Investing in the development and growth of the childminding
Childminders are a valued part of the childcare and early learning and childcare workforce. The Scottish Government is committed to supporting career-long learning which recognises and is tailored towards the unique learning environment childminders provide.
Families value the nurturing, home-based environment childminding offers and we want more families to be able to use their child's ELC entitlement in this way. We are therefore committed to promoting to existing childminders the benefits of becoming funded providers, and to supporting them to access and obtain the benchmark qualifications and annual hours of continuous professional learning they will need in order to meet the requirements of the National Standard for funded provision. Interim guidance on the requirements from August 2020 for Funding Follows the Child and the National Standard was published in July 2020.
The 2019 Scottish Childminding Association ELC Audit highlighted that the numbers (and share) of childminders either approved to deliver, or delivering, funded ELC increased between July 2018 and July 2019. The increases were particularly marked for 3 and 4 year olds with the proportion of childminders approved to deliver funded ELC for 3 and 4 year olds increasing from 2.3% to 12.6% between July 2018 and July 2019, while the proportion of childminders actually delivering funded ELC increased from 1.1% to 4.2% over this period. In further thematic sections below on supporting parental choice, we set out commitments to ensuring that parents understand the options available to them and benefits of different types of setting. Supporting informed parental choice is a crucial part of closing the gap between childminders approved to deliver funded ELC and those actually delivering it.
We are committed to working with our partners including the SCMA to identify any barriers to childminders meeting the requirements of the National Standard. This includes the requirements related to induction, attainment of the benchmark qualifications (including, where appropriate, presenting evidence of prior learning), and completing at least 12 hours per year of continuous professional learning. Throughout this process we will identify what further support the Scottish Government and partners could provide to childminders for their professional learning.
In the context of the decline in total numbers of childminders operating in Scotland in the five years to 2019, as highlighted in the 2019 SCMA Audit, we are also committed to promoting a career in childminding to new entrants, to ensure that families can benefit from the unique learning environment offered by childminders, whether they are delivering the funded ELC hours, or all-ages childcare.
The Scottish Government recognises that the SCMA's strategy for strengthening childminding over the coming years includes important ambitions to seek to slow the decline in the workforce, and bring it back into gain. In our role in government we are committed to supporting the SCMA and other representative bodies with this by ensuring that our workforce campaigns and cooperation with partners, such as Skills Development Scotland and the Department of Work and Pensions, represents childminding careers distinctly and positively. We also propose below to undertake action to promote and support learning opportunities tailored to childminders to support their continued development and engagement.
The Scottish Government has led or funded a range of recent activities which have been focused on supporting childminders in their learning and development:
- We developed and have regularly refreshed Your Childminding Journey, a learning and development resource launched by the Care Inspectorate in September 2017. This supports childminders in registering a service, induction, identifying valued skills, knowledge and understanding , and also in gathering evidence of prior learning to reflect on and improve practice.
- We worked with SVQ training providers to ensure childminders could access their training needs flexibly, at hours that suit them.
- We have developed a suite of free online continuous professional development modules for the entire ELC sector, which are available to childminders.
- In addition, using STEM strategy funding managed by Education Scotland, the SCMA have developed a suite of STEM courses and resources, which support the online modules and are aimed at childminding settings.
- Along with our partners Early Years Scotland, we have developed the Team ELC Wellbeing Hub, providing practical advice and support on managing wellbeing for childminders and others who work in ELC. While this resource was developed with funding from the Scottish Government, it is complemented by other sources of support which are also available including through the Scottish Childminding Association.
- We supported childminders to undertake their induction through funding for Individual Training Accounts (ITAs) to cover the costs of the SCMA induction support programme, which we supported the development of. In the autumn 2020 round of ITAs childcare was identified as a priority area for funding, in the future we will continue to monitor need and ensure that where there is a risk of over subscription we act to ensure access to opportunities.
- The Virtual Nature School provided a free training resource for all early learning and childcare practitioners – including childminders - wishing to increase and improve outdoor experiences for their children during the COVID crisis. A childminder case study from this programme has been developed.
- The Care Inspectorate are developing bite size sessions as part of the improvement programme to support the sector achieve the National Standard and improve practice in the setting. These are also available to childminders and the first of these are launched to support self-evaluation in the sector. Further sessions will be developed in the near future supporting the sector raise their knowledge and skills in specific areas. Sessions can be accessed through the Care Inspectorate HUB, www.hub.careinspectorate.com.
