Learning in the Early Years

The Head Teacher/Manager is responsible for overseeing the learning and the curricular provision in ELC and ensuring that learning and children’s progress is recorded and tracked over time to ensure quality.  Other senior members of the team may have responsibility for leading curriculum developments. However, there should be systems in place to ensure that this information is communicated regularly between all staff, including the manager. 

Realising the Ambition: Being Me builds on the premise contained in the original guidance Building the Ambition and Pre-Birth to Three, that our babies and children deserve the very best experiences throughout their learning journey; before birth and beyond. Realising this ambition can only be achieved if all of our services aspire to provide our babies, children and their families with flexible, accessible and affordable provision of the highest quality.

Research has shown that children’s life chances, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, can benefit socially, emotionally and cognitively by accessing world class early years education. The golden thread that links provision, opportunity and potential is quality. (RtA Page 7)

This guidance should be used with Education Scotland’s advice on Gaelic Medium Education (GME) to ensure that the principles of total immersion are followed. Interactions in Gaelic are a key driver in planning progression in the curriculum for GME. (RtA Page 12)

 ‘In Scotland we benefit from a curriculum model that spans the ELC and the early years of Primary School. The Early Level of Curriculum for Excellence is intended to support the implementation of a responsive, continuous, play-based curriculum for children aged 3 – 6. It describes experiences and outcomes for children’s learning in ways which have supported a more active, play-based approach to learning and teaching in early primary school and encouraged better continuity and progression for all children across all settings.’  Early Level Play Pedagogy Toolkit, Introduction, Slide 7 Play and Pedagogy Toolkit

Practitioners and families may need support to appreciate the learning within children’s play since

‘Play is multi-faceted and hard to define. It can be fun and joyful or difficult and complicated. This is a challenge for practitioners as the act can be misinterpreted as being ‘just play’. The intrinsic value of what a child is actually doing and learning can be missed or ignored and therefore seen as less valuable. Adults may consciously or unconsciously place more value on tasks they plan and lead with pre-determined outcomes.  Practitioners across ELC and school settings may describe activities they plan as ‘play’ whereas a child may not see these as play at all. 

‘Play’ is therefore both a tricky word and a complicated concept to describe.’

Early Level Play Pedagogy Toolkit, Why Play Pedagogy? ppt1, Slide 5 Play and Pedagogy Toolkit

For further guidance on pedagogy in ELC refer to –

Realising the Ambition: Being Me

Curriculum for Excellence

How good is our early learning and childcare?

Play and Pedagogy Toolkit

On the Highland Schools Digital Hub – Realising the Ambition Rollout in Highland – you will find recordings of events which took place to introduce staff to RtA.

This includes an overview with James McTaggart and bitesize sessions on;

Environments: Interactions, Experiences and Spaces

Responsive and Intentional Learning

Family Learning

Outdoor Learning

Other bitesize sessions are being added to the site as they take place


Managers should support EYPs to:

  • Foster sensitive greeting and goodbye processes that fit the flexible hours and do not interrupt the flow for other children
  • Ensure the pace matches the needs of the children, quiet spaces are available, and routines include “down time” with opportunities for children to rest.
  • Support staff to monitor fatigue levels and respond.
  • Check the daily routines to ensure children are not missing out, for example missing story-time as having lunch
  • Ensure meal and snack times are relaxed and offer opportunities to develop social and independence skills