BLOG: Graeme McAlister, Chief Executive, SCMA

BLOG: Graeme McAlister, Chief Executive, SCMA
Our recent Early Learning and Childcare Audit Report presented a compelling case for change and outlined the urgent need to refocus local implementation of ELC. 

Childminders are vital to the successful local implementation of the Scottish Government’s expansion of 1140 hours of ELC childcare. Our recent Early Learning and Childcare Audit made a compelling case for change in how this policy is implemented locally, and highlighted the need to provide equal access to and information regarding childminding.  Our audit warns that parents’ choice of childcare provision could reduce if local authorities do not refocus implementation of ELC. 

Professional childminders; high-quality childcare 
We know that childminders provide a high quality of childcare that has many benefits for children including low adult to child ratios.  In addition, 92% of childminders achieved ‘good’ or above across all quality ratings at inspection, which means professional childminding is one of the highest rated childcare provider types in Scotland. Evidence also shows that childminding can enhance early learning, confidence and social development in children. 

Childminding and delivery of ELC funded hours 
However, with only 10 months until 1140 hours of ELC should be available to parents and carers nationally, the audit found that only 12.6% of childminders in Scotland have been approved to deliver funded hours for all three and four year olds, and only 16.2% for eligible two year olds.  The numbers of childminders actually involved in delivering funded hours are much lower. These figures are deeply worrying and unacceptably low.  We think the figures can be attributed to a number of factors, including the phasing in of ELC at a local level, and the manner in which childminding is being presented as a childcare option to parents and carers.  

Recommendations for change
Our recent audit made several recommendations to help to redress the balance. 

  • strengthening national guidance as a matter of urgency to require all local authorities to ensure a balanced childcare provider model within delivery plans
  • local authorities to develop supplementary ‘Childminding Action Plans’ demonstrating how they will include childminding in ELC
  • Scottish Government should support SCMA to undertake research into the childminding workforce , and develop a national recruitment campaign to promote childminding.

The impact of SCMA – turning recommendations into action

Making recommendations is one thing - translating them into action another.  We are committed to doing this. The findings in our audit attracted national media attention, which has helped to shine a light on the issue. We have also shared the audit with stakeholders including the Scottish Government, the Scottish Parliament’s Education & Skills Committee and the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities, as well as Audit Scotland. Discussions are ongoing and we will, of course, continue to update you regularly on progress.  

Creating opportunity and respecting choice
SCMA is absolutely committed to ensuring all childminders have the opportunity to participate in ELC should they want to, and a recent membership survey found that 67% of respondents were interested in doing so.  We also recognise that not all childminders want to become partner providers.  Some, who have been practising for years and have obtained good quality ratings without a formal childcare qualification, may question the need to obtain a qualification to deliver ELC. We respect this viewpoint and will continue to support all childminders – both those delivering and not delivering funded hours. 

Our survey also found that “current capacity” was the main reason for not wishing to deliver funded hours. However, it just takes one family and their children to relocate unexpectedly, at the same time as another child transitions from a service and capacity can change.  As such, it is important to keep this opportunity open for all childminders. 

We want ELC to be a success.  But it is clear that urgent action is required to re-focus local implementation, to adjust the balance of childcare providers in delivering funded hours and to ensure we do not lose sight of parental choice, and what is best for the child.  

SCMA Early Learning and Childcare Audit 2019 / Becoming a partner provider / SCMA Helpline   

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