Scottish Context: The Kindergarten as a Factor of Inclusion for Migrant Children and their Families

Scotland is a country within the United Kingdom (total population circa 66.6 million) geographically covering the northern third of Great Britain, with a population of circa 5.4 million which is the highest level ever recorded with annual net migration +31,700 (this and subsequent statistics available as of July 2018).  Although Edinburgh is the Capital, Glasgow is the largest city with a population of circa 598,830 and Aberdeen is the third largest city with a population of circa 220,420.

Aberdeen is situated in North East Scotland nestled between the River Dee and River Don. It is commonly known as the ‘Granite City’ due to its buildings which were built of locally quarried grey granite. Oil was discovered offshore Aberdeen in the 1970’s and the city is now referred to as the oil capital of Europe. Since the economy of the city is critically linked to the oil industry and specifically the price of oil, there have been periods of very rapid growth and periods of sudden decline. Currently with the oil price recovering slightly from a slump to a low of $42 standing at $68 today (July 2018) Aberdeen is a city recovering from economic downturn.  There are two Universities including a world renowned medical school and hospital that serves a large though not densely populated hinterland and other traditional industries such as fishing and farming vie with new technology based companies to fill the gap in jobs left by the declining oil industry.

Scotland has an ageing population and growth over the next 25 years is projected to come from inward migration.  Historically, Scotland has been a country of net out-migration, with more people leaving to live elsewhere than moving to live in Scotland. However, since the 1960s, net out-migration has greatly reduced, and from 1990 onwards Scotland has mostly experienced net migration gains. Since this point, net migration has risen to the most recent figure of 31,700 in the year to mid-2016 (National Records of Scotland, 2017).  The majority of the population (including immigrants) live in the central belt area of Edinburgh and Glasgow.

Across the UK as a whole the picture is quite different, and particularly in parts of England.  More people come to the UK than leave it and although annual net inward migration is at its lowest point since early 2014, it still stands at 244,000.  Migrants make up a bigger proportion of the UK population now than they did in 2000. The UK has committed to taking in 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 as part of the international humanitarian effort.

People who breach the terms of their entry visas, simply overstay as tourists or enter the UK by risking their lives to cross the channel or stow away in vehicles through the Channel Tunnel, are breaking the law and are illegal immigrants. It is not entirely clear how many illegal immigrants there are in the UK, although estimates range from 300,000 to over a million.   The politics of migration is becoming increasingly fraught and divisive, Castles et al, (2014) and Cobley (2018).  Defert (2012) cited in Piccardo (2017) states,“Our societies are increasingly destructured and characterized by phenomena of deterritorialization and reterritorialization.”

The graph in Fig 1.0 is interesting to compare attitudes in Scotland and England/Wales.  The Scottish government policy is very different and the discourse around migration but the graph does not really reflect this in terms of people’s attitude to increasing or decreasing numbers.  Everywhere there is more appetite for decreasing the number of migrants coming to the country.  This may be important, more so than government policy, in terms of how inclusive the society is to newly arrived migrants such as those that are the focus of our research. It is impossible to know if the figures given in this one survey are realistic.  We are living in turbulent political times in the UK and it would be dangerous to make assumptions about the views and attitudes across the country and between home nations. Equally in the graph in Fig 1.1 we can compare the UK with Sweden in terms of attitudes, again noting that this is just one survey that may not reflect reality.  If it does reflect reality it may be a surprise that there is not a significant difference in respect of percentages feeling greater diversity is positive or negative in the two countries.  Attitudes are more important to the experience of people, in this case migrant children and families. In respect to this research it is the attitudes of teachers and early years practitioners towards the arrival of migrant children to their setting; to embracing other cultures; to teaching English; to providing teaching in another language and communicating with parents who do not speak English etc rather than any policy, that will be impacting on the experience of these young children.  Hawlik and Otterup  (2019) However, attitudes may be influenced by policy.

This research project focuses on the inclusion of very young children and families through the experience they encounter in ‘kindergarten’ – which we take to be early childhood education and care (ECEC) provision in the partner countries (partners in this project include Sweden, Scotland, Austria and Czech republic).  In Scotland we consider the ‘early years’ to span 0 – 8.  Kindergarten would translate to our provision for 3- 5 year olds in what is referred to as their pre-school education. The education and care provision for children is now referred to as Early Learning and Care (ELC) in Scotland and ELC has been provided in recent years by three sectors:

  • public (government funded in local authority nursery classes);
  • private (paid for by parents often called day care) and
  • the voluntary sector which includes playgroups (Scottish Pre-school Play Association (SPPA) is Scotland’s largest voluntary sector provider of direct support services to community led childcare organisations)

This has resulted in a patchwork of provision across Scotland and the rest of the UK which has  developed over the last 5 decades, Bonetti (2018).

