improving outcomes and reducing inequalities for all babies, children, mothers, fathers and families to ensure that all children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed (Scottish Government, 2015a).
The Early Years Taskforce ( EYTF) was established in partnership with the Scottish Government, Local Government, the National Health Service, the Police and the Third Sector in 2011. It is co-chaired by the Minister for Children and Young People and COSLA. The role of the EYTF is to take forward a significant change programme, which aims to accelerate the conversion of the high level principles set out in the Early Years Framework into practical action. The EYTF has the following aims:
- Deliver tangible improvement in outcomes and reduce inequalities for Scotland's vulnerable children
- Put Scotland squarely on course to shifting the balance of public services towards early intervention and prevention by 2016
- Sustain this change to 2018 and beyond
The EYTF was tasked with oversight of the £274.25 million Early Years Change Fund, a partnership fund with contributions from the Scottish Government, local government and Health. The Early Years Change Fund was the starting point to ensure investment was targeted where it could make the biggest impact, by supporting prevention and early intervention. The contributions from local government and Health end this year; the Scottish Government has, however, pledged to continue supporting the fund until 2015-2016 with £8.5 million, and no end date for the Taskforce has been set.
The members of the EYTF represent local authority, health, learning, justice, political, business and third sector interests across services for children, parents, carers and families. Since 2012, the EYTF has worked together with the Early Years Collaborative ( EYC) to support the CPPs: i.e. the local communities of multi-agency workers who come together to identify and plan for change within their communities. There is a champion from the EYTF in each of the four EYC work streams (see Table 3). The champion's role is to support CPPs, to understand the barriers they face, and to use the EYTF's extensive network to help remove those barriers.
The Early Years Collaborative ( EYC) is a multi-agency, quality improvement programme, with partners from local government, including social services, health, education, police and third sector professionals committed to ensuring that every baby, child, mother, father and family in Scotland has access to the best supports available. The EYC includes four workstreams each with their own Stretch Aim. The workstreams and associated Stretch Aims are outlined overleaf in Table 3:
Table 3: Workstreams and Stretch Aims for the EYC
1. Conception to 1 year
Positive pregnancies which result in the birth of more healthy babies by end 2015, through a reduction of 15% in the rates of stillbirths and infant mortality.
2. One year to 30 months
85% of all children reached all of the expected developmental milestones at the time of the child's 27-30 month child health review, by end-2016
3. 30 months to start of school
90% of all children reached all of the expected developmental milestones at the time the child starts primary school, by end-2017
4. Start of school to 8 years
90% of all children in each Community Planning Partnership area will have reached all of the expected developmental milestones and learning outcomes by the end of primary 4, by end-2021
The 32 CPPs, in conjunction with the EYC, have recently started to work together towards these Stretch Aims using the Institute for Healthcare Improvement ( IHI) Breakthrough Series Collaborative Model and the Model for Improvement. Using this approach, each CPP defines their aims and what they are trying to accomplish, how they will know that a change is an improvement, how they will measure this, including what data they will collect, and finally how they will implement the change. This is a cycle of Plan, Do, Study and Act. GIRFEC underpins and runs through all this work, ensuring that the child or young person and their best interests are central. Each plan is unique and reflects the individuality of the CPP.
While it is still too early to see the impact of this work, some evidence is beginning to form, in particular in relation to workstream 1, where a downward trend in stillbirths has been seen since 2004. What is clear is that demonstrating achievement of the Stretch Aims is reliant upon a comprehensive and universal measurement system. Strides are being made here too and a baseline position was established for workstream 2 in 2013-14 (this information was provided by the Scottish Government's Information Services Division in 2014).
Discussion and research online undertaken during the Review showed a great deal of enthusiasm and motivation for EYC meetings and conferences. Little was included, however, in the consultation hub responses from individual stakeholders, and in the feedback from outside meetings which considered their role directly. This is probably because it is too soon to make any real judgements. Searching the hub responses did provide a handful of relevant comments.
One network, the Childhood Practice Providers Group, when asked how staff could be deployed to ensure high quality provision for children, asked for more educational involvement, specifically in relation to '…schools in the work of the early years collaborative' (Hub response from Childhood Practice Providers Group, first call). While this may not be representative of all CPPs, as the quote below illustrates, it does seem important to ensure that all local services and stakeholders are involved in early years planning initiatives.
