The Scottish executive is facing a call today to move away from the traditional idea of schools and towards the introduction of children and young people’s centres, which would encompass not just primary and secondary education but full-time pre-school services and out-of-school care and where at least half the staff would have a graduate or equivalent qualification.The call comes from Children in Scotland – a national agency for voluntary, statutory and professional organisations and individuals working with children and families. In oral evidence today to the Scottish Parliament Education Committee’s Early Years Enquiry, Bronwen Cohen, the chief executive of Children in Scotland, will call for more radical thinking around schools. She said the concept of a children and young people’s centre built on the idea of integrated community schools.
The organisation believes that ensuring access to pre-school services within the kind of centres it envisages is key. It says giving every three and four-year-old in Scotland the right to a part-time pre-school place was a step in the right direction, but this entitlement needs to be extended so every child from whatever economic group has the same universal entitlement to a full-time, whole-day place at pre-school. Children In Scotland says more and more parents are working and need child care. Universal, full-time provision would not only simplify parental arrangements but would also simplify children’s lives.
It also wants to ensure that early education and childcare staff within the centres are highly qualified and well-paid in the light of research that shows children do better in settings with higher qualified staff.
Children in Scotland says the proposed centres would strengthen links between early education and childcare and school-age education, in the way that community schools have improved links between the primary and secondary stages. They would help children make the transition between services, enable better planning and make it clear that lifelong learning was a lifelong process. On funding, it accepts that developing centres linked to other services would need ring fenced finance for local authorities and it is recommending that the Scottish Executive sets up a national fund to encourage innovatory models for the development of the centres.