Reform Scotland, the independent think tank, has called on the Scottish Government to urgently adapt its early years funding policy in order to end the discrimination at the heart of the current regime.
In a new briefing paper – Closing the early years gap – Reform Scotland has highlighted the inequality in the Scottish Government’s provision, which it says leads to only around 50% of children receiving the full two years of provision which the Government says it offers.
Only children born between March and August are guaranteed to receive the full two years’ entitlement, with children born thereafter receiving only 18 months’ worth. Children born in January and February, but starting school aged 4, receive only 15 months which, based on the Government’s expansion to 1,140 hours per year, means that the younger children will be entitled to over 750 hours less than the older children in their year-group.
Commenting, Reform Scotland Research Director Alison Payne said:
“This week thousands of children across Scotland will be starting school for the first time. While every child is different and develops at their own pace, the fact that some children will have received two years of government-funded early years education while others received far less is simply unacceptable. It is creating an attainment gap before school has even started.
“The Government has recognised the vital role early years provision plays in the development of a child and Reform Scotland has welcomed its progressive policy in this area at every turn. However, the huge inequality in entitlement is a regrettable unintended consequence and the Government must now take steps to address it.
“This is an easy fix. Just as all children, irrespective of their birth date, are entitled to seven years of primary school education with a single start point, they should also all be entitled to two years of early years and childcare with a single start point, probably the August, two years before they are due to start school.
“The Government knows this discrimination exists. Ignoring this issue can contribute to the attainment gap at a time when the Government seeks to reduce it. The ball is in the Government’s court to level the playing field.”