10. Addresing Diversity Across Scotland
Scotland encompasses great regional and local diversity and to be successful the models of ELC provision will need to be cognisant of and reflect these local needs. There may be local and regional characteristics which preclude a "one size fits all" approach. There will be local challenges which ELC trials will need to address.
Question 9: Are there local/regional characteristics that should be explicitly built into the trials?
10.1 53 respondents addressed this question with widespread agreement that a "one size fits all" approach to ELC provision is not appropriate in view of the diversity in environment across Scotland, even within local authority areas. Some saw this as an opportunity for innovation to thrive with standard models tweaked and adapted to suit local circumstances. A few respondents recommended that local consultation and mapping should precede consideration of tailored, local approaches:
"Local mapping should therefore be built into the trials so that there is clarity about what the local and regional needs actually are" (Representative body).
"There is a need to create bottom up models which are community led" (Other).
10.2 A recurring theme was that the trials should aim to represent the diversity of environment, with one respondent specifying that the same approach should be tried out in different environments to generate comparator data:
"...it would be important, where possible, for trials to take place in more than one area where there are significant regional differences and therefore this would provide a comparator and also key findings for more than one type of location" (Representative body).
Challenge of rural areas
10.3 The most common regional characteristic identified by respondents as potentially challenging was rurality. Respondents across a wide range of sectors identified a number of particular challenges which remote, rural and island areas present for ELC such as: reduced parent choice of setting; greater travel distances; cost of transport; lack of wrap-around provision despite likely longer parent absence due to travel to work time; and reduced access to specialist services, for example, services for deaf children. One island local authority commented:
"Island communities create different challenges. The small, dispersed communities with scattered populations and poor travel networks require individual approaches."
Challenges of urban areas
10.4 High density populations create pressure on places in some inner cities according to some respondents, reducing options and flexibility for parents. Most respondents identifying pockets of urban environments as challenging referred to areas of multiple deprivation, and recommended that trials cover such areas where, for example, take-up of ELC places requires to be encouraged; outreach work is needed; staffing and infrastructure needs to cater for higher numbers of eligible two year olds; a wide range of additional needs exist and multi-agency approaches adopted; and wrap-around care may be vital to enable parents in low income households to access different work and study opportunities.
Views on other challenges and characteristics to build into
10.5 Ten respondents referred specifically to building trials around accommodating different parental work patterns. Suggestions were made to base trials in commuter belts and suburbs where parents are more likely to work out with the local area and therefore require out of school hour care for their children, or perhaps have cross-border ELC demands.
10.6 A few respondents suggested ELC trials are based where there are greater shift workers, part time workers and/or seasonal patterns of work.
10.7 Eight respondents recommended trials address challenges in recruiting and retaining qualified and suitable workforce. The higher living costs in cities such as Aberdeen were identified as challenging for low paid workers with potential difficulties for recruitment in such areas. Different rates of pay across neighbouring local authorities for workers in similar posts were also highlighted as potentially challenging for the stability of the ELC workforce. One respondent suggested that training provision for workers in rural areas may require innovative approaches and links between different organisations.
10.8 Differences in demography between areas of Scotland in terms of ethnicity, religious beliefs and languages spoken were highlighted by eight respondents as worthy of examining in trials. The circumstances of refugees and travellers were identified as potentially challenging for ELC provision.
10.9 Two respondents called for trials to compare settings with access to varied open space from limited and contained, to large, open areas.
10.10 One respondent suggested that community ethos in terms of cohesion, values and community capacity may impact on effectiveness of ELC provision and could be incorporated as a variable into the trials.
Implications for proposed trials
10.11 The diversity of environment across Scotland was recognised with calls for models of ELC provision to be tested in different circumstances, for example, trialling the same approach but in different locations.
10.12 As rurality was the most commonly identified challenge for ELC provision, with island communities seen as presenting especial difficulties, remote rural settings should feature in the trials.
10.13 Other settings identified as priority for trials were commuter belts and suburbs where parents are likely to work out with the local area and therefore have different needs with respect of wrap-around care, transitions for their children between settings, longer hours of care and perhaps shift patterns and/or other irregular work routines to be facilitated.
10.14 Trials focusing on workforce recruitment and retention in different locations will also have merit, with innovative models required to address challenges in both inner city and rural locations.