CHANGE Weekly Bulletin 13th October 2017
The Childcare Landscape Part 1 – 2020 Vision
This week’s CHANGE bulletin is the first in a series looking at Scotland’s emerging childcare landscape and the possible implications for families, providers and practitioners. We begin with perhaps the biggest policy issue for anyone with even a minor interest in childcare: the 2020 expansion.
It is almost a year to the day since the Scottish Government published its consultation for the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) in 2020. It set out the plans for extending the provision of free childcare for all three- and four-year-olds, with some being eligible from the age of two. The plan to almost double the entitlement, by increasing the current provision of 600 annual hours to 1140, was a firm commitment to meeting the vision set out in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014.
The responses to the blueprint were used to develop an action plan for 2017-18, which comprised 31 actions. The first of these was the establishment of a ‘Quality Action Plan for ELC’, which is due to be unveiled before the end of this month. The plan will look at what needs to be done to build on and enhance the current quality of childcare services which, crucially, will involve not just providers and practitioners, but families as well. Participation and engagement is at the heart of all the work being done by CHANGE and we are encouraged to see this commitment to involving families in national policy-making.
A series of trials commenced at the beginning of this year across a range of local authorities and providers, looking at everything from how to increase cross-sector collaboration to the provision of year-round childcare. The first evaluations of these are scheduled for publication by the end of the year.
It should follow that the learning from these will work hand in hand with the actions set out in the plan for 2017-18, some of which have already come to fruition. New documents published by the Care Inspectorate such as Space to Grow, providing guidance on the design of ELC services and My Childminding Journey, a development resource for childminders, are already being used by services and were created in response to the blueprint.
It would be impossible to discuss the expansion without mention the cost, which is often the first issue raised by providers and local authorities when 2020 is mentioned. The First Minister seemed to acknowledge as much during her address to the Scottish National Party conference this week. The commitment to providing annual funding of £840 million for statutory entitlement is roughly double that of the current investment.
Will these pledges of practical and financial support be enough to ensure the vision set out in the blueprint is achieved in its entirety? Only time will tell.