We need the Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd, to fulfil the commitment she made in parliament on 2/10/19 asap. She promised to bring in the necessary legislation to fund a further year of nursery for all children legally deferring their primary one start (mid-Aug to 31 Dec born children and not just Jan/Feb borns who are already entitled to this). Here’s why:
KEY EVIDENCE & ARGUMENTS
Covid-19 Related Arguments
- Many nursery children have missed out on large chunks of their early level education due to lockdown and continue to be impacted upon in different ways through this pandemic. Many opportunities for social and emotional development have been deeply curtailed.
- Many nursery children have not been able to access support services both during lockdown and now such as educational psychology, speech and language therapy etc as these specialists are currently not permitted to meet with children.
- Children who started primary one this year were not able to benefit from transition activities and it is still unclear whether this will be possible for next year’s cohort. Some councils refuse funding on the basis that they believe a child will be fine in primary one if they have an enhanced transition programme.
- Automatic funding would reduce the number of meetings required with nursery staff etc to assess applications which is beneficial for all during this pandemic. How would such meeting even take place between parents and staff when parents are not permitted to enter EY establishments?
- Many families are even less likely to be able to afford to self-finance a further year of nursery for their child (if refused funding) due to the economic slump/loss of jobs caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Non-Covid19 Related Arguments
- From FoI responses to all councils, the campaign estimates that discretionary funding for a further year of nursery is requested for approximately 1100 children in Scotland annually and that councils fund an average of 81% of these per year. However, this rate varies widely by local authority (from 13% in Inverclyde to 100% in East Ayrshire, Moray and Renfrewshire) as can be seen here: comparison of average discretionary deferral funding rates in each local authority.
- We believe that many local authorities’ current policies and practices contravene section 2.4 of the ADES Pre-Fives Sub Committee Guidance on Deferrals to Primary Education document which local authorities are bound to follow under sections 3.8 and 3.9 of the Standards in Scotland’s Schools Etc Act 2000,Section 34: Guidance on Pre-School Education. Section 2.4 of the ADES document states that “Some children were simply not ready for primary school. They should not have to prove any kind of educational or psychological deficiency in order to be considered for a deferred pre-school place”.
- We do not understand why so many councils require a supporting statement from a professional if a parent wants to apply for a further year of funded EL&C for a mid-Aug to end of Dec born child. As primary caregiver and the empowered party by law, the parent should be the one to ensure the child’s right to Article 3 of the UNCRC(“adults must do what is best for me”).
3b. Also, why does the parent/carer need to write a supporting statement? This disadvantages parents who are less articulate or familiar with education policies and research they can draw on to support their application. The Education (Scotland) Act 1980 (section 32.3) recognises the parent/carer as the best placed person to make this decision yet many councils’ policies undermine this.
- Councils would be paying the cost of a year of nursery or a year at primary for a child either way. No “extra” cost would be felt until such a deferred child decided to stay on for sixth year at high school as that would be the first point at which they were in the system for an additional year as such. In fact, councils would, on average, make a saving of £511 per child in their deferral year according to the data from 2017-2018 on the Local Government Benchmarking Framework websiteas it cost £4974 per pupil for a year at primary and £4463 per pupil for a year at nursery. And this is before the saving to staff’s time from being involved in the process is factored in. This is for 600 hours of EL&C for a child whose deferred year would be from 2019-2020
- How can some local authorities provide this funding almost automatically with very little process involved yet many councils have multi-staged approaches? See point 2 on the Evidence page of the website: Comparisons of Decision Making Processes for Dealing with Discretionary Deferral Funding Requests.Also, this articleclearly compares Glasgow’s and Edinburgh’s processes with Falkirk’s.
- As can be seen in the linked document in point 6 above, Falkirk Council changed its policy in September 2018 and will now automatically approve all funding requests for an additional year of nursery for Sep – Feb born children going forward. If Falkirk Council can do this at a time of budget cuts, why can’t all councils?
