3. Approach – How will we build the system?
Our approach to designing and building a system of school age childcare will be people-centred and place-based.
By this we mean that the people of Scotland are supported and empowered to actively participate in the definition, design and delivery of their public services. This approach is consistent with the Scottish Approach to Service Design (SAtSD) which is now part of standard practice for the design of public services in Scotland, particularly digital public services, and has been used successfully in designing Scotland’s devolved Social Security system.
Taking a people-centred approach to this work will ensure that we don’t just design services and system structures in the right ways, but that we design the right services and the right support system. It means that the school age childcare system will be co-designed with those who use services and those who deliver them. As we design and build the school age childcare system we will put the needs, rights and experiences of those who use and deliver services at the heart of our decision making.
The basis of a place-based approach is to work with and for communities to determine what is important to them. We will align work to our Place Principle, agreed with the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA), to help overcome organisational and sectoral boundaries, to encourage better collaboration and community involvement, and improve the impact of combined energy, resources and investment.
We expect that the needs of families, and the resources available to meet those needs, will differ between communities in Scotland. We also recognise that, over time, these different needs and resources have led local networks of childcare providers, who know their own communities, to develop childcare solutions tailored to meet local needs. By taking an approach which delivers the outcomes which are important to particular communities, we recognise that co-design may lead us to distinct school age childcare systems and services in different places.
Our people-centred and place-based approach is set out in our Programme Approach Principles as shown below.
1. We listen to what people have told us is the problem before we start designing a solution.
2. We design our school age childcare system around people and communities, and aren’t constrained by existing delivery models. We work across our childcare programmes and the public, private and third sectors to do this.
3. The school age childcare system should be co-designed with those who use services and those who deliver them. The services which make up the school age childcare system will put the needs, rights and experiences of those who use services at the heart of their decision making.
4. We use inclusive, accessible and flexible design methods so people can participate fully and meaningfully in co-design.
5. We are clear about what people can expect from the design process, and what decisions are and are not available for co-design.
6. We use and share the best evidence available to inform the design process. Where evidence is not available, we will look further to find the answers.
7. We understand that people may access the wider childcare system at different stages, depending on the age of their children. They may also move between different services within the system. We commit to coherence across our childcare programmes to ensure that families’ experience of childcare is consistent.
8. We understand that the school age childcare system is rooted in communities. We will design a system in which childcare and other services can come together in the right way, in the right spaces, and in the right places for people.
9. We will prioritise existing community assets, considering how we can re-use, support and grow them as part of a future system of school age childcare.
10. We recognise that this programme is one element of wider work to improve outcomes for families and communities. We will work across Government and with the wider public sector to design systems which make sense to people, and solve whole problems for them.
Putting the approach principles into practice
The school age childcare programme approach principles are an evolution of the engagement work we began in 2019, and which we described in the Draft Framework for Out of School Care in Scotland. This work used both classic engagement, and innovative approaches such as forum theatre to involve parents, carers and, children and young people in discussion of the problems that school age childcare solves or could solve for them.
The principles now underpin our school age childcare People Panel project and our Children’s Charter project, as well as our work on wider projects with providers and within communities.
“The kind of childcare system you design depends on the communities you want to create.” (People Panel Member)
Children’s Charter – Co-design with children and young people
We have worked with A Place in Childhood to develop a Children’s Charter, visiting children in primary schools in Highland, Alloa, Shetland, Aberdeen and Dundee,
and spending time with a group of young carers. The children we spoke to came from a mix of communities including rural, urban and island communities, had experience both of attending after school activities or not, and included children whose families belong to one of the six priority family types.
The children mapped out and then guided us on a walk around their local area. On the walk, they told us about the places which are important to them and why, and the things they do round about the school day and in the holidays. Back in the classroom, we talked about who should run a great after school club, and what children would enjoy doing there. We used everything we heard to help children write a local Charter for school age childcare.
In January 2023, we brought children from all locations together for a national workshop in Dundee, to negotiate and agree a final draft of one national Charter. This Charter sets out all of the children’s thoughts about why we need school age childcare, how school age childcare should be run and by whom, where it should take place, and what activities should be on offer. It also sets out principles which the children agreed should be respected in school age childcare settings.
The National Children’s Charter for School Age Childcare in Scotland is now available to read and use, alongside other publications, including the charters local to the participating schools, a Gaelic version, and posters.
