Scotland’s Early Learning and Childcare

Young children across Scotland are benefiting from an expansion of funded early learning and childcare places for children aged between two and four.

That is the key finding of a new report by the Care Inspectorate, who also said more could be done to support younger children, including two-year olds, into early learning and childcare.

The Scottish Government committed to expand and deliver high-quality, flexible early learning and childcare for three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds in 2014. As a result, the entitlement of free early learning and childcare increased from 475 to 600 hours, with plans to increase this further by 2020.

Today’s report from the Care Inspectorate provides an overview of the early progress made across the early learning and childcare sector in increasing the entitlement for children to 600 hours.

The report found the proportion of daycare of children settings providing funded places increased. The quality of care and support for children in settings which provided funded early learning and childcare was generally higher than services which were not providing such funded places.
And the Care Inspectorate said there is potential to support the expansion of early learning and childcare through the increase use of childminding places. While some local authorities have been commissioning childminders to provide funded support, there is scope for other local authorities to do this too.

Karen Reid, chief executive of the Care Inspectorate said: “Children across Scotland benefit immensely from high quality early learning and childcare. This enables children to have the best start in life and prepares them for their learning journey throughout school and beyond.

“Early learning and childcare can play a key role in reducing the poverty-related attainment gap. Our inspections show that most early learning and childcare services perform well and help deliver good outcomes for children which support them grow into confident learners.

“We are pleased to note in this report the positive impact that good quality early learning and childcare can have on children, their families, and their communities.

“Our evidence suggests there is scope for local authorities to further and better involve the voluntary and private sector in the specialist provision needed to support eligible 2-year-olds, some of whom have complex needs. Childminders provide small-group, family-based settings which are beneficial for some children, and so there is scope to involve them in supporting expansion further.”

Today’s report also said further work will be needed to ensure that new services and new staff working in them are well trained and have access to appropriate experience.

The report is available here:

During 2015-16, we inspected 245 settings providing funded early learning and childcare to children aged two years. The evidence from these inspections noted that while the quality of provision was good, some improvements could be made to the provision to enhance the early learning and childcare experience, particularly in relation to personal planning, quality of staff and providing supportive physical environments.

The quality of outcomes for two-year-olds in services was influenced by number of two-year-olds being cared for in the group setting and the skills and knowledge of the staff working with them.

Our inspections found that where children were cared for in small groups with well trained staff there was a more positive impact on their quality of experience.

Local authorities have generally undertaken their duty to consult and plan on delivery of early learning and childcare. There is limited evidence that local authority consultation with parents has led to an increase in the availability of childminders as a choice for funded early learning and childcare. This would suggest that local authority consultation could benefit from including a wider range of parents accessing different settings across the sector.

The pace of change and the resulting demands on staff has resulted in staff turnover from the private to local authority sector. There is potential for this to have an impact on the quality of care and learning for children. There is a need therefore for providers within the private sector to plan effectively to ensure staff have appropriate skills, knowledge and experience to support the delivery of high-quality early learning and childcare across the sector.