As ELC delivery models become more flexible it is vital to also ensure that provision is accessible.
There are a number of aspects of accessibility including:
- Ensuring equality of access for all children;
- Ensuring that the provision appropriately meets the needs of children with additional support needs;
- Ensuring that there is sufficient provision across different geographies, in particular in rural and island communities;
- Giving consideration of the proximity of ELC provision to places of work or study or other facilities providing care for children (such as OSC);
- Taking account of the particular issues for parents and carers who are reliant on public transport in order to access work; and
- The interface for securing ELC entitlement, and related support, is clear, as simple as possible and accessible.
ELC provision must be delivered in a way that ensures equality of access for, and accounts for the varying needs of, all children. These needs can vary depending on a number of factors, including whether a child is disabled or has additional support needs, is from an ethnic minority background, or lives in a deprived area.
Question 11: How do we ensure that the voice of children and their families is heard as we plan this expansion?
We will continue to support implementation of the Additional Support For Learning Act 2004 (as amended), to ensure children's additional support needs are identified and provided for. That includes those who are identified from birth as having a disability and are brought to the attention of the education authority as needing additional support.
For example, we have committed to revising and improving the statutory guidance on the 2004 Act. We will promote the Enquire website to ensure parents and carers are aware of the support they and their child are entitled to, as well as how to access that support. These actions will strengthen the support for all children with disabilities and additional support for learning needs.
Question 12: How can we ensure equality of access for all children? What barriers do children with disabilities and additional support needs currently face in accessing early learning and childcare? What further action is required to address these barriers?
Holistic Delivery Models
The ELC expansion will be supported by a targeted programme of infrastructure investment that has included a focus on boosting capacity in current areas of poor availability (which can often be deprived areas or rural communities).
This investment will consider whether different delivery solutions are required for some areas, particularly those with more difficult to reach families, such as in deprived areas. For example, Box 5 highlights that holistic delivery models may be one potential solution. As part of a hub approach, ELC could be delivered alongside other, co-located, services for children and families, including Speech and Language Therapists and Family Link Workers.
Such approaches could potentially support higher take-up rates amongst eligible two year olds, and other groups less likely to access entitlement. We are currently working with partners to draw on the lessons from the expansion to 600 hours to ensure that delivery models are tailored to increase take up rates amongst eligible two year olds, although we welcome additional views.
Question 13: How can we support higher take-up rates amongst eligible two year olds, and other groups less likely to access entitlement?
Box 5: Holistic Delivery Models
Holistic models of provision, where a number of services for children and families are co-located, provide one potential solution for enabling children from more difficult to reach families to access their ELC entitlement.
An example of such an approach is the Woodburn Family Learning Centre, which opened on March 2016, and is part of Midlothian Council's plan to establish integrated family learning centres in key priority areas. The centre adopts a strong focus on early intervention through a 'co-located team' approach to supporting children and their families, including Woodburn primary school and nursery, Sure Start Midlothian, speech and languages services and health visitors.
Engaging parents and carers in their children's learning and development from 0-5 is a key focus, supported by the one way viewing gallery installed in the parents' room where they can observe their children at play.
The children's space has been thoughtfully planned to promote a rich learning environment with high quality natural materials, including access to a secure garden to promote outdoor learning and play. Some of the furniture at the Centre has been specially made by the Grassmarket Community Project, an Edinburgh-based self-supporting social enterprise that gives homeless people work skills.
Communities have been consulted about the design and delivery of services in the Family Learning Centres. The Centre is also working in partnership with local parents to design a range of group and adult learning courses.
The proximity of ELC provision to places of work or study or other facilities providing care for children (such as OSC) can be important for some parents and carers. A particular issue which has been raised is the extent of on-site provision within the Higher and Further Education estates to support parents/carers with their studies  . We will explore this issue in more detail.
Empowering teachers, parents and communities to achieve Excellence and Equity in Education - A Governance Review highlights that, when parents are fully involved in their child's learning, and in the life and work of their school, we see better outcomes for children, parents and schools. That is why we are committed to giving a stronger voice to parents and communities in our schools.
In a similar vein, the ELC sector has traditionally had strong links with communities and parents and carers. We are committed to further empowerment of ELC settings, and particularly where community empowerment could encourage and develop community-led provision, particularly in remote and rural areas which face unique delivery challenges. As we consider the expansion of ELC we are open to innovative delivery approaches where they can add value. There may be specific opportunities to encourage expansion in the number of providers who are social enterprises, and to support our wider ambitions in for the social enterprise sector.
Question 14: How can more social enterprises, and third sector providers, be encouraged to enter the early learning and childcare sector?
Question 15: How can the governance arrangements support more community-led ELC provision particularly in remote and rural areas?
As part of the expansion consideration will also be given to the availability of good quality Gaelic Medium provision, particularly in areas where there is high potential for continuity through to Gaelic Medium Primary Education.
The current landscape that parents and carers face in accessing their ELC entitlement, and any additional support, can be complex and, in many respects, antiquated. For example, the general process for accessing a place in a local authority setting tends to involve various rounds of paperwork.
The expansion creates an opportunity to explore approaches to improving how parents and carers access the entitlement, including the potential for a digital interface. This could also involve giving consideration as to how greater linkages could be created across all aspects of ELC - for example, securing a place; support with any additional costs (e.g. additional, paid for hours beyond the funded entitlement); and links to the social security system.
Question 16: How can the broader system for promoting, accessing, and registering for a place in an ELC setting be improved? Please give examples of any innovative and accessible systems currently in place.