Introduction / Executive Summary
Aberdeen City Council has a statutory duty, under the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014, to prepare and publish an Early Learning and Childcare Delivery Plan to set out the strategic direction for the delivery of ELC in the city. The Plan will respond to local need and reflect the diversity of communities in Aberdeen. The 2022-24 Delivery Plan follows on from the 2017 Delivery Plan and is informed by the findings of the Evaluation of the Expansion of ELC programme, together with the outcomes of a Parent and Carer Consultation and engagement with key stakeholders including staff.
The National Context
Since August 2021, all three and four year olds, and eligible two-year olds receive 1140 hours of funded ELC per year. This means more funded hours, more choice of where children can go to access their ELC entitlement and more flexible models of ELC are available to support families.
The Local Context
Aberdeen City Council welcomed the opportunity to expand services in recognition of how the expansion of ELC could help reduce the poverty related attainment gap and improve long term outcomes for children and families. As a result of the ELC Expansion Programme Aberdeen City now offers a mixed delivery model of ELC provision: • In 46 of our primary schools; • In 46 Funded Providers; • At the multi-agency Links Hub; • At our Gaelic Medium Unit based in Gilcomstoun Primary School; • At our 2 Outdoor Nursery provisions at Duthie and Hazlehead Parks; and • Through 70 childminders.
Evaluation of the Expansion of ELC
A comprehensive Evaluation of the Expansion of ELC, against our ELC Delivery Plan approved in 2017, was undertaken in 2021. The Evaluation was approved by Aberdeen City Council Education Operational Delivery Committee in January 2022. Read the Evaluation.
Despite the challenges of delivering the ELC Expansion Programme during the Covid-19 pandemic, the objectives were successfully met. Key achievements included:
- All eligible children able to access 1140 hours from August 2021;
- 90% of on-time applications were offered their 1st choice ELC option, with 76% overall being offered their 1st choice ELC option.
- Evidence of highly effective Programme governance;
- Evidence of an increase in the quality of provision;
- Expansion of the Local Authority ELC workforce from 224.16 FTE to 461.30 FTE (expressed in headcount this is an increase from 358 employees in 2017 to 539 in 2021). This is as a result of the inclusion of Support Workers, Modern Apprenticeships and amended contracts of existing staff;
- Successful delivery of 27 capital projects;
- 82.9% of parents and carers who responded to a recent survey indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with the location of their ELC provision;
- 82.4% of parents and carers who responded to a recent survey indicated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their child’s experience of expanded ELC to date; and
- The Programme was delivered on time and on budget as of December 2021.
In November 2021 we consulted with parents, carers and future parents and carers to seek their views to inform the evaluation report and to help develop the next Delivery Plan. Key headline points from the 453 returns included:
- 72% of respondents were very satisfied or satisfied with the range of ELC providers and models within their local area (ASG).
- 75.8% were able to secure a funded ELC place in their local area/ASG.
- 82.9% of respondents were satisfied with the location of their ELC provision.
- 82.4% of respondents stated that they were satisfied or very satisfied with their child’s experience of ELC to date.
- 68.3% of respondents were either satisfied or very satisfied with their child’s induction process.
- The majority of respondents, at almost 65%, identified an improvement in their child’s social skills with over half of the respondents seeing an improvement in their child’s communication skills.
- 51.2% of respondents stated that they had more time for other responsibilities as a result of the expansion of Early Learning and Childcare.
- 38.7% of respondents indicated that they had more money/disposable income as a positive impact on their family.
- 28.5% were now considering a return to work or study.
- 26.1% stated improved wellbeing/respite as a positive impact from the expansion of ELC, with 24.3% of respondents finding they now have more time to themselves. Learning points from the evaluation include a need to:
- Review transition processes to allow in person transition as soon as public health guidance allows. • Be mindful of the need for early in-person engagement with staff if public health guidance allows.
- Further promote Gaelic Medium ELC provision.
- Monitor demand for childminders.
- Monitor demand for eligible 2s placements.
- Continue to work towards the delivery of intergenerational support as public health guidance allows.
Vision for Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) in Aberdeen City
Monitoring of demand and consultation with parents and carers validates the vision set in the 2017 Delivery Plan.
Our vision is to provide ELC which is accessible, affordable, is of high quality and is available up to 50 weeks of the year. Provision will be sufficiently flexible to meet the needs of individual children, parents/carers and the wider community and will support parents to work, train or study, especially those who need routes into sustainable employment and out of poverty.
The following guiding principles will be used to inform our practice. All ELC provision across Aberdeen City will:
- Capitalise on intergenerational support
- Offer a level of personalisation to ensure maximum gains for children
- Be nurturing, inclusive and offer a holistic service to children and families in keeping with GIRFEC
- Feel owned by the community
- Fully utilise outside space to promote wellbeing • Be staffed by skilled practitioners who have opportunities to develop their skills further through a suite of professional learning suited to their needs and situation
- Be quality assured across a locality by one skilled practitioner who will have a key role in supporting parents to fully capitalise on the local offer.
Key Themes for Development
Based on the outcomes of our Evaluation of the Expansion of ELC, our consultation with parents and carers, and our engagement with key stakeholders, including staff voice, the key themes for development over the:
- Workforce support
- Community Partnerships
- Family Support
Improvement activity and actions for next 2 years are detailed below.