1. In Scotland, all three and four year olds and eligible two year olds – those we believe will benefit most - have a statutory entitlement of up to 600 hours a year of funded ELC from the relevant start dates. Some children are also eligible for an additional year of funded ELC when they defer their entry to Primary 1 (P1) for a year.
2. All parents have the legal right to defer their child’s entry to primary school if they are not yet five years old at the beginning of the school year. In the current system, the youngest children (those with a January or February birth date) are eligible for an additional year of funded ELC when their parent has exercised their statutory right to delay their child’s school entry to P1 for a year.
3. Children who turn five years old between the August and December after the school commencement date can also be deferred, however, currently they do not have an automatic entitlement to funded ELC in that deferred year.
4. Local authorities have discretion over a further year of funded ELC for these children. The Scottish Government expects local authorities to make the decision about additional funded ELC for these children, based on an assessment of wellbeing, as set out in the Early Learning and Childcare statutory guidance that accompanied the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
5. This Order will remove this birth date related distinction, and entitle all children to a further year of funded ELC when their parents have decided to defer their entry to P1 for a year.
6. This Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA) was undertaken to consider the impacts of this Order on families with a protected characteristic. This document also covers the scope of a Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment and an Island Communities Impact Assessment.
7. This EQIA process did not identify any direct or indirect unlawful discrimination through the introduction of this policy. In addition, this process identified a number of areas where the Order could advance equality of opportunity for families with particular protected characteristics.
8. 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 so that families in the least deprived areas are equally able to take up this option if they feel it is right for their child.
9. We have been working with COSLA, local authorities and other stakeholders to consider implementation of the policy and we plan to continue to work with partners to consider any further learning e.g. from authorities that are already delivering this policy in part or in full, or those who adopt the policy in advance of August 2023 as a result of local policy decisions. We are considering opportunities to work with any authorities participating in early adoption of the obligation, including potential data collection and evaluation of the implementation process. Part of this work will assess communications and information approaches to support parental choice.
10. 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. Where there are early adopters of this policy we will consider whether an evaluation approach will allow us to gather additional evidence to inform the wider implementation.
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