A response from another respondent to the hub suggested greater sharing of the EYC work would support the way ELC is perceived: 'The work of the Early Years Collaborative being shared with parents and the general public' (Hub response from a Teacher working in ELC, second call) The EYC undoubtedly has an important role to play in quality improvement and supporting the awareness of the important role of ELC. Eventually it will provide feedback on impact, once the measurement base related to the Stretch Aims is established. The EYC brings together multi-agency teams from local communities which should support sharing, understanding and professional development. It also should ensure that planning for change reflects the needs of the locality as each CPP has its own unique focus. It is, therefore, important to ensure the inclusion of all relevant people across the whole of Scotland within the EYC.
4) Currently a great many services, including representatives from health, social services, education and the third sector, are involved in Early Years Collaborative ( EYC) initiatives and planning across the sector. In some areas, however, stakeholders may have been overlooked, for example representatives from ELC staff within local schools. EYC to redress any omissions so that all could benefit.
At present there does not appear to be a clear distinction between local and national outcomes and how these might be measured. While the CPPs will work towards aspects of the Stretch Aims, the Stretch Aims themselves appear to be National Outcomes and further are reliant on accurate measurements of successful births and children's milestones (which may require further definition) during their early years. A national database is currently available in relation to the first two Stretch Aims. With regards to Stretch Aim 2, information is gathered nationally from checks made, usually by health visitors, at 27-30 months. Health visitors report on children's achievements in relation to nine developmental domains, however, it is not clear which measurement tools are used to make these judgements or whether they are reliable and consistent across the Country. Further, in order for Stretch Aim 2 to be achievable, it would necessitate an additional assessment and the early identification of children at risk of not reaching their milestones. Geddes et al (2010) described the Hall4 system of screening children from 6 to 8 weeks old within Scotland. They found, however, that only half the children at risk in the area of Glasgow were identified as such by the time they were 4 months old.
The data currently available on children's socio-emotional and cognitive development relating specifically to Scotland (now that the last GUS cohort has moved on to school) is likely to be insufficient to assess accurately the status of early child development, either overall or across different socio-economic groups or regional populations, or indeed to monitor all of the Stretch Aims as outlined by the EYC. While this is not surprising, as UNICEF (2007) reported that this is a problem within most rich countries, the deadlines by which such information is needed is approaching fast.
Geddes et al. (2010) recognised the need for a consistent and reliable measure of child development, and recommended that the Early Development Instrument ( EDI) designed to measure children's readiness to learn at school was adopted across the country. EDI consists of 104 questions grouped into five scales: physical health and wellbeing; social knowledge and competence; emotional health/maturity; language and cognitive development; and general knowledge and communication skills. Typically it is completed by the teachers in the child's first year of schooling once they have had had the chance to settle in (usually roughly four months after starting school).
Analysis of the results of the EDI could provide data on the impact of interventions as well as indicate the level of vulnerable children in each school and could also be used to report on populations of children or communities. The Scottish Collaboration for Public Health Research & Policy (Ingram, 2014) began piloting a Scottish version of EDI across East Lothian (from 2011 to now). This was ongoing at the time of publication. Although the project is not yet complete, Marks Woolson et al. (2012) concluded that the teachers found the tool easy to use in its adapted form ( SEDI), that it displayed adequate psychometric and discriminatory properties for Scotland's purposes, and that it could be used across Scotland. Stretch Aims 3 and 4 would necessitate the use of a universal assessment tool looking at child development (such as SEDI) at the start of primary and another one at the end of primary 4.
The Review is aware that there are a number of other different frameworks designed to track children's progress across Scotland.
One local authority representative wrote in a consultation response:
' LAs have a range of frameworks which follow the child and track progress from pre-birth …and specific LAs have individual children's profiles' (Response to first call for evidence)
While the unique planning, interventions and changes undertaken within CPPs support collaboration, innovation and motivation and may ensure that each plan is suitable for each locality, it could prove difficult to track their impact on children's outcomes. Individually designed assessments and profiles are unlikely to have the underpinning research that determines how they are linked to children's outcomes. Geddes et al. (2010) conducted an analysis of effective international interventions and also plotted the interventions that were being used across Scotland at that time. They pointed to the need for more robust evaluative designs of interventions, including across Scotland. Designing and evaluating improvement within ECEC to support the Stretch Aims would require extensive knowledge, not only of the evidence base for effective early years pedagogy and practice, including assessment methods which reliably measure children's outcomes, but also knowledge and understanding of data collection, analysis and interpretation.