- Education Scotland has provided a range of online professional learning opportunities and resources throughout the pandemic. These have been available for childminders to participate in, or in many cases to engage with at a time of their choosing.
Across the coming months and years we are committed to continuing to support childminders to invest in their professional development for the benefit of the children they care for of all ages, to access opportunities to provide funded ELC, as well as to engage in discussion about the importance and role of childminders in childcare.
Building a vibrant, supported childminding sector in which we retain and engage the current workforce, will in the medium and longer term, provide the basis for promoting the opportunities of becoming a childminder for childcare professionals at all stages of their career.
Our Short and Medium Term Commitments
In the context of our commitment to developing and engaging current childminders:
1. Develop and host an 'In Conversation with' (virtual) event with the Minister for Children and Young People for childminders to discuss the important role childminders play for families, and how government can best help develop the sector.
2. We are developing the Team ELC Wellbeing Hub further, to allow childminders to connect with their colleagues across Scotland and share their experiences. In doing so we will work with the SCMA and other representative bodies to ensure that we add value to and complement existing support and networking opportunities they provide their members. We are also developing a further series of online wellbeing support events, which will run until the end of 2020. These events will run at varying times of day and on different days of the week to ensure as many childminders as possible are able to access the sessions.
3. Work with SCMA and other partners to scope barriers to childminders accessing training and practice support opportunities and resources, including the issue of evidencing Prior Learning, to inform further work in this area. Consider in particular development of more 'bite-sized' resources and flexible learning models to support access to Continuous Professional Learning.
4. Work with employability bodies including Department of Work and Pensions and Skills Development Scotland to promote childminding as a career choice.
5. Work with SCMA to enhance the presence of information on childminding on the childcarecareersscotland.scot website.
6. Develop new online support sessions, together with Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate. These sessions will include the involvement of childminders themselves in sharing their experiences alongside contributions from recognised experts from the field of childcare, early learning and child development. They will initially cover the themes below and develop through drawing on further ideas and suggestions directly from childminders;
a) the practical implications of the safe operating guidance, including protocols for if an outbreak occurs in the setting;
b) Realising the Ambition – Being Me in childminding practice;
c) Quality during recovery and beyond – including ensuring quality environments through the interactions, experiences and spaces offered in a home-based setting;
d) Learning within the wider community to provide ideas and support in creatively using local community space and resources as part of learning through play; and,
e) Self-Evaluation, supporting understanding of the approach used and the application of professional judgement.
7. Publish an additional chapter to "Out to Play" providing specific advice and guidance for childminders who want to increase and improve their outdoor play experiences for children. This will include case studies and practical examples.
In the context of better understanding trends in the childminding workforce to inform future actions:
8. Begin the independent research previously committed to into the trends within the childminding workforce, taking learning from the #TellSCMA: Childminding and You 2020 Survey to help frame this piece of work. This will be overseen by the Scottish Government, Care Inspectorate and SCMA
In the context of better enabling childminders to participate in the opportunity to provide the funded ELC entitlement:
9. Establish a short-life working group(s) with key partners, including sector representatives, local authorities, Education Scotland and the Care Inspectorate, to explore flexibilities and good practice which would better support childminders to offer the ELC entitlement:
a) in the context of the interim guidance on the National Standard, whether flexibilities are required in the short-term in order to support and assist childminders to meet the benchmark qualifications.
b) In the context of blended placements between a childminder and another setting, whether there is a need for a toolkit or practice guidance which supports the settings in communicating well together to ensure a joined-up plan to support the child's progression and achievement, and provide family support.
Our commitments over the longer term will see us continue to take forward focussed work to promote childminding as a career, incorporating learning from the research into workforce trends to help identify future targeted activity. Including establishing a dedicated working group to consider the results and action which may be required to address the issues identified.
We will link in with the Economic Recovery work being progressed by Scottish Government and partners to highlight employment opportunities in key sectors, targeting those who have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We will also ensure that our national childcare careers website reflects content on a career in childminding encompassing both ELC and School Age Childcare opportunities.
Working with our partners, we want to ensure childminders are fully supported to access the career-long training and practice support they need to meet the qualification and other requirements of the National Standard where they are funded providers for the national ELC entitlement. We also want to work with partners to explore opportunities to ensure that ELC students studying at college, are exposed to the career options of childminding within student placements as part of their course.