The EIS has long campaigned to promote the critical role which GTCS registered teachers play in the delivery of high-quality nursery education. However, in 2002, with the repeal of the Schools (Scotland) Code 1956, the campaign intensified as the role of nursery teachers came under threat for the first time. The Code, which previously stipulated a ratio of one teacher to twenty children per nursery class, was replaced with legislation, requiring local authorities only to provide nursery children with ‘access to a teacher’. 

The consequential flexibility afforded to local authorities in managing the early years workforce gave rise to significant changes in the employment and deployment of teachers across the sector. Differing and ambiguous interpretations of ‘teacher presence’ and ‘teacher access’ resulted in inequality of children’s experiences in nursery, and diverse models of provision. In 2016, as part of the campaign to arrest and reverse the decline of nursery teachers, the EIS ‘Sustain the Ambition’ report was published, outlining the findings of independent research, funded by the EIS, into the value and contribution of qualified teachers in early years. 

This publication reinforced the central role of teachers in delivering high-quality inclusive education in nursery and was key to informing and building national and local campaigning activity. In the years that followed, a rising number of graduates in early years practice entered the sector and following an AGM resolution in 2020, were also offered membership of the EIS. In 2021, the entitlement to ELC rose from 600 to 1140 hours and despite the anticipated increase in the number of children accessing provision, and the criticality of quality early years provision to achieving greater educational equity, the number of teachers in the sector continues to fall.

Undeterred, the EIS has continued to campaign for meaningful minimum statutory access to a qualified teacher for our youngest learners and in support of teachers continuing to deliver quality educational experiences as part of the wider team of early years professionals and practitioners. The creation of the early years network, in March 2022, signifies this ongoing commitment, providing a forum for members to come together, promote and inform the advancement of this key EIS policy.