School age childcare: progress report

The school age childcare progress report captures what we have learned over the past year since our public consultation and sets out the steps we are taking to move closer to our vision for school age childcare in Scotland whilst considering the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Progress – Tests of Change

The Scottish Government is committed to developing a robust school age childcare policy and testing the change required to deliver our vision, even against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

We have a good understanding of the wide range of services which some families currently access but testing how these services can be made more accessible, affordable and sustainable requires us to invest in a programme of innovative change projects.

Our engagement to date supports the position that there is no single approach to delivering successful school age childcare and that successful models will be different for different families and different communities.

Supporting a range of community based projects is fundamental to better understanding the potential benefits that school age childcare can deliver for the children and families who access those services, whether that's in supporting them to access childcare, activities, food, or wider family support. 

We believe those delivering services within communities know their families best and we want to support them to innovate, test and expand their services to create the models of childcare their families need. 

Access to Childcare Fund

In July 2020 we opened our £3 million Access to Childcare Fund which will test new models of school age childcare that will be more accessible, flexible and affordable for low income families. 15 projects have been awarded funding to deliver a range of childcare models, with particular focus on demonstrating impacts for families from the six priority family types identified in the Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.

The fund is focussed on enabling organisations and services to test and deliver change through close collaborative working with those families accessing their services, creation of a mentoring and peer network across projects, and continual monitoring and improvement in order to continue with what works and to change what doesn't. 

The fund is managed by Children in Scotland and supported by an expert advisory group. Projects will be further supported by a range of partners including Evaluation Support Scotland (ESS) and the Children and Young People's Improvement Collaborative (CYPIC). 

Both evaluation and improvement are at the heart of the Access to Childcare Fund. The value in the fund is understanding how these innovative models of childcare are working for low-income families. This iterative process will enable us to test change across the school age childcare landscape and the evidence gathered from these projects will inform our policy aim of making services more accessible, affordable and flexible for low income families.

We are also working closely with local employability partners in order to maximise the opportunities to align the Access to Childcare Fund with the £12 million Parental Employability Support Fund (PESF) and PESF Boost to support parents to enter employment, training, study or to increase in-work progression.

Within the fund there are a range of projects which provide tests of change focused on particular creative solutions but also areas which we know present challenge for delivery of sustainable provision.

Six priority family types as identified in Tackling Child Poverty Delivery Plan.

Lone Parents
Person with a disability
3+ Children
Minority Ethnic
Youngest Child <1
Parents Aged <25

Access to Childcare Fund
Project Test of Change
Action for Children, Moray Action for Children are looking to test childcare provision in a rural setting with an established Employability Programme to encourage families into employment. The childcare will take place after school and during holidays, including provision of food. 

The test of change relates to actively linking their school age childcare provision to their established employability programme, reducing barriers to parents (particularly women) being able to take up work. 
Clyde Gateway, South Lanarkshire Clyde Gateway are the enabling organisation whose project – the Supporting Families project – involves a collaboration of delivery partners in and around Stonelaw High School in Rutherglen. The project aims to support a minimum of 150 children (ages 5 upward) to access subsidised or free school age childcare, combined with family support services. The test of change for this project relates to wrapping discrete services, provided by individual partner agencies, around the family so that support feels integrated. 
Flexible Childcare Services Scotland, Dundee and Aberdeenshire The Fund is supporting two FCSS services, one the well-established FCSS service at Fintry, Dundee and the other a new service being set up at Fraserburgh. Both services are consulting with parents and children to understand needs and wants, including establishing a children's forum. This will trial a fully flexible model where parents pay only for the hours they use. 

The test of change in Fintry is the impact of more and better use of outdoor provision. The test of change in Fraserburgh is focused on the sustainability of providing a new service for low income families. 
FUSE Youth Café, Glasgow FUSE in Castlemilk, are working with Pavillion Youth Café (Easterhouse, Glasgow) to provide drop-in youth clubs for children and young people, offering them wider development activities too. They provide a mix of after school, holiday and weekend options for families to use. 

Fuse will extend the offer of youth club opportunities both at Castlemilk and Easterhouse to include some school age childcare linked to 2 local primaries at Castlemilk with support from an Family Support worker. 
Hame fae Hame, Shetland Hame fae Hame, are working to develop flexible childcare options for families, both before and after school, with a particular focus on outdoor provision. They will use their family monitoring system to track positive outcomes for families on low incomes.

