Supporting the workforce to be confident and safe
We have a collective responsibility to enable all staff to feel confident when returning to the workplace. They should have the opportunity to read and discuss the following:
- Health Protection Scotland guidance,
- The Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC, and
- The framework document COVID-19: framework for decision making – Scotland’s route map through and out of the crisis
As settings plan to welcome back children and families and staff, staff wellbeing must be protected. Staff will need time to re-connect, to meet, talk and 'check in' with each other.
Providers should communicate extensively with their staff to ensure that they are clear and confident in implementing the required public health measures and processes in advance of settings reopening.
As there is some evidence that Covid-19 may impact disproportionately on some groups (including Minority Ethnic communities), providers should ensure that occupational health services provide practical support and advice to Minority Ethnic staff, particularly where they are anxious about protecting themselves and their families.
Practitioners may find it valuable to access support for their mental health and wellbeing in the lead-up to settings reopening and once they do reopen, given many will be balancing the return to work with managing their own childcare needs and any stressors linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, including potential illness and bereavement within their own families.
The Scottish Government is working with partners from across the childcare sector to develop a directory of existing mental health, wellbeing and professional learning support for early learning and childcare, and out of school care, practitioners and childminders. This is updated and shared across the education and childcare sector at regular intervals.
In addition, Scottish Government has worked with Early Years Scotland to develop a new Team ELC Wellbeing Hub, a website which sets out vital information for the sector on maintaining their wellbeing at this difficult time, and creates opportunities for staff to connect with each other.
It is also important that professionals from across the early learning and childcare sector are provided with safe and supportive spaces to connect with colleagues from across Scotland in a virtual environment, to allow for professional dialogue and peer support to take place during this challenging period. The Scottish Government will work with Education Scotland to create such opportunities, for example via further instances of the successful #BeingMeBlethers professional learning events, which have enabled practitioners from across the ELC and childcare sector to engage in shared learning via Twitter.
The Scottish Government and ADES will gather good practice examples of successful workforce deployment and workforce support models adopted during delivery of critical childcare and share this learning widely across the sector.
As settings re-open staff will be aware that the pandemic will have had a unique impact on each child and their family, as well as themselves and their colleagues at work. It is important that the child is at the centre of their practice to ensure quality, whilst balancing safety and risk. Staff should support children and families to understand the need for the changes.
It is essential, at this time of transition, that ELC continues to be informed by the principles which underpin high quality provision. While aspects of practice may be delivered differently, practitioners will still be working to meet the needs of their children and their families.
Children have the right to play and learn, as set out in Article 31(1) of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Parties recognise the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life.
In Scotland, the Government has enshrined children’s right to play outdoors every day in its national Health and Social Care Standards – “As a child, I play outdoors every day and regularly explore a natural environment” (HSCS 1.32).
Practice that reflects the principles of nurture and the importance of relationships is also key.
Getting it right for every child (GIRFEC), with its focus on wellbeing, recognises that children and young people have the right to expect appropriate support from adults to allow them to grow and develop and to have their voices heard. Working in partnership with parents is essential, with two way sharing of information being fundamental to this. The GIRFEC approach is about responding in a meaningful, supportive way which puts the wellbeing of children and families at the heart of any support.
The national practice guidance ‘Realising the Ambition: Being Me’ talks about the crucial role of the environment. This includes the importance of physical spaces; the human, social environment of positive nurturing interactions; and children’s experiences. Settings need to be confident that they are providing experiences and sensitive interactions in a variety of outdoor and indoor spaces, in ways which best support the needs of children within the context of the recovery period. This will help develop the emotional resilience babies, toddlers and young children need to form a secure wellbeing base.
During the COVID-19 recovery period settings will require to adjust how they provide high quality provision. Some aspects of practice will need to be delivered in different ways to ensure the safety of all. Further information can be accessed through the ‘Realising the Ambition: Being Me’ page on the National Improvement Hub to provide practical support with this. The principles that underpin that high quality however remain unchanged. Best practice will:
- put the best interests of the child at the heart of decision making;
- take a holistic approach to the wellbeing of a child;
- work with children, young people and their families on ways to improve wellbeing;
- advocate preventative work and early intervention to support children, young people and their families; and
- believe professionals must work together in the best interests of the child.