Early years and landscape architecture

A workshop with Senior Practitioners in August 2018 on the Scottish Governments Early Years Agenda. The output of the discussion formed part of a workshop on early years at the Education Buildings Scotland conference November 21/22, 2018, EICC, Edinburgh hosted by Scottish Government. The results of the work were further developed with young people and presented to John Swinney Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills

The key outcomes for the profession are:-

  1. More outdoor learning space to be included in the design of education facilities.
  2. Additional funding to be provided for outdoor space.
  3. Landscape embedded early in the procurement process.


Scottish government plan an increase of the early learning and child care entitlement to 1140 hours per year by 2020. This applies to all 3 and 4 year old children, and eligible 2 year olds. The Scottish Government has committed to invest £476m between 2017-18 and 2020-21 to support the ELC expansion programme. With the total funding announced in April 2018 local authorities are now moving forward with their plans.  This investment will support over 900 planned projects across Scotland, including over 130 planned new build nurseries and around 100 outdoor developments.

Recent work with the Northern Alliance suggests that outdoor experiences are a major element of the ambition to deliver the ELC agenda. This includes 100% outdoors and designed improvements in existing spaces, and new build. To enable effective experiences, it is necessary to ensure that decision makers ask for enough landscape space, of the right quality as a key requirement across all investment.


To equip clients in early years shape expectations and budgets for designed landscape in early years settings and to support their decision making in procurement with KPI’s, and learning from practitioner experience.


  1. A landscape professional focused workshop to draw out a practical hit list of priorities and actions to support early year commissioning clients maximise the investment in designed landscape for ELC experiences
  2. An ELC practitioner/landscape professional workshop engaging around the draft practical landscape advice to agree priorities and promotion
  3. A short summary note, which is accessible, practical and purposeful supported by case studies to support early years clients across Scotland

Key issues for consideration


  • Adaptation of existing school environments, inside and outside, to support early years using a mix of refurbishment, extensions and enhancement
  • New builds
  • Parks in urban settings


  • Using space to facilitate learner led practice and family support
  • Investing in the key structure of landscape to facilitate a variety of adaptable settings and experiences
  • Supporting infrastructure and tools to create the different settings which adapt based on changing learner needs and practice
  • Integration of learning experiences: how do outdoor settings for early years link with settings for primary and other learning stages in a school or campus?

Client requirements

  • What support can we give clients around what kinds of spaces, what amount of space and what quality of space might best achieve their early years ambitions
  • What support can we give clients around the priorities for landscape in terms of for example from grey to green infrastructure, siting to maximise landscape, using construction spoil etc to shape topography on site and avoid going to landfill, minimising area allocated to turning spaces, bins etc and maximising area allocated to learners
  • What practical support can we offer clients around shaping budgets and bills to maximise landscape spaces: are there examples of for instance, not investing in some internal spaces and putting the budget into landscape?
  • What practical support can we offer clients around management and maintenance
  • What examples do we have of projects that illustrate some of the successes we are promoting?
  • What key performance indicators for landscape might we be able to share to support clients in the strategic briefing and commissioning stages?


More informed client decisions which drive better landscape spaces supported by adequate resources around the needs of young people and families in ELC settings.

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