Early learning, childcare and out of school care services: design guidance

Guidance on good design for supporting the delivery of high quality early learning, childcare and out of school care services.


Ministerial Foreword

Mark McDonald Minister for Childcare and Early Years

The near doubling of the Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) entitlement in Scotland to 1,140 hours per year from August 2020 is one of the most important and transformative changes we are making during the current Parliamentary term.

On 23 March 2017 I published 'A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland - 2017-18 Action Plan', which commits us to a series of actions in 2017-18 to ensure that this ambitious expansion is rooted in a high quality experience for our children, and to support our delivery partners in creating the additional capacity required, all underpinned by the principles of Quality, Flexibility, Accessibility and Affordability.

Quality is indeed the golden thread that runs through the heart of this expansion, encompassing all aspects of ELC provision - from staff, curriculum, delivery models and, crucially, ELC settings and environments both indoor and outdoor, which research shows are a key factor in improving learning outcomes for children.

The first of the 2017-18 Action Plan commitments to be delivered is the publication of Space to Grow - good design guidance for all ELC settings, existing and planned, which promotes the adoption of good design principles as an integral part of this expansion. The guide clarifies what local authorities and other providers of ELC need to think about in terms of good design when creating or redeveloping ELC settings. It will also support local authorities in the preparation of their expansion plans.

Through the case studies and other illustrations of what exciting and innovative things are already happening around the country, and further afield, the guide suggests that applying good design principles and approaches within ELC settings needn't cost the earth, and can make a real difference to the quality of the experience for children, staff, parents and others.

This guidance will therefore act as a key tool for providers, planners, architects, designers and others when collaborating on the building, extending or refurbishing of ELC and out of school care services - encouraging innovative, new approaches and, quite literally, more thinking outside of the box.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Care Inspectorate and Scottish Futures Trust for all their work in bringing this helpful guide to fruition, and commend its publication as an important step on the road towards the expansion of ELC from August 2020.

Mark McDonald
Minister for Childcare and Early Years
June 2017

Chief Executive Foreword

Karen Reid Chief Executive Care Inspectorate

I am delighted the Care Inspectorate has had the opportunity to work in a collaborative way with a range of stakeholders to produce this important resource which will support all early learning and childcare providers, and the out of school care sector, develop new and innovative environments for children to grow and develop in.

Care services, including early learning and childcare and out of school care settings, play a hugely important role in the lives of thousands of children across Scotland.

Expanding early learning and childcare plays a vital role in delivering national outcomes and in making Scotland the best place to grow up.

Already children, including some of the very youngest and those older children who attend out of school care, spend considerable time in these settings and we can expect to see that time increase in the future as the Scottish Government achieves it ambition for every three and four year old and eligible two year-old to receive 1,140 hours of quality early learning and childcare.
As the Care Inspectorate works closely with care providers to support improvement, our focus will be on the quality of the individual experiences of children, and the impact the environment can contribute to positive outcomes for children. We will continue to base our evaluations of how well individual children and families' needs are met and not be constrained by conventional approaches.

The Care Inspectorate will, as always, take account of best practice guidance, but our primary focus will be on working flexibly with providers to support innovation and improvement in the delivery of high quality early learning and childcare that achieves the best possible outcomes for children.

In order for that to happen, we know that the environment children experience in their care setting needs to meet their needs. The right environment can have a positive impact on child development and improve learning outcomes for children.

Scotland's new Health and Social Care Standards launched in June 2017 are an outcomes-focused way of describing the experiences that children should have as a result of their early learning and childcare. Rather than describing what providers must do, they set out what young people should experience.

As expectations and understandings of quality provision change over time, this gives the national standards longevity, and makes the need for this resource even more important. The Care Inspectorate will work with providers and other partners to establish best practice guidance based on evidence and research to support the implementation of the standards.

I welcome this new guidance which will help care services better meet the needs of children, and I am delighted for the Care Inspectorate to have been so heavily involved in its production. It will be a key document in our scrutiny and improvement work, and I would like to sincerely thank all those who have given of their time to produce it.

Karen Reid
Chief Executive
Care Inspectorate


Email: Jeff Maguire, jeff.maguire@gov.scot

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

Back to top