A leading academic has been tasked with heading up a review of the childcare workforce as part of “ambitious” Scottish Government plans to transform early learning.
Professor Iram Siraj is to lead a review team which will examine the skills and qualifications of those working in the sector, as well as how to ensure people are attracted to a career in childcare.
Children’s Minister Aileen Campbell announced the appointment of Prof Siraj the day before legislation is expected to be passed at Holyrood which will increase free childcare for three and four-year-olds.
If approved, the Children and Young People (Scotland) Bill will mean these youngsters, as well as vulnerable two-year-olds, can get up to 600 hours of funded care a year from August.
Meanwhile, Scottish Government plans could see youngsters benefit from 1,140 hours of free childcare a year if the SNP is voted into power in an independent Scotland.
Prof Siraj, of the Institute of Education at the University of London, worked as an early years teacher in the 1980s and has spent more than 25 years working as an academic and researcher.
She said: “I am delighted to take on the role of chair for this review of the early years workforce. It is clear that the Scottish Government has ambitious plans and a will to improve early learning and childcare in Scotland.
“There are a range of challenges and complex issues relating to the workforce which must be considered. I look forward to exploring these issues, together with a range of key stakeholders, in the course of the review.”
Full membership of the review group will be announced later, but it will include key figures from local government, the voluntary sector and private sector, as well as trade unions and others.
Ms Campbell said she was “delighted that Professor Iram Siraj has agreed to lead an expert review to ensure the development of the workforce matches the scale of our ambition”.
The Children’s minister added: “By boosting skills, ensuring high quality and recognising the value of those we entrust to give our kids the best start in life, we will attract the brightest and best to deliver the transformation in childcare. And by pursuing a shared vision we can secure the foundations for Scotland’s future as the best place to grow up.”
She argued that the provision of “high-quality learning and childcare” benefits children, their parents and their communities, adding: “We can improve outcomes and attainment for our children and, by giving parents new opportunities to return to work, boost family incomes and support sustainable, economic growth.
“That’s why, from August, parents of three and four-year-olds, and an increasing number of vulnerable two-year-olds, will be entitled to 600 hours funded and more flexible early learning and childcare.”
Ms Campbell continued: “The Scottish Government has also set out our longer-term ambition to transform childcare provision and ensure every child from one to school age is entitled to 1,140 hours each year, if Scotland gains full control of our finances following a vote for independence in September. This can help boost economic activity and support around 35,000 additional early years jobs - almost double the current workforce.”