Local authorities provide early learning and childcare in nursery classes in primary schools and nursery schools. However local authorities have also made arrangements with private and voluntary providers to make sure that there are enough places available to meet the demand.  There are a variety of different types of early learning and childcare providers including:

  • local authority nursery schools
  • nursery classes in primary schools
  • local authority or private day nurseries
  • nursery classes in independent schools
  • playgroups
  • childminders
  • child and family centres run by social work departments
  • community childcare centres
  • college, university or workplace nurseries

Not all childcare services offer funded early learning and childcare places. Local authorities are in charge of commissioning places and providers must work in partnership with them.

The provision of educationin Scotland is the responsibility of local authorities who are under a statutory duty to ensure that there is adequate and efficient provision of school education in their area.  In that context, local authorities may review their school stock and how the location and condition of their schools meet with population patterns and educational needs. When local authorities are proposing a change in education provision, there is a statutory requirement on them to engage in a formal consultation process, in line with the requirements of the Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010.  In Scotland, 32 Education Authorities are responsible for ensuring that statutory requirements are met and that they are diligent in taking forward nationally agreed policies and guidelines. They are also responsible for the spending and accountability for educational funding. They have responsibility for the continuous improvement of services to meet the needs of their local communities.  Across Scotland, local authorities adopt different service structures. Increasingly, education is part of a wider department, which can also include services such as leisure, culture, sports, the arts, community learning and social work services. HM inspectors, working across all areas of learning, support and challenge the work in the 32 authorities, through the process of inspection.

Early learning and childcare (ELC) is a generic term used to cover the full range of early education and childcare available in Scotland today. The term early learning and childcare is intended to emphasise that the care and education of very young children are not two separate things, and that babies and young children are learning all the time from all their experiences.

ELC settings are all those which offer education and childcare to children up to school age (the year a child will reach 6). These include settings known as family centres, nursery schools, nursery classes attached to primary schools, and childminders. Early learning and childcare settings can be operated by local authorities, private businesses, voluntary sector organisations, and in the case of childminders, self-employed individuals.  The term ‘early learning and childcare’ was introduced in the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act 2014. The Act replaced the previous entitlement of up to 475 hours per year of free sessions of pre-school education for 3-5 year olds, with a more flexible offer of up to 600 hours ELC per year for 3-5 year olds and certain eligible 2 year olds. Parents may also purchase additional hours of ELC for children who have an entitlement, and those who are not yet entitled to free hours.

The Scottish Government has recently consulted on Blueprint 2020  This document sets out the Government’s vision for ELC, its progress to date in realising the vision, and seeks views on the future developments.  The Early Years Framework (2008) out a vision for early years services in Scotland to ensure that children get ‘the best start in life’.  Building the Ambition (2014)  is national practice guidance for all those delivering early learning and childcare. Pre-Birth to Three: Positive Outcomes for Scotland’s Children and Families is national guidance to support practitioners and students working with babies and toddlers aged 0-3 and their families.   Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) builds on the foundations developed in the critical years pre-birth to three. Within CfE, children are entitled to a broad general education from age three until the end of S3 (their third year at Secondary school when they will reach 15). The Early Level of CfE for most children spans the period of time from age three until the end of Primary 1, intending to support a smooth transition in learning between ELC and primary school.

The Early Years Collaborative began in 1999, EYC (2019). This body set out targets to achieve, and sustain beyond, 2018.  This has put early intervention, cross sector working to support young children and the importance of early learning and care experiences firmly at the top of the agenda for the current government in Scotland.  The collaborative has been initiated, supported and promoted by John Carnochan (once Chief of Violence Protection Unit at Strathclyde) Sir Harry Burns (at the time Chief Medical Officer for Scotland) and Tom Hunter (entrepreneur and philanthropist) You can listen to John Carnochan talking about the importance of ELC and early interventions in:

  • Redemption – an old idea that still works: John Carnochan at TEDxUWS

Across the Scottish education system there is an ongoing drive to achieve equity through addressing issues of social justice and inclusion, see National Inclusion Framework (revised 2014) at  and   More recently the current government (Scottish National Party, SNP) is investing in provision for very young children, specifically ‘vulnerable two year olds’ and attempting to close what is referred to as the ‘attainment gap’ see National Improvement Hub at  This research project sits within this context and this was evidenced in the OECD policy brief ten years ago where it was stated that:

“What happens in the classroom obviously affects equity, but the relationships between schools, parents and communities also matter. Student learning benefits from an effective school-home relationship, but weak support at home can hold back children from deprived backgrounds. Effective provision for migrants and minorities in the education system is also a key challenge. “ OECD (2008).