In addition to testing the impact of more use of outdoor space, this project is also introducing breakfast provision as part of its activity to improve the flexibility of the offer to parents locally. 
Inverclyde Council A real need for holiday provision was identified as a barrier to opportunities for families in Inverclyde. The local authority is looking to focus on outdoor play, health and wellbeing and the creative arts in its targeted childcare offer for families, including children with complex additional support needs.

The fund is supporting a trial of 2 school age childcare holiday hubs (one in Port Glasgow and one in Gourock) as well as a specialist hub for children with complex additional support needs. 
Stepping Stones for Families, Glasgow Operating in Possilpark, Stepping Stones for Families will test the expansion of its holiday provision, offering a truly barrier-free experience for parents, as well as expanding its weekend childcare offer. They will also run a financial literacy programme for parents and carers to improve skills.
supERkids, East Renfrewshire Focusing on providing high quality, parent-led childcare for children with significant or complex additional support needs in East Renfrewshire. The Fund will support supERkids to offer weekend provision to their families, to provide children experiences they otherwise would not have. They will also provide holiday clubs suited to children and young people with a wide range of disabilities. 
The Wee Childcare Company, Angus The Wee childcare company will open 2 new rural services in Angus to test rural childcare focused on flexible provision. One is based in Arbroath, serving two local primary schools, and provides a useful test of provision in a rural town setting. The other will be based in Monachie village, potentially serving up to 6 small remote and rural primary schools, testing improved access for remote rural families and addressing the hidden poverty associated with many remote rural communities.
St Mirin's Out of School Club, Glasgow St Mirin's out of school club in Glasgow recognised a unique opportunity to work in partnership with the school in which they are based. They created an ambitious plan that incorporated improving the accessibility of their service by increasing the hours at both sides of the school day. The school and out of school work in collaboration supporting families who may work irregular hours. They are also creating a shared outdoor play and learning space within the school to build children's confidence in the outdoors.

See case studies for details on how Hope Amplified, LIFT, SHIP and The Indigo Childcare Group are using the Access to Childcare Fund to reach families who could benefit most from accessible, affordable and flexible school age childcare.

Case Study: Access to Childcare Fund

Indigo Childcare

Indigo is a long established childcare group in Glasgow. Established initially in Castlemilk, an area of multiple deprivation in Glasgow's east end, Indigo has a unique, seamless offering of learning and care for families of children from birth to 16yrs old. 

Services include early learning and childcare, out of school care, a unique registered youth out of school service and a mobile crèche. Operating as a social enterprise, Indigo is a registered charity, focused on ensuring all families have access to outstanding quality learning and care regardless of where they live and parents can provide their families with the best possible start in life in confidence. 

Some Unique Characteristics of Indigo

Seamless Service

Indigo understands the challenges families experience trying to juggle multiple childcare providers with work, training or learning and family life, especially around transition points.

Our seamless service means that parents returning to work after a child has been born can register with Indigo and know that appropriate childcare is available until their child is 16yrs old, no need to 3 or 4 research points, re‑registering, settling and so on. 

Family Matters 

Funded by the Access to Childcare Fund, Family Matters enables families experiencing difficult financial times to access quality school aged childcare whilst trying to get their finances back on track and progress out of poverty. It also offers the opportunity to pilot a weekend OSC service and is supported by a Family Support Co-ordinator. 

To identify families who are most in need of support and well placed to engage with the support offered to help improve their family's quality of life and financial wellbeing, we have established a referral system with key partners in the community including schools, local authority joint support team, the DWP and a number of local third sector partners including referrals from our own staff team. 

Referring partners have been briefed on the purpose of Family Matters. A degree of flexibility has also been built into the criteria to acknowledge the complexities of supporting working families during the pandemic. 

The service will essentially test 4 things: 

  • Does subsidised school aged childcare support families to gain, sustain or progress in employment or learning? 
  • Does targeted Family Support empower families to improve their quality of life and enable sustained progression from poverty? 
  • Do working families in Castlemilk require weekend childcare? 
  • Can a referral scheme, subsidised childcare options and a family support function, support the longer term sustainability of out of school care provision for older children and young people? 

It is our aspiration that families who access Family Matters will be able to: 

  • Improve their family's financial wellbeing 
  • Find, maintain or extend work, training or further learning confident that their children are safe and well looked after 
  • Be more flexible in their hours of work confident in access to weekend childcare 
  • Be more confident in the strategies and the resources available to them to improve their overall family wellbeing, be that, financially, family relationships, health and wellbeing, their home environment or work, education and training. 

