2.1 The Scottish Government's aim is to make Scotland the best place in the world to grow up, and to give all children in Scotland the best possible start in life.
2.2 The early years are crucial in every child's life and evidence shows that access to high quality early learning and childcare  ( ELC) is important to improving children's outcomes, and a cornerstone to closing attainment and inequality gaps.
2.3 The Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014 provided for 600 hours of annual entitlement to free ELC for all three and four year olds, and eligible two year olds. The Act also made it a legal requirement for all local authorities to consult parents in order to increase flexibility over how funded hours are accessed. This was a significant milestone in marking, for the first time, the statutory right to more flexible options for childcare.
2.4 The Scottish Government considers that there is potential for the ELC system to do even more to support the ambitions towards closing attainment and inequality gaps, and to transform children's lives. To this end, they intend to almost double the annual entitlement to free ELC to 1140 hours by 2020 for all three and four year olds, and eligible two year olds. Their vision for the expansion is to deliver high quality, flexible ELC which is affordable and accessible for all.
2.5 In expanding the ELC entitlement, The Scottish Government proposes that actions will be built upon the following high level themes:
2.6 It is acknowledged that this is a pivotal movement in developing the policy approach to implementing this ambition. Information about what is working well regarding current provision has been published in the Financial review of early learning and childcare in Scotland: the current landscape, (Sept, 2016). The Scottish Government is also reviewing the system of ELC and school education as part of Empowering teachers, parents and communities to achieve Excellence and Equity in Education - a Governance Review.
2.7 Alongside these reviews, the Scottish Government published a consultation document, Blueprint for 2020, to seek views on the range of policy choices faced in taking forward the ambition for 1140 hours of free ELC by 2020. The consultation was published on 15 October 2016 with views invited by 9 January 2017. 20 open-ended questions were posed with views sought on policy choices; funding models; and phasing of provision. Responses were invited via Citizen Space or by emailing a dedicated mailbox. Emailed responses directly to the Scottish Government policy team were also accepted. A series of consultative events was also held across Scotland to raise awareness of the consultation and to seek views of parents directly.
2.8 This report presents the analysis of views contained in the responses to the consultation. The views from the consultative events are also summarised and presented in this report.
Consultation responses and analysis
2.9 The Scottish Government received 336 responses to the consultation. Table 2.1 shows the distribution of responses by category of respondent. A full list of respondents is in the Annex. The respondent category applied to each response was agreed with the Scottish Government policy team.
Table 2.1: Distribution of responses by category of respondent
|Third Sector and Voluntary Organisations||23||7|
|Further Education and Higher Education||8||2|
|Local Government Nurseries and Schools||6||2|
|Third Sector and Voluntary Providers||6||2|
|Parent Representative Bodies||5||1|
|National Inspection and Improvement Bodies||5||1|
NB Percentages do not add to 100% exactly due to rounding.
2.10 62% of responses were submitted by individuals; 38% came from organisations. The largest category of respondent amongst the organisations was private nurseries comprising 10% of all respondents. Amongst the individual respondents many defined themselves as: parents; ELC practitioners; private nursery employers and employees; teachers, ex-teachers; and childminders.
2.11 Most respondents provided a response to all or most of the questions using the Citizen Space online system. The Citizen Space content was then exported onto an Excel database by the analyst to enable comparison of views between respondents and across respondent sectors. In total, 181 respondents requested that their views remain anonymous. A further 55 respondents requested that they did not wish their response to be published. These preferences are respected in this report, for example, in the selection of quotes to illustrate specific points.
2.12 The Scottish Government held seven consultative events with parents across Scotland to facilitate discussion on the key topics in the consultation. Scottish Government officials took detailed notes from the events from which summaries were compiled by the analyst and are inserted under each question in the report, where relevant.
2.13 The structure of this report follows that of the consultation document. Chapter 3 focuses on views on quality of provision (Questions 1 - 7); Chapter 4 presents responses to questions 8 - 10 on flexibility of provision; Chapter 5 addresses issues of accessibility and summarises views in response to questions 11 - 16; Chapter 6 presents responses to questions 17 and 18 on affordability; and Chapter 7 relates to questions 19 and 20 on financing and delivery of the ambition.
Email: Jeff Maguire