Large public sector employers (those employing more than 500 staff) along with Scotland's colleges and universities were contacted to ascertain whether staff and students have access to Early Learning and Childcare ( ELC) provision on-site, or whether any partnership or other arrangements exist with local nurseries.
The initial sample included 124 contacts: 40 large public sector employers, 43 individual NHS sites, 26 colleges and 15 universities.
In almost all of the public bodies contacted it proved challenging to identify the person or department with responsibility for, or knowledge of, ELC policy or support and various different departments and/or sites were contacted in an attempt to obtain this information.
Availability of on-site provision
Of the 124 bodies and sites contacted:
- On-site provision was identified at 2 of the 40 large public sector bodies.
provision was identified at 9 of the 43
- 2 of these are in-house ( NHS run) provision.
- 7 are private nurseries that operate on or adjacent to the hospital grounds.
- 6 of the 26 colleges reported that they have on-site provision.
- 8 of the 15 universities reported that they have on-site provision.
Reasons for not offering on-site provision
Those without on-site ELC provision were asked whether they have any partnership or other relationship with local nurseries, but none was reported.
The main reasons for not offering provision include:
- Access to a childcare voucher scheme is offered instead.
- A lack of space available for ELC premises.
- Lack of demand, or presumed lack of demand as some said they had not been approached about ELC provision.
- Financial reasons.
Those without on-site provision were asked for any information on support for staff to access ELC and all who replied said that staff have access to childcare vouchers through the Childcare Voucher Scheme. None had any arrangements in place with local nurseries, although some provided staff with information on the names and locations of nurseries in close proximity.
Findings from on-site ELC providers
Those with on-site provision were recontacted in order to collect more detailed information but in all cases it was the nurseries themselves that were able to provide the details required. There was no evident correlation between the number of staff at each site and whether or not there was ELC provision.
7 NHS site nurseries supplied details: 2 in-house and 5 privately run.
11 college / university-site nurseries supplied details: 3 are in-house provision while 8 are privately run.
Information was provided in relation to one other large public sector employer; this is on-site provision run by a private company.
The key findings from the onsite settings were:
- Within both NHS and education settings there were both private and in-house nurseries.
- Both settings had a range of different sizes (number of spaces) of nurseries.
- All offered spaces for children aged 0-5 years old.
- All sites offer funded spaces and the majority of these are in use at any given time.
- NHS sites all report being at or near capacity. This is also the case for college / university sites during term time, although less so during the holiday periods.
- There was a wide range of different hourly rates.
- Most had similar opening hours (7am or 8am to 6pm).
- College / university spaces are predominantly used by staff and students. Within the privately run NHS sites around half or slightly more are used by staff, with the remaining spaces used by the general public.
- Some of the universities and colleges provided subsidised rates to students accessing early learning and childcare at an onsite setting.
- All sites are able to accept children with additional support needs; most reported that support is accessed as and when required to suit each child.
- All sites had access to outdoor space.
Benefits of on-site provision
Some nursery staff reported that the main benefits of on-site provision identified were the reduced travelling time (and therefore shorter day for both child and parent). Some nurseries reported that the proximity to the workplace means that parents are less rushed and so can spend longer in the nursery, forming a closer relationship with nursery staff which can be beneficial in improving nursery staff's knowledge of the needs of each child.
Encouraging organisations to offer on-site ELC
There seem to be a number of approaches that could be adopted in order to encourage organisations within other sectors to offer ELC to their staff; however, these can pose some logistical and/or financial challenges.
Bodies may consider offering accommodation to a private nursery; this would mean an initial financial outlay on the part of the organisation but the ELC provider would then manage provision as a private business with no additional costs to the organisation. In this instance, the private nursery would need to be convinced that there would be enough footfall to fill available ELC spaces. However, lack of available physical space was reported as a barrier to on-site provision of ELC so bodies may not be in a position to consider this route.
Another route would be for organisations to set up their own nursery and manage this business themselves. However, discussions with public sector organisations not currently offering any ELC would suggest that this is unlikely to be the preferred option as this will need an ongoing commitment of time and resources.
Setting up stronger links with local ELC providers might also be an option and some organisations do currently provide lists of local ELC providers to staff. However, public sector organisations might not be in a position to guarantee up-take of a specific number of nursery places. While offering staff a guaranteed nursery place might be welcome, neither of the respondents not offering on-site ELC that more detailed information was collected from were aware of staff struggling to find nursery accommodation. Also, neither of these respondents felt that setting up links with local providers would be a priority for the organisation.