Information on our response to Covid can be seen here:

Case Study: Access to Childcare Fund

Two of our projects are focused on delivering more affordable and accessible childcare for disabled children and children with additional support needs. This was highlighted as an area of increased need within our consultation, noting the particular challenge associated with accessing appropriate school age childcare provision.

 Support Help and Integration in Perthshire – SHIP

SHIP run youth clubs, sports groups, holiday clubs and after school clubs for children with complex additional support needs (5-18 years). The parent led charity has been running since 1986 and have extensive experience in supporting children to access activities and their local communities

SHIP's aim is to ensure that every child has the best possible chance to reach their full potential by running groups that promote life & social skills through fun activities and play. The time the children spend at the clubs also allows for their parent/carer and families some time for respite, work & study. All our clubs are run by highly trained experienced staff and trained volunteers (14 years +).

COVID-19 highlights and challenges for out of school care

Our families have struggled with the pressures of full-time care, home schooling, work and juggling their other family members' needs. This having had a detrimental effect on family life and their health & wellbeing. 

Over the summer 2020 SHIP successfully ran a holiday club programme. This was very different to those in previous years (supported less children and for shorter sessions) but 80 of our most vulnerable families were supported. We worked closely with the Care Inspectorate, Perth and Kinross Council inclusion team and social work to ensure those most in need were supported in a safe environment. 

In August 2020 SHIP was delighted to receive a grant through the Access to Childcare fund. This grant was to allow SHIP to run after school clubs 5 days a week for children across Perthshire. By running the after school clubs, we would be giving families a chance to work, study and/or spend time with other siblings. 

Because of our building owner's COVID-19 concerns, we had to find a new venue that had disabled access, large enough rooms to support "bubbles" of children, personal care rooms sensory room or space to make one and storage for all the equipment need to support and run the groups. We were delighted in November to find suitable facilities locally at Letham St Marks Church. By working in partnership with the Care Inspectorate, the building was approved for use on a temporary basis very quickly.

This allowed us to start up our after-school club by December 2020. We already have a total of 19 children attending the group from schools across Perth. Our plans moving forward are to be supporting at least 15 children per day and ensuring that rural families can attend a club. We are planning to achieve this by either supplying transport or looking at operating in more rural areas of Perthshire.

The main difference SHIP is aiming for is to improve the quality of life for families with children with complex additional support needs. Whether that be by offering respite at the end of a school day to allow parents to care for other siblings or by improving the families financial position by having a longer working or more flexible working day. To evidence changes happening we are working closely with families, schools, and the local authority to ensure we are offering a high quality, reliable and accessible childcare service. We will have regular meetings and surveys to ensure we are reaching every family needing childcare and being flexible with the care on offer.

Case Study: Access to Childcare Fund

Some of our projects focused on the support and provision of childcare for lone parent families. LIFT (Low Income Families Together) tells us about how they're working in the local community to help improve outcomes for their families.

Low Income Families Together (LIFT) – Muirhouse Community Centre

After discussions with the families we support through our Support and Advocacy services we could see a pattern arising – childcare, or lack off, was having a huge impact on families, particularly single parents who had no one to help with after school care. 

Childcare was mostly required for either an hour or two while Mum or Dad were at work. Local schools finish between 3pm – 3.30pm and there is little after school care on.

We discussed this in length and proposed to trial a flexible childcare pilot with a cost to parents of just 50p. Children could come to the after-school care straight from school until 5.30pm.

We knew we would have 12 parents who would require this service to allow them to work, we had three who were planning to attend college. 

We were aware we had children who have challenging behaviour who would benefit from a more relaxed childcare service, allowing them to mix with their peers, make new friendships and feel more confident in making their own choices. Increased mental well-being from having a safe environment to learn new skills has been report as well as improved communication, allowing children to take the lead in decision-making and programme delivery of the service.

We had six weeks of excellent service delivery. Children took turns in preparing the Tuck Shop and collecting the money, they worked together to hand out tuck, count the cash and keep stock of what would need replaced. The children planned the outdoor activities which were extremely successful – girls choose football and ball games as well as arts and craft, boys enjoyed the outdoor activities and the arts sessions. We had planned homework sessions after we had developed the after school care but the second lockdown has forced us to close. 

We have had to adapt our services to online Zoom sessions, keeping to the after school club hours to keep continuity for the children.

Of the original 12 mums, eight are now working from home, two have sadly lost their jobs and two have other childcare arrangements in place. We managed to support four families to be allocated a place at schools as the children are vulnerable and require extra support. We had to negotiate with the local school regarding the school placements and give support and advocacy to secure two days at school for the four children.