Designing a robust intervention study, and then accurately measuring the effects and interpreting the results, is complex and may be beyond the reach of all or any CPPs. Geddes et al. (2010) noted that while the decentralisation that accompanied the Concordat was welcomed, allowing individual CPPs to choose their own indicators would make comparisons across the country or getting the full picture of Scotland's performance difficult. They also suggested that having enough staff in each of the areas trained in data collection and analysis would be problematic.
A national monitoring and assessment system for ELC for children aged 0 to 6 years, which considers children's socio-emotional and cognitive development at appropriate stages of development, to inform the first three Stretch Aims of EYC, would be useful. This could then be linked to further monitoring and assessment systems for children at older ages. Not only would this allow for national comparisons, but it could also avoid the use of potentially unhelpful tools and the potential bias associated with the current system where it appears that the practitioners are both implementing and monitoring changes themselves.
One potential danger of national systems of data collection relates to the insidious and often inappropriate comparisons of settings/schools that could be made, as found in England with the league tables. This, however, seems unlikely to occur in Scotland, where collaboration and joint working are a strong part of the culture. One way to avoid this would be to engage in random sampling approaches as with literacy and numeracy sampling across Scotland (The Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy ( SSLN), Scottish Government, 2015a).
In the context of discussions with the Core Reference Group on the developing recommendations, a Further Education representative wrote with regards to having a national assessment framework:
'This would support qualification development, students could learn to work with standardised recording systems'.
5) Develop a national assessment framework system inclusive of the current Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) for ELC 0-6, which has the potential to be used by a range of early years professionals and is sensitive to the Scottish context regarding assessment. This should be accompanied by a recording system with the potential to follow the child and to support transitions
6.5. Focus on children of school age
While many of the aforementioned policies are also relevant to school aged provision, it is important to consider Raising Attainment for All, the 'sister' to the EYC, as this will impact on the OSC workforce, including childminders. The Raising Attainment for All ( RAFA) programme was launched in June 2014. Twelve Local Authorities and over 150 schools across Scotland committed to becoming part of a learning community which supported the implementation of an improvement methodology and enabled shared learning across the Country. The improvement methodology promotes iterative testing of interventions and scaling, and spreading tried and tested interventions as they emerge. The iterative testing includes an evaluation cycle i.e. Plan, Do, Study, Act. This work aims to support consistent improvement in attainment and achievement through the development of a collaborative learning system. The Local Authorities and schools are working together and sharing experiences with the aim of driving forward improvement and making a real difference where it is most needed. The aims are:
- Improved educational outcomes for all learners - consistently over an agreed period, promoting greater depth and breadth of attainment and achievement and improving the educational outcomes of all our children and young people.
- Equity in educational outcomes - consistently over an agreed period, to make progress in eroding the deeply embedded correlation found in the majority of Scottish schools between a child's relative point of social deprivation/affluence and their educational attainment.
- Higher public confidence in education.
The Raising Attainment for All programme, like the EYC, has four stretch aims linked to the ages of children. They are:
- To ensure that 85% of children within each school cluster have successfully experienced and achieved CfE Second Level Literacy, Numeracy and Health and Wellbeing outcomes in preparation for Secondary School by 2016.
- To ensure that 85% of children within each school cluster have successfully experienced and achieved CfE Third Level Literacy, Numeracy and Health and Wellbeing outcomes in preparation for the Senior Phase by 2019.
- To ensure that 95% of young people within each school cluster go on to positive participation destinations on leaving school by 2018. Increasing to
- 100% the number of young people who have access to an appropriate, industry-recognised vocational qualification whilst at school by 2018. Increasing to 95% the number of young people who leave school with at least SCQF Level 4 in Literacy and Numeracy by 2018. And reducing by 50% the difference in average tariff score between the most and least deprived communities by 2018.
- To provide the leadership for improvement, both nationally and locally, across the Raising Attainment for All Programme ( RAFA).
Improving children's literacy, numeracy and health and wellbeing has been linked to OSC and parents/carers support. So achieving these aims is likely to involve practitioners, parents, carers and so on outside schools, as well as within them. It is unclear whether colleagues from OSC will be encouraged to join the RAFA programmes; if this, however, has not already been done, it could be a useful way forward. It is interesting to note that much of the data needed to inform the Stretch Aims is already collected within schools though random sampling across Scotland ( e.g. The Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy ( SSLN), Scottish Government, 2015a).
