Interview - Jean Carwood-Edwards

Monday, March 9, 2015

Chief executive of Early Years Scotland, previously the Scottish Pre-school Play Association (SPPA)

Why did you change the name of the organisation?

We have been known as the SPPA for almost 50 years, but the new name is much more reflective of current policy, terminology and the diverse range of services we provide.

Our fully qualified early years staff now deliver the following support: annual membership for early learning and childcare in the voluntary, private, and more recently local authority, settings; working with children and families in community nurseries, local venues and also in prison; informing, influencing and interrogating national policy and practice at local and national level; and supporting the workforce to develop professional learning.

What are the key issues affecting early years and childcare settings in Scotland at the moment?

Within the private and voluntary sector in particular, affordability, sustainability and recruiting degree Level 9 qualified managers are all real and extremely tough topics. Retaining staff in the voluntary and private sectors where pay, job security and conditions are almost always poorer than local authorities, requires creativity and commitment!

But it would be a pity to lose sight of the exciting and positive developments happening right now across Scotland where there has been, and continues to be, transformational change.

What do you think about the SNP's plans to double the free entitlement for three- and four-year-olds to 30 hours a week?

I think that increasing the amount of Government-funded provision for our young children is key to achieving the kind of Scotland where every child is truly valued and has the best start in life. I do believe very strongly, however, that alongside striving for an increase in the number of hours, there has to be a sincere and resolute commitment to ensuring that quality of provision is not compromised.

How are early years settings meeting the demand for free places for 15 per cent of two-year-olds?

The picture across Scotland appears to be variable with some local authorities still working towards solutions, while others are fairly 'sorted'. There is a high level of awareness about the importance of welcoming two-year-olds into philosophies and environments that are suitable rather than just slotting them into three-to-five provision.

Early Years Scotland is acutely aware of the importance of providing early learning and childcare for (often disadvantaged) twos that includes the option to have parents and children engaged in shared learning together. Simply increasing the number of hours of separation for some children would exacerbate the risks of insecure attachment and disengagement.

We’ve been following the Fair Funding for our Kids campaign. What should the Government do to ensure families are able to access their funded place at the nursery of their choice?

I believe that early learning and childcare provision, which is affordable, accessible and flexible is an aspirational intention which the government has stated is a key aim for Scotland’s children and families. It has already become apparent and is understandable, that operationalising this is going to require time and planning. I am aware that many local authorities are making huge efforts to communicate with parents to find out preferred model(s) of early learning and childcare so they can then make efforts to shift resource allocation accordingly.

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