We know how much our families need a service like ours, especially in an area of deprivation like Muirhouse. We currently have a waiting list and as soon as guideline's allow, we will have our services up and running again as they have proven incredibly beneficial to the families we support.

Case Study: Access to Childcare Fund

A number of projects are exploring ways to reach minority ethnic communities in their areas, but one service in particular is focused on provision for such families. Working with the African Community in Glasgow and surrounding areas, Hope Amplified provide after school, holiday and youth club services that meet the community's needs, especially those who are unemployed or on Universal Credit. Here, they tell us how they are using their funding to make childcare more affordable to families from the African Community to allow them time for work, training or study.

Hope Amplified

Hope Amplified provide a range of services for the African community in Glasgow and South Lanarkshire, including youth clubs, after school clubs and support for young parents looking to enter work. 

The Access to Childcare funding is allowing us to make school age childcare more accessible and affordable for families from the African community who otherwise would be unable to afford childcare cost due to poverty and changes to the benefit system.

Before the pandemic we operated a Holiday Food & Activity Club aimed at helping vulnerable school-aged children and young people from the African community to build confidence, manage their behaviour, improve their life-skills and aspiration and maintain mental health. With the Access to Childcare Fund, we have expanded this from the original 61 participants to now over 180 places for vulnerable children and young people from the community. 

We aim to bring about real and positive change to the lives of people in our communities currently struggling with financial and social issues who cannot afford the cost of childcare through the provision of out-of-school childcare. In South Lanarkshire, for instance, we are using Fermbrae Meadow, provided by South Lanarkshire Council at a reasonable cost, for gardening and outdoor activities for the community.

The Funding has helped us expand our organisation's capacity to recruit more sessional and part-time staff. Without these new staff members, we would be unable to serve the community well. Households that would otherwise be facing mental health challenge due to lack of social contact are benefiting from free activity packs and food parcels, helping young people to cope with the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Anika - not her real name - is a single mother who uses our services. She has three children, two of whom are aged 5 and 8 have been on waiting for an out-of-school childcare placement. This is her story:

"I, like many other parents from the African community, had been on waiting list to access school age childcare facilities for some time. It is a frustrating experience for everyone in our community and to further compound the already difficult situation, we have no out of school childcare facility with the minority community in mind. 

The lack of out of school care opportunities for children from the minority community have compounded and help sustain economic inequality due to lack of access to employment. I was at the point of giving up when my Housing Association referred me to Hope Amplified. 

The out of school childcare facility was almost oversubscribed at the time I called to speak with the Project Manager to discuss the possibility for my two children enrolling at their facility. We were indeed lucky to secure two places at their project. 

My two children are enrolled now, and they are enjoying going for activities. I am now looking for a part time employment where I can use my skills to contribute to the growth of the community. 

I am proud of the organisation and the work they do. During this pandemic, they have lessened our financial burden because they also give us food parcels and other households essentials. I hope they will expand their services to more communities so minority people who are underserved have access to childcare and enable our children to have more opportunities for fun, growth, and development, including nutrition."

Innovative Models of Childminding

Childminders provide valuable school age childcare options for many families often tailored to each child and their family's specific individual needs.

During the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA) delivered two projects with the support of the Scottish Government and local authorities; the Wellbeing Service and their established Community Childminding model.

We are working with the SCMA to further develop these services to support access to school age childcare for those families who need it most. The SCMA will work in partnership with four local authorities to deliver childminding placements that will provide childcare to small groups of children in home learning environments, addressing children's social, emotional and physical development needs while supporting parents to move into employment or training. 

The service will work with parents and carers who are engaged with local employability services to ease transition towards employment. We know the transition period between unemployment and employment is a difficult time for families to arrange, access and finance the childcare they need, particularly for those on low incomes. A number of placements will also focus primarily on families with children with additional support needs to provide complex care for the child and work closely with parents to consider employment opportunities. Our consultation noted that access to childcare is often difficult for families with a disabled child. This model looks to remove and mitigate some of the barriers associated with this, while measuring the impact this has on improving access to employment and wider outcomes for these families. 

Research into Breakfast and Holiday Provision

We understand the importance of aligning food and childcare provision during the holidays to ensure no child goes hungry. 

The Poverty & Inequality Commission have recommended that, building from existing services, holiday club provision with nutritious and culturally appropriate food as a core element, should be available for children from low-income households. We have undertaken work to better understand the landscape from which we can build.