People who commented on the RAFA programme were generally very positive and welcomed '…the RAFA Programme… [and some suggested extending its reach would be useful]… but believed that RAFA funding and focus should include ELC and OSC settings' (Network response to the Review).
6) The pilot of Raising Attainment for All (RAFA) has involved schools and Local Authorities (LAs), but has not yet involved the OSC workforce, including childminders. RAFA to involve ELC and OSC workforces in the future, as they would have an important contribution to make to children's wellbeing and their social and academic success.
6.6. Quality and Outcomes
Consideration will be given in this section to the standard of quality, as measured by inspections and associated research, in Scotland. While there has been an ongoing debate over the past decade or so on the relative merit of qualified teachers and/or practitioners with relevant ELC degrees, there has been a marked trend in Scotland towards the professionalisation of the non-teaching workforce.
There have been a number of important reports that have led to the development of qualifications for ELC practitioners and associated policies which have informed the direction that Scotland has taken. An HMIE report (2007a) highlighted the quality of leadership as key to ensuring positive outcomes for children in all centres. This suggested that staff needed a high level of understanding and knowledge of pedagogy and child development in order to lead the learning and to model high quality interactions with young children, taking into account their stages of development. Their analyses appeared very much in-line with previous discussions regarding high quality provision which supports children's outcomes in this Review (see the research literature).
'The interaction of staff with young children is fundamental in providing them with the support they need to become confident individuals eager to explore and investigate their learning environment. Well-judged intervention by adults, knowledgeable about a child and their stages of development, is critical in extending and enhancing learning' ( HMIE, 2007a, p8). The report clearly articulated the contribution that qualified teachers, at that time, made to children's learning in terms of their understanding of the curriculum, how children learn and the pedagogy and practice that supports this, including their particular knowledge and skills in observation, assessment and planning.
The report ( HMIE, 2007a) also articulated the need for strong and effective leadership in children's learning and highlighted the following common characteristics of leaders and key staff which they said would support high quality:
- Very effective leadership skills with an ability to manage the expertise of the nursery team to support children's learning.
- An ability to develop skills of other staff who were less qualified.
- An ability to access and use expertise from a range of professionals.
- A knowledge of how to organise and provide supportive environments which helped children enjoy learning and be engaged and stimulated by it.
- An ability to facilitate and enable children to make choices and be independent.
- A strong commitment to being reflective practitioners who are constantly striving to improve.
( HMIE 2007a,p 16)
In the sections considering curricula and guidance frameworks, and later when consideration is given to qualifications, it is possible to track the path of how leadership and management has continued to be seen as important and promoted within ELC.
Both within the discussions undertaken in the course of the Review, and in the responses to the hub calls for evidence, the importance of knowledge and skills in effective leadership, management and quality assurance was acknowledged, including the importance of critical reflection and evaluation if high quality learning and care is to be achieved. Many responses to the hub consultation placed aspects of leadership within the sections discussing initial and ongoing professional development.
'High standards and high expectations within the provision. Good management, staff sharing the vision of the manager. Clear planning shared with all. Effective monitoring of day-to-day activities.' ( ELC practitioner's response to hub second call)
It was interesting to note that several people who mentioned leadership in their responses to the hub also made a distinction between leadership for learning and general management skills. This was also the case in discussions with other stakeholders during the Review; for example, with representatives of the nursery head teachers and staff seconded from Education Scotland. They recognised that the new BA Childhood Practice and other similar degrees were supporting management and celebrated that; they showed concern, however, that typically the practitioners who achieved a degree were either already managers or moved into management positions very quickly. Their time tended to be occupied with the general administrative duties which general management entails rather than in face-to-face interactions or modelling good practice with the children and young people.
Rodd (2012), while describing the key elements of effective leadership, suggested that they should include: the ability to develop a vision and team culture, set goals and achievements, monitor and communicate achievements and facilitate the development of others. Fundamental to such leadership is knowledge, experience and understanding of effective pedagogy and practice within the setting.
