Scotland pledges healthy meals and outdoor play for pre-school children

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Every child at a funded early learning and childcare session in Scotland will receive a free healthy meal in plans set out by the Scottish government.


Scottish minister for children and young people Maree Todd

Details of the new scheme to provide healthy food, outdoor play and a living wage in funded early learning and childcare sessions (ELC) from August 2020 have been published in a new document.

It lays out the ‘Funding Follows the Child’ approach and the National Standard which underpins it, which all providers wishing to deliver the funded entitlement will have to meet from August 2020. 

The Funding Follows the Child approach means that parents will have the choice to access their child's funded entitlement from any provider that meets the National Standard, has a place available and is willing to enter a contract with the local authority.

The plan, ‘Funding Follows the Child and The National Standard for Early Learning and Childcare Providers: Principles and Practice’, focuses on how expansion of early learning and childcare provision in Scotland will be implemented, as part of a programme to almost double the funded provision of ELC to 1,140 hours a year by 2020.

Currently, 600 funded hours of ELC per year are available to all three- and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds.

‘Funding Follows the Child’ has been set up with the aim of allowing service delivery to be ‘provider neutral’, giving parents choice over where they choose to access funded hours of childcare for their children.

As well as a healthy meal, the scheme, developed in partnership with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), will provide all children with access to outdoor play sessions.

The plans also include funding which the Scottish Government says will enable providers to pay all childcare workers delivering the funded entitlement at least the real Living Wage.

The real Living Wage in Scotland is currently £9.00, compared to the National Minimum Wage of £7.83 for over-25s.

Launching the ELC National Standard Scottish minister for children and young people Maree Todd said, ‘The earliest years of a child’s life are crucial to their development and high quality early learning and childcare plays a vital role in helping children realise their full potential and closing the poverty-related attainment gap.

‘This is a unique opportunity to transform the way we deliver early learning and childcare, which is why we are using the National Standard to ensure no child in ELC goes hungry or misses out on the benefits of outdoor learning, exercise and play.’

COSLA's children and young people spokesperson, councillor Stephen McCabe, added, ‘We welcome the publication of the National Standard, which has been developed in partnership by COSLA and the Scottish Government.

‘The National Standard underpins the commitment to nearly double the funded entitlement of early learning and childcare to 1,140 hours per year for three- and four-year olds, and eligible two-year olds. It is intended to ensure that from August 2020 children will receive a high-quality, accessible service aimed at improving outcomes and tackling the poverty-related attainment gap.’

Jonathan Broadbery, National Day Nurseries Association’s (NDNA) head of policy and external relations, said, ‘Nurseries want to support the Government’s admirable ambition of Scotland being the best place for a child to grow up, with the National Standard at the heart of it. An important part of this approach is parental choice and flexibility for working families – so it is important that private and third sector nurseries are able to offer the 1,140 hours.

‘The principle of “funding following the child” appears sound but in reality we are seeing lots of different interpretations on the ground. With local councils remaining as gatekeepers, this announcement does nothing to address those differences. The big question is whether we will we still see different rates of funding per child depending on which type of provider their parents choose.’

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