6. To ask the Scottish Government whether it will provide further details of its plans to entitle all children whose school start is deferred to access funded early learning and childcare in their deferred year. (S6O-00451)
Positive progress is being made on delivering the commitment to offer funded early learning and childcare for all children whose school entry is deferred. The legislation will take effect from August 2023, as per the timetable approved by Parliament on 3 February 2021. A pilot programme is already under way in five local authorities. To support local authorities in preparing for full implementation, we are investing £8.9 million to enable five additional local authorities to join the pilot from August 2022.
The Scottish Government is commissioning an evaluation of the pilot approach. That research will support local authorities with full implementation by evaluating approaches to policy implementation and parents’ perceptions of the process. We anticipate that full evaluation findings will be published in spring 2023.
Will the minister provide further information on how the pilots are progressing? Will she outline how the Government intends to communicate the change in order to ensure that all families, in the pilot areas and more widely, are aware of their deferral rights?
The pilot is progressing well, with all participating authorities supporting families with their new entitlement. The new pilot sites were announced recently, and local authorities are leading communication at the local level. Our ParentClub website has been updated to give clear information about deferral rights to parents and carers in pilot areas and other authorities.
We ask local authorities to consider parental communications when applying for the year 2 pilot places, and communication is a key priority for our deferral working group, which will meet on 30 November. We will use that opportunity to share practice and support local authorities with their local communication plans. The meeting will also allow us to gather useful practice to share more widely ahead of the full roll-out in 2023.