When asked how staff should be deployed to ensure high quality, several responses pointed to the importance of highly qualified and knowledgeable staff leading learning. See below:
'By ensuring that the highly qualified people remain working with children. At present, in general, the higher the qualification, the more removed the practitioner is likely to be from the actual day-to-day working with children. This may reflect financial rewards, particularly within the private sector.' (University providing degrees for ELC, response to first call for evidence)
Leadership is considered to be fundamental to improvement within Scotland across the children and young people sector, and as such is a strong focus for both the EYC and for the Raising Attainment for All Programme (see earlier). In addition, SSSC has been consulting and working with the sector on leadership issues for many years. The Scottish College for Educational Leadership ( SCEL) has recently been established, with an agreed reach of all teachers (and not just aspiring school leaders) and early years leaders and practitioners who hold the Childhood Practice Award. This could be timely in supporting further progress here for ELC and OSC.
7) The new Scottish College of Educational Leadership, in collaboration with SSSC, should consider: first, consultation with the ELC and OSC workforces to determine their specific requirements; and second, offer bespoke, focused leadership courses for them, including leadership for learning and family support, as part of the professional learning opportunities available through the Framework for Educational Leadership.
Making the difference: The impact of staff qualifications on children's learning in early years (Education Scotland, 2012b) is one of the more recent reports looking at quality in the ELC workforce. This report considered 'the impact of staff qualifications in centres on the level of performance using the five quality indicators' (used by Education Scotland during inspections) in settings where they also 'noted whether the staff had a degree in education or in childcare' (p2). This report has been misunderstood by some, and reported as showing that the new BA Childhood Practice degree was producing practitioners delivering higher quality practice than teachers. The report, however, did not say this; instead, it explained that is was not possible to say anything specific about the impact of staff with different qualifications (qualified teachers degrees and/or BA Childhood Practice degrees/awards) and/or whether one or the other supported quality better.
The report explained that it was not possible to make true comparisons between centres which had staff with different degrees due to the low numbers in the sample and due to the fact that having a teacher present meant different things for different settings. Having a teacher could equate to a full-time teacher in the classroom or a peripatetic teacher. Peripatetic teachers supported settings for different amounts of time and in different ways. Some had direct contact with children while others did not. What it did confirm was that most ELC centres achieved satisfactory or above in all five Quality Indicators and that within these centres most had high percentages of either teachers or staff with BA Childhood Practice or both qualifications.
Taking the first steps: Is Childhood Practice working? (Davis et al., 2014) was commissioned by SSSC to consider how the BA Childhood Practice was being received and what impact it might be making. The report gave some very positive information about how the BA Childhood Practice was perceived by those who are currently studying for it or have studied it, including their increased confidence, leadership skills and sense of identity and professionalism. Unfortunately, it was unable to make comparisons between this qualification and any others and it did not consider children's outcomes as defined in the research literature.
The children's outcomes it considered were variable and included 'improved wellbeing and opportunities' (p6), 'things that change for the children and families' (p12) and '…service users and staff should determine outcomes' (p13) and finally outcomes that are defined by children 'that they aspire to be fulfilled by children's services' (p48). While these are all useful and important outcomes which fit well with current Scottish policy, this Review was tasked with the consideration of 'improved outcomes for children, help to reduce social inequality and close the attainment gap' (Terms of Reference for Review, p2) which were not considered in the report by Davis et al.
One very robustly designed research study which has considered quality and children's outcomes in the way defined in this Review and in the research literature was conducted by Growing Up in Scotland ( GUS). In a large-scale ongoing longitudinal research project, GUS is tracking the lives of several cohorts of Scottish children from the early years, through childhood and beyond. Growing Up In Scotland: Characteristics of pre-school provision and their association with child outcomes (Scottish Government 2014c) collected data on children's outcomes (see Introduction and the indicators developed by DIG for CPPs) and combined those with administrative and inspection data provided by the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland. The combined information provided a detailed understanding of the characteristics of pre-school provision in Scotland and how it is experienced by children who live in different areas and have different social background characteristics. It is interesting to note here that the vast majority of 3 and 4 years olds entitled to free ELC are registered for it (98.5% Scottish Government statistical bulletin, 2014e).
This GUS report (Scottish Government 2014c) used some of the initial data collected in the longitudinal study to explore the association between the characteristics of the pre-school setting a child attended and their cognitive and social development between ages 3 and 5. There were a number of pertinent findings.
First, there remains a great deal of variation in pre-school settings in Scotland. 58% of parents reported that their child attended a local authority primary school nursery class, 20% attended another type of LA pre-school setting (such as a stand-alone nursery or family centre), 14% attended a private provider and 8% a voluntary provider. Such settings varied in size, age range catered for, but, most importantly, quality. Those children attending private settings were found to be significantly less likely to experience higher quality provision. Just 16% of children attending a private pre-school setting had a provider who scored five or six against all four Care Inspectorate quality themes - compared with 37% who attended a LA primary school nursery class.
