The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland

5 Jan

Voice Scotland has responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation, A Blueprint for 2020: The Expansion of Early Learning and Childcare in Scotland.

In summary: 
‘How do we ensure children are fully supported at the transition stages throughout their early-learner journey? What support should be provided to ensure that the ELC workforce and teachers have the skills, knowledge and capacity to support transitions?’

“…Children do not develop uniformly. Our organisation is broadly supportive of the Upstart Campaign and would also suggest that consideration is given to creating a degree of flexibility within the system as to when children commence formal schooling. For example, it may be that more than one entry point into school would best support some pupils.

“A play-based education in early years will enable children to develop the skills they need for a successful transition to school. For example, socialisation, creative thinking, concentration, vocabulary and an enthusiasm for learning.”

Early years education will require to be delivered by a highly qualified workforce of sufficient number to enable their qualifications and expertise to be put to use during timetabled non-contact activity, such as planning.

“With the implementation of 600 hours, non-contact time was often cut to deliver the increased contact time and this trend would need to be reversed.

Appropriate CPD opportunities for all education professionals should be made available; again, sufficient staff numbers will be necessary for individuals to be able to be released to undertake such training.”

‘How can the qualification routes and career paths that are open to early learning and childcare practitioners be developed to ensure that the ELC sector is seen as an attractive long-term career route?’ 

“… a highly knowledgeable and effective workforce is necessary to achieve aspirations for early years education. It is noted that a Skills Investment Plan will be produced by January 2017… This will be an important starting point in reviewing how to take this forward. ….

“But it is not only about qualifications…. in terms of ensuring that the ELC sector is seen as an attractive long-term career route, staff terms and conditions will be key. The need to value early years workers was a key theme within the recent independent review of the early learning and out of school care workforce … If terms and conditions, including pay, are not significantly improved within the sector, there will be little incentive amongst individuals to invest in qualifications for an income level which can be gained with less fuss in a different line of work. Alternatively, individuals who do wish to undertake qualifications may instead choose to invest in qualifications leading to careers with better financial prospects.

A national pay scale was recommended as part of the independent review. National terms and conditions, including pay scales are already well established for the teacher workforce…. implementation of a national pay and conditions framework for early years workers would help to improve the perception of careers within early years within society generally and make it more attractive to a wider range of potential candidates.”

 ‘How can we increase the diversity of the ELC workforce, in particular increasing the gender balance in the sector?’ 

“Again, terms and conditions within the sector will be key to attracting a diverse range of candidates within early years. A national terms and conditions envelope for early years workers, regardless of setting, would widen the pool of potential employees.

“…early years professionals’ salaries do not reflect their skills and responsibilities and the demands of their work. Also, many employers rely on the goodwill of staff to work unpaid overtime as highlighted in our member survey – this showed that 46% worked unpaid overtime on a regular basis.

“……….Scottish Government’s support to date for the living wage for early years workers is disproportionately low in light of the skills and responsibilities that early years workers have…”

‘How can payment of the Living Wage and wider Fair Work practices be encouraged across the ELC sector?’ 

An early years pay and conditions framework would level a playing field that sees discrepancies in pay for workers in the sector.”

‘How could accountability arrangements for early learning and childcare be improved?’ 

“… it would be worth reviewing the cost effectiveness of having two different bodies inspecting and regulating ELC provision, despite moves for Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate to work more closely together.”

A national pay and conditions framework for early years workers would help in terms of introducing a consistency of quality of delivery and accountability for that provision.

“In the context of local government and the governance review… the role of Head Teacher/Early Years Manager requires to be reviewed….”

‘What factors must be considered in delivering flexible ELC provision, while continuing to ensure a high quality service? To what extent could funded ELC support parents and carers with non-standard working hours, such as working shifts and weekends?’ 

“…the needs of children must be at the heart of this proposal. Therefore, hours offered for early years services must first and foremost be suitable to the needs of children …

“Services can only be extended where practicable to facilitate them properly and safely.”

‘How can we ensure fair and sustainable funding for all providers offering the ELC entitlement?’

“There is the risk, if insufficient time and funding is supplied for the expansion to 1140 hours to be implemented, that local authorities rely on relationships with partner providers even more heavily with the issue of low pay particularly in the private sector being exacerbated as a result.

“Whilst guaranteed or recommended rates could be introduced to private providers, there is no guarantee that this will translate into pay increases for the workforce, particularly if private providers are themselves expanding their services and developing their premises for greater outdoor learning.

“We would refer back to our earlier comments on nationalised pay scales and would also submit that support for greater “in-house” local authority expansion would be beneficial to ensure implementation of appropriate terms and conditions for the profession.

‘What more can we do to promote and support the involvement of childminders in the entitlement to ELC? What are the barriers, if any, to becoming a childminder? How can we ensure quality while preserving the unique value of home-based care?’ 

“We are very supportive of the registration of social service workers… nannies offering home-based childcare should be included within the SSSC’s scope.”

‘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?’ 

“The interface for securing ELC entitlement and related support will require to be… clear, as simple as possible and accessible. Ensuring equality of access will require significant investment in the system…

“Staff may also require training or refresher training ahead of a child joining the establishment who requires support.

“There is the risk in an early years system dictated by market forces of “ghettoisation” which will also require to be guarded against in terms of the funding model used.” 

‘How can ELC providers, particularly private and third sector providers, be encouraged to extend capacity?’

Capacity cannot be extended in the absence of sufficient funding to ensure adequate premises and that enough high quality early years workers are available.”

‘What funding model would best support our vision for high quality and flexible ELC provision, which is accessible and affordable for all?’

“A national pay scale was recommended as part of the independent review. Nationalised terms and conditions, including pay scales are already well established for the teacher workforce…. implementation of a national pay and conditions framework would help to improve the perception of careers within early years within society generally and make it more attractive to a wider range of potential candidates including attracting more males to the sector as a career.”

nanny-and-child

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