Working with colleagues in the Social Justice Delivery Unit's Tackling Food Insecurity Team, we have commissioned research by the Scottish Poverty and Inequality Research Unit (SPIRU) to carry out mapping and evaluation of activity and holiday programmes for low income families in Scotland. This research will provide us with a snapshot of school age childcare and holiday food and activity provision across a number of local authority areas and will help us to better understand what more might be needed to support low-income families who require childcare to access work, training or study and how this can be best combined with appropriate provision of food and other support where that's needed.

Partnership approaches 

We funded a pilot partnership project delivering holiday childcare, meals and activities to children in the Highland village of Milton, a rural area where many families experience poverty. This pilot project, coordinated by Highland Council, brought together a range of public and third sector partners who delivered free childcare, a range of different activities, trips and outings, as well as training and advice sessions for parents. We are working with the local primary school and Highland Council to continue this project, delivering a holiday hub in summer 2021 and considering what further term time childcare support would benefit families. Alongside the Access to Childcare Fund, evaluation of the project will feed into our future policy.

Understanding how to make school age childcare more accessible for low income families is key to a future sustainable model. However, we recognise that wider tests of change are required. Informed by the 2019 draft framework consultation, we will test the change required to deliver sustainable childcare services in rural locations and also to test how sports and activity clubs can provide part of the range of childcare options for families within their communities.

Rural and Islands

Childcare providers in rural and island communities face challenges to setting up and maintaining sustainable delivery of services. Through engagement with the sector we have learned that, although these challenges are unique to each community, there are common themes such as fluctuating demand in smaller communities, additional costs relating to transport, and staffing costs for small numbers of children. There may also be difficulties in staffing services or securing suitable premises. 

While by no means exclusive to rural and island locations, consideration for our Gaelic speaking communities is also important to the development of school age childcare proposals, in the communities where this is relevant e.g. Comhairle nan Eilean Siar (Western Isles Council) which follows a 'Gaelic First' enrolment to education across the local authority.

There is a clear vision for children and young people to develop their own charter for school age childcare in Scotland. The opportunity exists to capture representations from children and young people living in rural and island locations, both through the Rural Parliament and the recently launched Young Islanders Network. These forums empower young people through their engagement in policy development and provide an opportunity to directly influence change at a community level.

We understand the value that an accessible, affordable and flexible childcare offer can bring to rural and island communities. To better understand the needs and the potential solutions, we are working with Mull and Iona Community Trust to develop and deliver pilot school age childcare services on Mull. The project aims to explore models of delivery which can provide the flexibility required by local communities. The Trust seeks to promote a "whole family" approach, proposing the development of a network of childminders alongside childcare settings. The project will also explore the ways in which outdoor and mobile provision can enhance the quality and flexibility of childcare. 

Organised activities and youth work provision

We understand and recognise the important role that organised children's activities, play and youth work provide to ensure safe spaces for children and young people to learn, play and develop. Many of these services focus on one type of activity, such as a sport or arts, and while they would not necessarily recognise themselves as childcare, they often extend care for children beyond the school day, supporting parents and carers to work, train or study or to provide other caring duties. They also support children to invest and focus time on particular interests.

We will work with those delivering organised children's activities and youth work to better understand their place in the broader school age childcare landscape, and look to explore how services can work together in order to offer families the broad range of childcare options that they may require to support their needs. 

Ayr United Football Academy

We are funding a pilot partnership project with Ayr United Football Academy to work with three local primary schools and the local secondary school to set up an after school and holiday sports club. The after school clubs will take place at all four schools weekly, over 40 weeks each year. Sessions will last two and a half hours per night and will be open to any pupil who attends one of the named schools or from its surrounding communities. The activities will vary week to week but will be based around sport, outdoors activities and using the schools' facilities. 

The funding will also allow AUFA to offer training and coaching qualifications to the parents or guardians of the children that attend. AUFA will engage with the local grassroots club, Whitletts Victoria, and the Ayr North Community Hub who are both situated in North Ayr. With this engagement AUFA will be able to encourage children, parents and carers to join pathways where they will experience playing, coaching or volunteering and begin a journey that can last a life time, leading to opportunities. 

As part of the childcare offer, AUFA will also deliver two employability courses over the two years, each programme lasting 12 weeks each with participants taking part twice a week. The programme is aimed at parents/carers gaining new qualifications, experiencing job opportunities, exercising twice per week, linking with their local job centre and ultimately providing a package that will give someone confidence to start a new career or further the career they are currently involved in.



Back to top