Rural childcare provision, innovative models and the needs of agricultural families: research

This report outlines the main findings from research exploring the challenges of rural childcare provision, innovative models and the needs of agricultural families

Research methods

The project involved an initial review of existing research on barriers and challenges in provision and innovative models within the childcare sector, as found in a report by the Care and Learning Alliance (CALA) titled 'ELC Expansion: Exploring innovative delivery models to sustain rural communities' (March 2020).[3]

The findings presented here highlight many of the same issues, and provide in-depth discussion of the challenges rural providers face in terms of transport, staff recruitment, affordability, child numbers, accessibility, funding and the working hours of parents.


A total of nine interviews were conducted with providers operating in both accessible and remote rural areas, those following both innovative and standard models of provision, and providers managing settings of different sizes. This information is set out in Table 1 (Annex 1). The interviews aimed to gather providers' views on changes within rural childcare, and the requirements of agricultural families.

The interviews lasted 30 to 50 minutes, and focused on the practical and financial challenges childcare providers experience in rural areas, levels of demand for childcare at alternative times and specific issues for example staffing, training and transport. Whilst most providers were identified by the researcher, a snowballing technique was also used to draw on respondents' contacts:

  • interviews were arranged by email, conducted by phone at a convenient date and time for respondents, recorded and transcribed
  • separate interview schedules were prepared for providers using alternative models (for example outdoor learning) and those using standard models
  • whilst the interviews gathered perspectives on COVID-19 and its impact on rural childcare provision, providers were also asked about issues in a normal context.
  • Whilst many of the providers were long-established, several had opened in the last one to three years; two respondents were crofters who manage childcare services

Whilst this research involved a number of settings following innovative models, there may be other models that are suitable for rural providers and families. Further, whilst many of those interviewed also spoke about their own requirements as parents living in a rural area, this report focuses on the views and perspectives of childcare providers.



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