Second, children with different socio-economic characteristics showed some small differences in the type of pre-school provision they attended and the number of hours for which they attended. For example, whilst nursery classes in LA primary schools were the dominant provider for children in all income groups, they were less likely to be attended by children in the highest income quintile than by those in the lowest income quintile (67% compared with 47%). In contrast, use of private settings increased with income - just 7% of children from households in the lowest income group attended a private provider compared with 24% of children from households in the highest income group. These differences largely reflected the different childcare needs of couple families with both parents employed. Whilst differences in type were noted, no significant systematic differences in the quality of pre-school settings that more and less advantaged children attended were found.
GUS used subtests of the British Ability Scales Second Edition ( BASII) to measure language development and problem-solving skills, and the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (Goodman, 1997) to measure social, emotional and behavioural development. They found that children in more advantaged circumstances - whether measured by household income, parental level of education or socio-economic classification - had higher average cognitive ability on both measures at ages 3 and 5 than children in more disadvantaged circumstances.
While the vast majority of children were not reported to have any social, emotional or behavioural difficulties at ages 4, 5 and 6, they did find some links between the number of children reported to have moderate or severe difficulties and increasing levels of disadvantage. At the beginning of their statutory pre-school entitlement, on average, children who attended LA primary school nursery classes were more likely to have higher social development difficulties and lower cognitive ability than children who attended private providers. This was, most likely, due to the increased number of children from more advantaged backgrounds attending private settings (Scottish Government, 2014c).
One very important finding for this Review was that the quality of the settings (as generically measured by the Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland) did not appear to impact differently on children's social and cognitive development. That is, settings rated highly did not have a significantly different impact on children's cognitive or social development than those with mixed quality ratings. Also, those settings rated highly did not appear to be catering consistently for either children with better or poorer developmental status on entry.
This suggests that the overall quality ratings, as measured through inspections in Scotland, do not all link to quality which impacts on children's outcomes in terms of their socio-emotional and cognitive development. This is not a particularly surprising finding as Mathers et al. (2012) found very low correlations between Ofsted inspection ratings and Environmental Rating Scales scores which do show strong associations with children's outcomes (see research literature) in England.
It was only when GUS analysed the various pre-school characteristics individually (that is by type of provision, quality of provision, length of time the children attended the setting, size of the pre-school, previous attendance at an ELC setting) that one measure showed an impact. The Care Inspectorate's theme of 'Care and Support' was found to be associated with improved children's outcomes. After 'controlling for differences in children's backgrounds, attending a pre-school setting with a higher care and support grade was statistically significantly associated with better vocabulary ability at age five. This association held after controlling for all other pre-school characteristics and differences in children's social background and demographic characteristics. This meant that children who attended providers with a higher care and support grade were more likely to show higher vocabulary skills by age five, irrespective of their skills at age three and their social characteristics. Furthermore, the positive effects of attending a provider with a higher care and support grade appeared to be similar for children with different social backgrounds and who attended different provider types. In other words, more disadvantaged children did not appear to benefit more from settings which had higher care and support scores and attending a private setting with a high care and support grade was not any more beneficial than attending a similarly graded primary school nursery class.' (Scottish Government. 2014c p7).
This separate analysis also suggested that the length of time that a child spent at an ELC setting did not have any significant impact on socio-emotional and cognitive development. See the research literature for a deeper discussion of this.
GUS concluded that if it is possible to measure characteristics associated with child outcomes, then it is also possible to make improvements here. They suggested that 'attending high quality pre-school provision will benefit children in terms of their vocabulary ability which may, in turn, help reduce known socioeconomic inequalities in this and other developmental outcomes. However, it will not by itself eradicate these inequalities. As well as early childhood education and care, children's exposure to learning at home is important in helping them achieve better outcomes. Yet with almost universal attendance at statutory pre-school provision amongst eligible children in Scotland, these settings undoubtedly present an important opportunity to make a significant and long term difference to many children's lives.' (Scottish Government 2014c p7).
