Children

Our children have the best start in life and are ready to succeed

ChildrenWhy is this National Outcome important?

It is during our very earliest years and even pre-birth that a large part of the pattern for our future adult life is set. The messages from research across a wide variety of fields, such as physical and mental health, education, justice and economics are clear: investment in a child's early years pays dividends for that child. This is true in terms of his or her educational outcomes, health outcomes, and future life prospects. Investment in the early years also pays dividends for society as a whole, not only in social capital but also in economic terms.

What will influence this National Outcome?

Our early years framework was jointly developed with local government in order to ensure that national and local efforts are all focused on meeting children's needs. The framework takes an early intervention approach, moving from dealing with the symptoms of inequality to addressing the causes. Through giving support at the first opportunity, we will offer better chances for those at risk, reinforce families, promote maternal health, tackle drug and alcohol misuse and strengthen communities.

The early years of life are largely defined by the family. A child brought up in a stable and nurtured environment is better placed to succeed in life than a child from a less secure background. We believe, therefore, that the biggest gains in improved outcomes and reduced inequality will come from supporting parents and carers, tackling health and other inequalities and by creating safer, stronger communities which are positive places to grow up in.

The approach behind Getting it Right for Every Child, our national vision for children's services, supports this intention and indeed the whole early years framework. We will continue to develop services which are integrated across the public sector and centred around the needs of children and families.

This is a long term effort. Improving outcomes and tackling entrenched inequality will not be achieved overnight. The benefits of early intervention can only be realised by prioritising resources across local government, the health service and the entire public sector and will be felt across outcomes relating to health, community well being and economic prosperity.

What is the Government's role?

The early years framework signals the commitment of both local and national governments to break this cycle through prevention and early intervention. We aim, in short, to give every child in Scotland the best start in life.

Developing parents' capacity to be the best parents they can for their children and helping them in the vital role that they play in their child's life is key to this. That is why we have developed a marketing campaign (playtalkread) and supporting website, showing parents that what you do makes a difference for your child.

Children need care and attention to thrive, especially in the vital pre and early school years. Working with local government, we will progressively reduce class sizes in primary 1 to primary 3. This will give more time for each child, improve behaviour and increase motivation. Together with the right level and quality of nursery provision, we are ensuring that our children are ready to succeed.

Improving children's diet and levels of physical activity can have a major impact on their health, with beneficial outcomes throughout later life. That is why, in addition to educating our young people about healthy lifestyles, we are championing healthy eating by having put in place legislation to enable local authorities, from August 2010, to begin to work towards providing nutritious, free school meals to all pupils in primary 1 to primary 3. We are also tackling poverty by having put in place (from August 2009) regulations to extend the entitlement to free, nutritious school lunches.

This Government is taking a whole-family and community approach to the best start in the early years, an approach that will make a lasting impact on future generations.

Related Strategic Objectives

Smarter

Healthier

Wealthier and Fairer

Children