The Scottish Government recognises that the earliest years of life are crucial to a child’s development and have a lasting impact on outcomes in health, education and employment opportunities later in life. We are committed to reducing these inequalities and this is why we are making an unprecedented level of investment in the early years – through universal measures such as the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare ( ELC) and provision of the Baby Box; plus targeted investment for low income families such as our new Best Start Grants – to support our high level ambition to give our children the best start in life.
Included within this investment package, the near doubling of the entitlement to ELC from 600 to 1140 hours per year from August 2020 is one of the most important and transformational changes we are making during our current Parliamentary programme.
On 23 March 2017, I published A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland – 2017-18 Action Plan, the first in a series of annual action plans, that committed us to 31 actions in the year ahead to ensure that this ambitious expansion is underpinned by the principles of quality, flexibility, accessibility and affordability. In my foreword, I highlighted that quality was the golden thread that ran through that action plan. In this action plan, focused specifically on quality, the golden thread is the need to value and invest in our workforce – from induction, continuous professional learning, guidance for professional practice, leadership and management to collaborative working and celebrating good practice – to ensure that professionals are equipped with the skills and resources they need to deliver the best possible outcomes for children.
I hope that this plan helps emphasise how much we value our well-trained, professional and skilled ELC workforce, and that its contents will support their vital role in giving children the best possible start in life – after all, there is no more important job than working with children to help nurture their development, and help shape and build their worlds.
I know that the quality of ELC in Scotland is high overall, and we already have much to be proud of. I am confident that the 15 actions set out here will further strengthen quality right across the system.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the members of the Quality Reference Group for their intense work from May to October this year in helping to shape the content of this action plan, and commend its publication as another important step on the road towards ensuring that our ambitious expansion of ELC by August 2020 is deeply-rooted in quality.
Minister for Childcare and Early Years