It has long been recognised that 'quality' is a contested term and that it means different things to different people (such as for children, parents, staff, local and national government). Further, it can be defined at different levels (such as at structural and system levels, or at process or programme levels). Views of quality and the perspectives taken will undoubtedly be reflected in the policy and culture within communities and countries. This section of the report outlined recent policy developments in Scotland in relation to ELC and the OSC sectors and this Review. It detailed the Scottish Government's plans and goals for improvement and their vision for supporting a consistent and co-ordinated approach to development. Finally, it considered the standards of quality and associated research.
Within their policies, the Scottish Government has a unifying view of child-centred services, social and pedagogical approaches, and gives guidance for practitioners, teachers, parents and allied services. As such, they illustrate Scotland's particular view of quality for children and young people and the services offered to them. Consideration suggests that fundamental to their view of quality are children's rights and the respect given to those. Closely aligned to these is collaboration between professionals, parents/carers and the children and young people themselves.
The Scottish Government has aspirations to provide families with flexible high quality settings which support working parents/carers and provide for younger children, especially those considered in need. These aspects of quality relate strongly to the structures and systems available within the country and the views of quality often closely aligned to parents/carers - many of whom see flexibility and the length of time children spend in early learning and childcare as important so that they can work.
In Scotland, at the process or programme level, there is a great deal of value placed on approaches and experiences which demonstrate and promote children's rights and autonomy in a caring and supportive environment. It is through this set of values, principles and practices that, in Scotland, children's experiences and opportunities within their ELC and OSC settings are supported. More recent research points to the importance of intentional and relational pedagogies, both internationally and within Scotland, if children's learning and development and children's outcomes, in terms of their cognitive and social-emotional development, are to be enhanced.
While the responses from the Review suggested that the culture of children's rights and collaborative and inclusive working is becoming embedded within Scotland, many practitioners and stakeholder institutions felt that, given this firm foundation, the time was right to focus on relational and intentional pedagogy. More recent policy ( e.g. Building the Ambition, Scottish Government, 2014a) also suggests that, as Scotland moves into its next phase of improvement, a stronger focus on those aspects of pedagogy and practice known to impact on children's outcomes would be welcomed.
'Positive outcomes depend on the quality of relationships and interactions between young children and the adults caring for them, both within families and in settings outwith their home.' (The Care Inspectorate, Response to the hub first call)
This direction, relating to pedagogy and practice known to impact on children's outcomes, is likely to be linked to the more practice based guidance policies as demonstrated by the Building the Ambition (Scottish Government, 2014a) framework and Education Scotland's work across Scotland as the primary providers of improvement; as well as to the development of appropriate qualifications and professional development, which are discussed in more detail in the section considering qualifications. This refocusing of activities, policies and services within ELC is a recurrent theme within this Review and is detailed in recommendation 8 below and 15. It is highlighted throughout.
Consideration of the recent research and in particular the GUS report (Scottish Government, 2014c) confirms this direction. The Care Inspectorate's Careand Support theme, which was found to be associated with children's outcomes, focuses on the behaviours, interactions and experiences of the children within the settings. It allows for consideration of the individual child and how the setting is providing for their individual needs. In addition, the Care Inspectorate's inspections are underpinned by the National Care Standards (Donnelley, 2009) where the focus on interactions, understanding child development and assessing and planning for individual learning is very clear (see the section The Care Inspectorate). The Care Inspectorate are aware of the power of this particular theme as they always inspect against it even though they rotate other themes routinely.
Within the discussions and focus groups, and also in responses to the hub, over half the respondents suggested that a strong focus within the workforces should be early years pedagogy.
'Greater emphasis on early learning and the accompanying pedagogy would be useful and a greater focus on the nature of genuine multi-agency working as set out by the GIRFEC agenda would be welcome.' ( GTCS response to the hub first call)
'We believe, as we have stated, that greater depth and less diversity in skill sets should characterise the early years workforce. Deployment should, however, include direct work with children, engagement with and support for parents, offering a range of effective developmental and learning experiences, and paying specific attention to closing the attainment and development gap for the poorest and most vulnerable children.' (An early years network in Scotland response to first call for evidence)
8) There is a strong feeling within Scotland that the focus should be on early learning as well as childcare, and that the specific skills, attributes, dispositions and knowledge necessary to support early years professionals in improving children's learning and development leading to enhanced children's outcomes within this age group 0-6 are not overlooked.
Include aspects of the Care and Support theme used by the Care Inspectorate (which links to the National Care Standards, 2009) in future inspections as well as in education, training and all qualifications designed to improve quality.
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