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Scottish Study of Early Learning and Childcare

Father & sons reading
Published: December 2020

This study assesses the expansion of government funded early learning and childcare

Aim

The Scottish Study of Early Learning and Childcare assesses the extent to which the expansion from 600 to 1,140 hours of government funded early learning and childcare (ELC) for all children aged 3 to 5 and some eligible 2-year-olds, improves outcomes for children and parents, particularly those who are at risk of disadvantage.

Findings

Findings from the first three phases of the Scottish Study of Early Learning and Childcare have been published by the Scottish Government and are available below.

These are all baseline reports which set out the characteristics and outcomes of different groups of children who had been receiving 600 hours of funded ELC a year.

The Phase 3 report demonstrated some improvement in outcomes for children and their parents for those who had gone through a year of funded ELC between the ages of two and three. However, on most outcome measures, there remained a gap at age three between those who had been eligible for funding at age two and the nationally representative sample of 3-year olds. Differences in outcomes among the nationally representative sample were also evident depending on levels of income, parental education, deprivation and the health of parents.

Methods

The first three phases of a project that will run over several years using multiple samples have now been completed. The overarching purpose is to compare outcomes for children experiencing 600 hours of government funded early learning and childcare (ELC) with those experiencing the expanded 1,140 hours. The purpose of ELC expansion is twofold: firstly, to support children’s cognitive, social and emotional development, and secondly to support more parents into work, study or training.

The first phase involved collecting baseline data through a survey given to parents and keyworkers of 2-year-olds receiving 600 hours of ELC. These surveys collected information regarding, among other things, the child’s developmental progress, their health and general wellbeing and the impact of childcare on the parents’ economic activity. Observations of the ELC settings by the Care Inspectorate were linked to the survey responses given by keyworkers and parents.

In the second phase a nationally representative sample of 4 and 5 year olds who had received 600 hours of state funded ELC and were leaving ELC to start school in August 2019 were invited to participate in the research. Surveys of the children’s parents and keyworkers collected information on the same topics (development, health and wellbeing etc.) covered in the first phase. Again, as with the first phase, survey data was linked to observations of the settings made by Care Inspectorate staff.

In the third phase of the study, two groups of children were sampled: the eligible 2-year-olds who participated in the first phase and who were aged 3 at the time of data collection; and a nationally representative sample of 3-year-olds receiving statutory ELC. Parents and keyworkers completed questionnaires covering the same topics as were covered in the first and second phases. By following up the children who participated in the first phase as eligible 2s, we were able to assess the impact that receiving 600 hours of state funded ELC has had on child and parental outcomes one year on.  

A further three phases of the study will take place once the rollout of the expansion to 1140 hours of funded ELC has been completed.

Download the Phase 1 report

Download the Phase 2 report

Download the Phase 3 report