- Children with birthdays from 1st Sep – 31st Dec are currently entitled to the least amount offree EL&Cin the first place. They are therefore doubly disadvantaged when councils refuse to fund a further year for them as they have only had 1.5 years of nursery in comparison to deferred Jan and Feb-born children who are automatically entitled to 2.5 years. Surely the saving from those Jan and Feb born children who are not deferred and therefore do not take up a subsequent year of nursery could be used to defray the potential cost of automatic funding for mid-Aug to end Dec borns? Many councils also allow “early entry” to school each year for some children meaning that such children with 1st March to mid-Aug birthdays will have had as little as one year in nursery. Again, the saving made from these children’s places at nursery could offset the cost of providing a further year for mid-August to end Dec-born deferred children.
- When a discretionary deferral request for an extra year of nursery funding is turned down, at least thirteen local authorities do not allow parents/carers to self-finance a continued place in a council nursery (see point 3 on the Evidence page of the website: Councils Which Allow Self-funding of Nursery Places. We do not believe this is child-centred; a continued placement should be prioritised over allowing a new child to start.
- Some parents in Glasgow City Council who applied for deferral funding during school registration week in November 2018 received letters confirming this funding in the week beginning 6th Dec 2018 whereas parents in many other local authorities still have to wait months for this. This creates stress and uncertainty as the closer August gets, the more it weighs on people’s minds as they want to know where their child will be going and if they’ll be able to afford to pay for nursery themselves if the funding is refused (if the nursery even has a place for them to do this and if they are lucky enough to be in one of the local authorities which allows parents to self-fund a continued nursery place).
- Many councils’ application forms require a supporting professional’s signature and statement but why is this required if it can be overruled by a panel? Why is a panel required at all if a supporting professional has signed the form and written a supporting statement about why the child would benefit from a further year in nursery? If the decision is a truly child-centred one, surely the parent is best placed to make that decision and not a panel which has never met the child? This seems an unnecessary use of staff’s time, particularly when councils’ budgets are being cut and there is a national shortage of educational psychologists.
- With 99% of parents in Scotlandtaking up the current sixteen hours of free early learning and childcare, the reality is that many are dependent on it to enable them to work. The cost of childcare is prohibitive for many parents without the sixteen hour subsidy. When a council refuses continued funding, this means that many have no option but to send their child to school despite their legal right not to and despite believing it is not in their child’s best interests. This further compounds disadvantage as well-off parents will pay for the extra year whereas those who cannot afford it will be unable to do so. It is therefore only a choice for the wealthy.
- Some parents are afraid to speak out about this issue because by the time they find out about the application process and that they might not get the funding, they have started going through the process of applying for continued funding and fear that raising their concerns might risk their chance of getting it. We believe this is an indication of the flawed subjective nature of the existing process in many councils.
- There is also a severe lack of parental awareness of the legal right to defer(as less than 20% of parents in a national survey knew they could defer any child still age four at the school commencement date.
- The whole process is degrading, difficult and insensitive at a time when parents are extremely concerned about their child. It undermines parents’ legal right and forces them to feel the need to list their child’s “deficits” in an effort to provide a well-evidenced and convincing supporting statement (despite this being contrary to section 2.4 of the ADES Guidance as dealt with in point 2 above). It erodes trust between parents and nursery/school staff which conflicts with the aims of the Scottish Government’s 2018 “Learning together: national action plan on parental involvement, engagement, family learning and learning at home 2018 – 2021”as well as councils’ own parental engagement strategies.
- The Give Them Time campaign wholeheartedly endorses play-based learning in primary one and supports enhanced transitions for those children who would benefit from them. However, the argument that schools should be “child-ready” is an impossibility as the teaching of early level CfE outcomes and experiences, and measuring children’s progress against the benchmarks for these by the end of primary one, are non-negotiable. These are taught to all p1 children yet many of them, for various reasons, are not ready for these.Parents choose to defer their child because they know they will be much better placed to cope if not thrive in p1 after a further year in an EL& C setting with a ratio of staff/children of 1/8 compared to 1/25 in p1. Also, schools being “child-ready” will not help the issue of immaturity further up the school, or when sitting exams
- The fact that local authorities (those which currently permit self-financing of continued nursery places for deferred children in their own EL&C settings) stand to profit from refusing a funded deferral is at best a conflict of interest if not completely unethical. Yet parents in such local authorities are stuck in the position of being forced to be grateful that such a possibility exists as they might still be able to do what is best for their child if funding is refused by their council (if they can afford it).