The Getting it Right for Every Child (GIRFEC) policy framework underpins all practice in Scotland across disciplines i.e. education, healthcare and social care. It underpins inter-professional practice supporting children and families. (GIRFEC available at:

There are significant research reports supporting this drive to improve ELC provision in Scotland including:


Scottish Government would identify the following actions as achievements in supporting ELC:

Measures in the Scottish context designed to support migrant children and their families in terms of inclusion would include:

  • New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy 2018 – 2022
  • COSLA Strategic Migration Partnership
  • Scottish Refugee Council
  • Asylum Support Application UK
  • Children in Scotland
  • Talent Scotland
  • National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum
  • Parenting across Scotland
  • NHS entitlements: migrant health guide
  • Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Here to Stay? – Migrant Youth Project

The New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy 2018 – 2022@ led by the Scottish Government, COSLA and the Scottish Refugee Council.  Scotland’s second New Scots refugee integration strategy is promoted as being built on a foundation of collaboration, partnership and engagement. The purpose of the New Scots strategy is to coordinate the efforts of organisations and community groups across Scotland involved in supporting refugees, asylum seekers and communities. The New Scots strategy sets out a vision for a welcoming Scotland where refugees and asylum seekers are able to rebuild their lives from the day they arrive. Four overarching outcomes to achieve the strategy vision are supported by objectives and actions set out across seven themes and the principles of the New Scots approach, which will guide implementation, are also set out.

There are five principles which form the New Scots approach:

  • Integration From Day One
  • The key principle of the New Scots strategy is that refugees and asylum seekers should be supported to integrate into communities from day one of arrival, and not just once leave to remain has been granted.
  • A Rights-Based Approach
  • The New Scots strategy aims to empower people to know about their rights and to understand how to exercise them.
  • We support refugees and asylum seekers because it is the right thing to do; people should be able to live safely and realise their human rights.
  • Refugee Involvement
  • The New Scots strategy actively encourages refugees and asylum seekers to be involved in helping to shape the strategy and its delivery.
  • Inclusive Communities
  • The New Scots strategy supports refugees, asylum seekers and our communities to be involved in building stronger, resilient communities which enable everyone to be active citizens.
  • The New Scots strategy has been developed collaboratively to coordinate the efforts of organisations and community groups across Scotland involved in supporting refugees and asylum seekers.

COSLA(the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities) Strategic Migration Partnership @  is the representative voice of Scottish local authorities.  COSLA’s Migration, Population and Diversity team has responsibility for policy issues relating to migration to Scotland in all its forms (including asylum seekers and refugees), human trafficking, population and demographic change, and also provides oversight of equality and human rights issues.

COSLA Strategic Migration Partnership (CSMP) is a function of the Migration, Population and Diversity team.  It is one of a number of local authority-led Strategic Migration Partnerships based across the UK and works with partners from across the public, private and voluntary sector as a means of ensuring that Scotland is a welcoming place for new migrants.  The key partners include Scottish local authorities, the Home Office, the Scottish Government and a host of other stakeholders with an interest in migration issues in Scotland.

The Scottish Refugee Council @  offers the following advice services:

  • Families with children aged 0-8 years who have recently entered the asylum system can get support through FamilyKeyworkService
  • If refused asylum and have exhausted appeal rights, are destitute with no access to public funds, the Destitute Asylum Seeker Serviceled by Refugee Survival Trust may be able to help
  • advice on housing, education, work, health and how to get involved in Scottish life through Refugee Integration Servicewhich is available to people who have recently received Refugee status, Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave to Remain
  • The Scottish Guardianship Servicesupports unaccompanied young people going through the asylum system in partnership with Aberlour Child Care Trust
  • Scottish Refugee Council Directory: Links to useful websites, from legal and financial advice to links to arts and culture. Has a section on children and young people


The Family Keywork Service offers specialised advice and support to families with young children aged 0-8 years who have recently entered the asylum process. Support is for at least six months after arrival or dispersal to Scotland.

There is a focus on early identification of the needs of parents and children and building families’ understanding of asylum, health, and education and other UK and Scottish systems.  Support from this service includes a family support plan which is created with the family and it is reviewed regularly to make sure needs are being met.  A number of outreach activities is organised by this service , including family days out.

