Scope of the CRWIA, identifying the children and young people affected by the policy, and summarising the evidence base
The amendment will directly affect children who turn five years old between the August and December after the school commencement date, whose parents have chosen to defer their entry to P1 for a year. Once the amended duty is in force, this will entitle these children, in their deferred year, to the mandatory amount of early learning and childcare that education authorities must provide to eligible children in their area, as set out in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 ("the 2014 Act").
Children are at the centre of the funded ELC offer in Scotland and are expected to be the chief beneficiary of the investment. Key elements of funded ELC policy that affects eligible children are:
- The focus on a high quality experience in funded ELC, supported by a professional and skilled workforce and underpinned by a National Standard for all funded providers, with quality standards at its core.
- A focus on play-based learning with opportunities for physical activity and outdoor learning
- Access to a free meal during every session
- Opportunities for parents and carers to be involved with their child's learning and wider ELC experience.
Key data sources:
- Scottish Government ELC census which provides information on funded ELC. This includes data on the number of registrations for funded ELC, with information available on numbers by age, disability and additional support needs.
- The Scottish Pupil Census which collects individual-level data on publicly-funded schools and their pupils. Data is collected from all local authority and grant-aided schools and school centres. Analysis of the pupil census data was conducted by the Scottish Government in order to inform the understanding of trends and variations in deferral rates between 2014 and 2018, and the characteristics of pupils identified as having deferred entry to primary school. Analysis of the following characteristics is included: sex, Additional Support Needs (ASN) status, disability status, ethnicity, SIMD of the pupil's home postcode, and local authority of the children to have deferred entry to primary school.
- Research Exploring parents' views and use of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland. This was commissioned by the Scottish Government in 2017 and involved a nationally representative survey and follow up discussions with parents and carers of children under the age of six about their use, views and experience of ELC. A total of 10,526 valid survey responses were submitted by parents. The research explored views and experiences across different parent groups.
The evidence indicates, and as discussed in more detail in our Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) and Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment (FSDA), that this policy may have greater positive impacts on some groups of children than others on the basis of sex and disability, as evidence suggests that male pupils and disabled pupils are more likely to be deferred than female pupils and non-disabled pupils, respectively.
Through our Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment (FSDA), we have also found that this policy may potentially have a greater positive impact on those at higher risk of poverty. As is the long-standing legislative position, funded ELC hours must be free at the point of access regardless of which setting the hours are being delivered in. This Order will therefore mean that families of children with a birth date in August to December who defer will be able to make decisions for their children, based on what they feel is in the best interests of the child, without the financial barrier of additional ELC costs. The impact on families with children with August to December birth dates who defer who are on low income or live in poverty, will therefore be positive, as in the current system, they will be less likely to be able to afford an additional of funded ELC in a deferred year where discretionary funding was not granted by the local authority.
The process did identify that current uptake of statutory ELC for deferred children (i.e. children who defer with January and February birth dates) is higher from families from the least deprived areas. National and local government both have a role to play in making sure parents/carers are aware of their child's funded ELC entitlement. Although there is no obligation for parents to take up their child's ELC entitlement and the option to defer may not be taken by all parents, it will be important that all parents are aware of their children's entitlement to funded ELC and can make an informed decision for their child, to ensure that families from the least deprived areas do not benefit more from the policy change than families in the most deprived areas.
When the policy is fully implemented, it is expected that the future ELC census, which will be fully established by 2022, will allow for more substantive research on how different families use ELC in a deferred year and help to identify if there are any particular groups where uptake is significantly different and where the Scottish Government and local authorities may need to further explore why this is in order to establish whether policy adjustments should be made.
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