The finished Children’s Charter is important to our co-design approach. We will continue to share it across Scottish Government, with our local government partners, the people and organisations who deliver and support the school age childcare system and with other children and families. We will use it to make sure that when we make decisions about the system, we think about what is really important to children. In particular, we will use the Charter in our engagement with childcare providers, and to steer the course of the work we carry out in our Action Areas.
The People Panel – Co-design with providers, parents and carers
Phase 1 – Discovery and insights
We have recently worked with external partners to deliver a discovery phase of the school age childcare People Panel project. The People Panel consists of parents, carers and childcare providers, including childminders, other regulated childcare providers and activity providers. Panel members came from rural, urban and island locations, and all six priority family types were represented.
Engagement with panel members took place between early June and September 2022 in Campbeltown, Argyll and Bute, Shetland, Fife, Perth, Dundee and Glasgow. Over 100 parents and carers participated, and over 30 childcare and activity providers. The recruitment of panel members from families and from the sector was supported by local authority partners, by community organisations, and by the Scottish Out of School Care Network and the Scottish Childminding Association.
Panel members generously shared their stories, their hopes and concerns for a future system of childcare and responded positively to the opportunity to participate.
“We appreciate that you came, to see what it’s like here. It’s not the same as Glasgow.” (Parent, Campbeltown)
“To be honest, it’s just good to be listened to” (Parent, Shetland)
“This is democracy in action” (Parent, Glasgow)
“It feels difficult asking for shifts that work with children when it means other people have to work weekends” (Parent)
“Grandparents looking after the children changes the relationship. There’s guilt in asking them. I want them to enjoy looking after the kids, not to feel they have to” (Parent)
“I feel guilty because I need to take more shifts to pay for bills going up, but that means I won’t have as much time with the kids. It’s a really difficult balance” (Parent)
During this discovery phase, we spoke with participants about how affordable school age childcare might support parents and carers into work, and how it might help protect them from leaving work. Panel members spoke about their experiences of making complex decisions, in ever-changing circumstances, about school age childcare, work, family and finances.
This complexity was even more keenly felt by Panel members with disabled children.
“We just want our kids to have what everyone else’s kids have.” (Parent)
“My son was really thriving in his Summer Club. The woman who runs it said, ‘Why not have him come here after school?’ I just couldn’t do it. I knew it would be better, but I just don’t have the strength right now to go through the fight again.” (Parent)
“There is a two-year waiting list for after-school club.” (Parent)
Given time together, Panel members shared not just information but also ideas with one another. As we recognise with our place-based approach, each community is unique. However, whether Glasgow or Unst, Campbeltown or Perth, when People Panel members came together to talk about childcare, invariably there reached a point where the conversation shifted from problems to problem-solving.
By taking a person-centred approach to delivery, we will ensure that we continue to create opportunities for parents, carers, children and providers to work with government to co-design school age childcare services which meet their needs.
“This. Just bottle this and do it everywhere. They’ve really helped me with (my daughter) because I did have some problems. I get a text everyday saying how she’s been and to remember it’s a trip tomorrow so get her at 8am. They’re brilliant” (Parent)
Phase 2 – co-design and prototyping
In Phase 2 of the People Panel, we built on the insight from Phase 1, as we developed further co-design work with both the parents and carers who use school age childcare services, and the people who deliver and support them. In Phase 2, we tested our people-centred approach by working with parents, providers and other support organisations in a Glasgow community to explore how to move from discussing problems to collaborating on solutions. We will learn from this prototype and expand it as we progress work in our community tests of change. In the next year, we expect to build on this project to develop an offer to parents, carers and others in our Early Adopter Communities, which will prepare them to participate confidently in the co-design of local services. This offer will be targeted to the priority families and to communities where access to childcare is currently difficult for those families. We will align the co-design work taking place in our Early Adopter Communities, creating a network of communities where parents and carers and children and young people are actively involved in shaping and influencing their local school age childcare offers.
Beyond the People Panel - supporting co-design at a national and local level.
We will take what we’ve learned from Phases 1 and 2 and consider the best options for embedding co-design at both national and local levels. Our aim will be to create the conditions within all local areas to support effective co-design of school age childcare services and systems. At a national level, we will take account of the experiences of parents and carers when we design the policies which support the school age childcare system. We will also involve parents and carers in the person-centred design of public services, such as our work to scope a delivery mechanism for a funded school age childcare offer.
Dedicated provider co-design
Alongside parents and carers, school age childcare providers have been valued participants in Phase 1 and 2 of the People Panel. We will continue to facilitate providers’ involvement in community-based co-design with parents and carers. In addition, we will develop plans for delivery of a dedicated provider co-design work stream, beginning with engagement in 2023.
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