Advice is also provided on:

  • preparation for Home Office interviews
  • asylum support and accommodation
  • access to legal advice
  • using health services
  • access to schools and nursery
  • using local community services
  • family life and social connections

Asylum Support Application UK @  provides assistance in completing applications for asylum support and application to notify the Home Office of any change of circumstances.   Those seeking asylum will have difficulty supporting themselves and may be entitled to apply for asylum support to help with accommodation and cash support for food and clothing. The Asylum Support Application teams can give support to help complete applications and advise on issues such as:

  • How to claim asylum
  • Financial support
  • Finding legal representation
  • The asylum process
  • Accessing health care
  • Accommodation support
  • Any other asylum issues

Children in Scotland is a charitable organisation involved in:

  • Championing the participation and inclusion of children and young people
  • Working to ensure that support for children, young people and their families is appropriate, available and accessible
  • Challenging inequalities
  • Leading and developing the children’s sector workforce

Talent Scotland is an organisation whichprovides  information for workers moving to Scotland including information on living in Scotland, visa requirements, work and industry and also a link to the e-magazine ‘Welcome to Scotland’

The National Association for Language Development in the Curriculum is anational website for English as an Additional Language with a wide range of publications, links, information and resources

Parenting across Scotlandis a partnership of charities which offers support to children and families in Scotland that works to focus on parenting issues

The Here to Stay? – Migrant Youth Projectis research that explores the lives of young people who arrived as migrant children from Eastern and Central European countries after the EU enlargement in 2004. It examines the effect migration has had on their lives, family relationships and friendships, and sense of identity and belonging in the British society.  The drivers for this research include the fact that Europe is experiencing a period of unprecedented migration and recent reports in relation to climate change suggest this is likely to go on increasing regardless of the political situation in the Middle East. See Fig 2.0

OECD (2015) states that “education policy has an impact on integration, and countries can learn a great deal from each otherabout how best to achieve that goal”. The report considers the changing profile of migrants, the impact of numbers of migrants and as above the importance of learning from others.

Significantly in terms of this project (KINDINMI) it states, “Even though PISA consistently shows that attendance at pre-primary school for more than a year is associated with better school outcomesamong 15 year olds, the students who could most benefit from these programmes – disadvantaged and immigrant students – are the least likely to participate.”

We suggest that the preschool can play an important role in supporting families to become familiar with the habits, traditions and culture in the host country and the ‘kindergarten’ is a possible threshold to better inclusion. We will consider the changing profile of migrants across Europe, in Scotland and in Aberdeen.  We have manageable numbers in a small city to be able to carry out research and have an impact. This gives us the opportunity to adopt good practice and we are able to disseminate findings through our student body.

Our exploration will use

  • Comparison across partners
  • Case Study Approach
  • Questionnaires – practitioners/NGOs
  • Semi-structured interviews – parents/practitioners
  • Data from longitudinal national and international studies

In the Scottish context and specifically in Aberdeen city and Aberdeenshire, we will explore the current practice and attitudes towards teaching migrant children English and teaching in Mother Tongue. We are aware of a quite stark difference between, for example Sweden and Scotland in terms of teaching host language and teaching in Mother Tongue. Hawlik and Otterup  (2019) We will take this opportunity to understand the processes and possibilities of changing practices and attitudes in both these areas.


Bonetti, S. (2018). The early years workforce – A fragmented picture. Education Policy Institute.

Castles, S de Haas, H and Miller, M. (2014) The Age of Migration – International population movements in the modern world, Palgrave MacMillan.

Cobley, B. (2018) The Tribe: The liberal left and the systems of diversity, Andrews UK Ltd.

Crul, M., Schneider, J., and Lelie, F.,  (2013) Super Diversity, VU University Press, Amsterdam.

EYC (2019) Early Years Collaborative  @{accessed April 2019}

Fine, B.2001. Social Capital Versus Social Theory: Political Economy and Social Sciences at the Turn of the Millenium, London: Routledge

Fukuyama, F.1999. Social Capital and Civil Society, Fairfax VA: Institute of Public Policy, George Mason University.

Hawlik, R. and Otterup, T. (2019) Hawlik and Otterup discuss KINDINMI matters: developments of mother tongue tuition in school education in Sweden and Austria, podcast @

McGonigal, J., Doherty, R., Allan, J., Mills, S., Catts, R., Redford, M.,  McDonald, A., Mott, J. & Buckley, C.(2007) SOCIAL CAPITAL, SOCIAL INCLUSION AND CHANGING SCHOOL CONTEXTS: A SCOTTISH PERSPECTIVE, British Journal of Educational Studies, 55:1, 77-94, DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8527.2007.00362.xrg/10.1787/9789264249509-en.

OECD(2008) Policy Brief January 2008 Ten Steps to Equity in Education

OECD(2015), Immigrant Students at School: Easing the Journey towards Integration, OECD Reviews of Migrant Education, OECD Publishing, Paris, https://doi.o

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Piccardo, E.(2017) Pluri-lingualism as a Catalyst for Creativity in Superdiverse Societies: A Systemic Analysis.  Frontiers in Psychologywww.forntiersin.orgDecember 2017 Vol. 8 Article 2169.