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The Provision Of Early Learning And Childcare (Specified Children) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020: equality impact assessment Results

Equality impact assessment (EQIA) to consider the impacts on families with a protected characteristic where a further year of funded ELC is offered as parents have decided to defer their child's entry to P1 for a year.


Background

Early Learning and Childcare Eligibility and School Deferral

11. The overall objective of the Scottish Government’s policy on funded early learning and childcare (ELC) is to provide high quality, flexible ELC that is accessible and affordable for all families.

12. 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[3].

13. Some children are also eligible for an additional year of funded ELC when they defer their entry to Primary 1 (P1) for a year. 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.

14. 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. 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[4] that accompanied the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.

Early Learning and Childcare Expansion

15. In a joint agreement with local government, the Scottish Government has committed to almost double the entitlement to funded ELC to 1140 hours per year. The expanded statutory entitlement was due to come into force from August 2020, however, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic necessitated a delay to the full roll-out. We have jointly agreed with Local Government to review readiness later this year, with a view to reintroducing the duty as early as possible.

16. Quality is at the heart of the ELC expansion, and a key commitment of the ELC expansion is Funding Follows the Child. Funding Follows the Child allows parents to access their child’s funded ELC entitlement from any provider in the public, private or third sector including childminders, who meets the National Standard, has a place available and is willing to enter a contract with the local authority. The National Standard focuses on what children and their families can expect from their ELC experience, regardless of where they access their funded entitlement.

17. Despite the legal duty to deliver 1140 not being introduced from August 2020, following the publication of the Interim Guidance[5] on 30 July, it is expected that local authorities will continue to use the principles and criteria of Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard as a framework to shape local funded ELC delivery.

Policy Aim

18. The objective of The Provision of Early Learning and Childcare (Specified Children) (Scotland) Amendment Order 2020 is to entitle all children to funded ELC whose parents have decided to defer their entry to P1 for a year.

19. This means that children whose 5th birthday falls between the school commencement date in August and 31 December, are entitled to an additional year of funded ELC automatically when their parent defers their school entry for a year. This brings the entitlement for these children in line with the entitlement that already exists for deferred children whose 5th birthday is in January or February.

20. The aim of amending the eligibility criteria as currently drafted is to ensure that parents’ decisions on whether to defer their child’s P1 entry can be based on the best interests of the child and not whether they automatically qualify for access to funded ELC. This was first set out by the Minister for Children and Young People, during a parliamentary debate in October 2019:

“The decision to defer school for their child is not one that parents take easily. It is essential that that decision is based on the wellbeing of the individual child and not based on their access to early learning and childcare. For that reason, we intend to introduce legislation to entitle all children whose school start is deferred to access funded early learning and childcare in their deferred year.”[6]

21. This policy, as part of the wider programme to expand funded ELC entitlement to 1140 hours, contributes to the following National Outcomes:

  • We grow up loved, safe and respected so that we realise our full potential.
  • We live in communities that are inclusive, empowered, resilient and safe
  • We are well educated, skilled and able to contribute to society.
  • We tackle poverty by sharing opportunities, wealth and power more equally

The Scope of the Impact Assessment

This document covers the scope of:

22. An Equality Impact Assessment (EQIA). The protected characteristics under the Public Sector Equality Duty that the Scottish Government has a duty to consider are: age, disability, gender reassignment, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation. The protected characteristic of marriage and civil partnership was not considered to be in scope of this Equality Impact Assessment. For each of these protected 8 characteristics, this impact assessment process assessed how the Scottish Government is giving due regard to the ‘needs’ of the public sector equality duty. The ‘needs’ are to eliminate discrimination, harassment and victimisation; advance equality of opportunity; and foster good relations.

23. A Fairer Scotland Duty Assessment (FSDA), considering impacts of the policy on ‘inequalities of outcome' caused by 'socio-economic disadvantage’.

24. An Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA), considering the impacts of the policy on those living in island communities.

Contact

Email: David.Taggart@gov.scot

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