We recognise 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. It is widely acknowledged that the provision of universally accessible and high quality early learning and childcare can play a vital role in helping to close the poverty-related attainment gap.
This is why the Scottish Government, and Local Authorities, are committed to making an unprecedented level of investment in early learning and childcare through the near doubling of the funded entitlement from 600 to 1140 hours per year from August 2020 for all 3 and 4 year olds, and eligible 2 year olds.
This will be high quality, flexible early learning and childcare that is accessible and affordable for families.
Evidence from both UK and international evaluations and studies of early learning and childcare programmes support the fact that all children, and especially those from more challenging backgrounds, can benefit in terms of social, emotional and educational outcomes from attending early learning and childcare. However a key finding from research is that if children are to benefit, early learning and childcare must be of high quality. Poor quality provision is shown to have detrimental effects on children.
The quality of early learning and childcare provision in Scotland is already high. Care Inspectorate data show that, in 2016, 91.5% of all settings  providing funded early learning and childcare achieved Care Inspectorate grades of good or better on all four themes: Quality of care and support; Quality of staffing; Quality of management and leadership; and Quality of environment. 45.8% achieved grades that were very good or excellent across all themes.
But we want to see quality enhanced further still. The Quality Action Plan  , which contains 15 actions to further embed and strengthen quality in early learning and childcare, builds on this. The Quality Action Plan was developed in close consultation with a Quality Reference Group made up of key stakeholders who best understand what drives high quality provision.
In order to ensure that the funded early learning and childcare entitlement is delivered in high quality settings we will introduce a new, and more progressive, service model in 2020. This will be built on a Funding Follows the Child approach, a key aspect of which will be a 'National Standard' that all providers wishing to deliver the funded entitlement will have to meet.
The Scottish Government, COSLA and local authorities have worked in partnership, through a Service Models Working Group, to develop the details of this new model. This has included engagement with providers and key stakeholders since October 2017 so that we can ensure that this new model works for everyone in the sector and helps to improve the early learning and childcare experience for our young children.
This paper sets out the Funding Follows the Child approach and seeks views on the proposed National Standard that underpins it.
The introduction of this new approach represents a substantial change for the early learning and childcare sector in Scotland. Whilst the Service Models Working Group has engaged extensively in designing the new approach, we understand that not everyone will have been able to input to this exercise.
We want to ensure that everyone in the sector, including families, can provide their views on the new model. We want to hear these views and that is why we are now consulting on the proposed National Standard.