Increase in early years ASN funding desperately needed to support young learners
A survey of early years practitioners conducted by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists has shown that there has been an increase in the number of children in Scotland experiencing difficulties with speech, language and communication since the pandemic. Almost 90% of those surveyed reported seeing a rise in the number of children with communication needs. Here, the EIS looks at the need for increased funding in Early Years settings.
The results of the survey, conducted by the Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, come as no surprise to the EIS, and echo the calls which we have been making for some time about the imperative for increased investment in core education funding and in front line support services to meet the rising level and severity of additional support needs in Early Years settings and in schools.
Over the last two years, our members in Early Years have reported an increase in the number of children presenting with delayed development and with minimal speech and language acquisition. Linked to this, we have received reports of an increased number of violent incidents, arising from distressed behaviours, most notably in younger children who have not previously presented in this way.
Starting behind in the early years means staying behind – for individual children and for the education system as a whole
Early identification of need and early intervention strategies are key to meeting needs and to delivering the policy ambitions set out by the Scottish Government in ‘Getting it Right for Every Child’. However, chronic systemic underfunding both of Education and the front line services which support children and young people have resulted in a gapping chasm between policy and the reality in practice.
Investment in targeted interventions, such as those identified in the report, is long-overdue and must also be accompanied by investment in qualified Early Years teachers, as a key part of the Early Years workforce. Teachers play a vital role in guiding and supporting children through nursery and into school, using their specialist knowledge Increase in early years ASN funding desperately needed to support young learners of pedagogy and child development to identify additional support needs and co-ordinate engagement with specialist agencies. And yet, despite this, teacher numbers in nursery have fallen by 52% since 2010. We must reverse this decline to provide the high-quality educational experiences our youngest learners need and deserve.
International research and the recent Muir Report, ‘Putting Learners at the Centre’, have underlined the importance of high-quality Early Years provision and of investment to meet needs at an early stage. We can’t afford to ignore the warnings from OECD research: ‘Starting behind in the early years means staying behind – for individual children and for the education system as a whole’.
It’s past time for the Scottish Government to act; to invest in core education provision, to invest in front line support services; and to invest in our youngest learners by giving them meaningful access to qualified teachers.