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Parents and childminders urged to explore council’s approach to childcare

The council responded to the increase in entitlement to childcare by involving local childminders.

Orkney Island’s Council’s ‘blended’ approach to childcare in the county is benefiting is working well, according to the Scottish Childminding Association, and the council is attempting to make more parents aware that they can choose a childminder as part of their child’s funded Early Learning and Childcare.

Under the Scottish Government’s Early Learning and Childcare scheme all three, four and eligible two-year-olds are entitled to 600 hours of funded Early Learning and Childcare, increasing to 1140 hours by 2020.

While most local authorities offer the majority of their funded hours through local nursery provision, Orkney council has been working in partnership with local childminders to offer families flexibility in their childcare.

Childminder Ellen Rendall from St. Margaret’s Hope has worked with Orkney council to provide funded Early Learning and Childcare since the summer of 2016.

By working in partnership with the local nursery Ellen can offer families ‘split’ or ‘blended’ childcare meaning the child spends part of their funded hours at nursery and the rest with Ellen.

Ellen says: “I have four clients using split funding and signed up my fifth recently. Parents definitely want to use the funding with childminders; once they find out we can do it. My biggest problem is letting parents know that it is available.”

Although Ellen talks about her role at the local toddler group, some parents still don’t seem to realise that they can choose a childminder as part of their child’s funded Early Learning and Childcare through ‘split funding’ which the local authority is keen to support.

Kate’s four-year-old daughter has attended Ellen’s childminding service since she was a baby. Kate says: “My daughter has developed excellent speech and I have no concerns that she will not be as able as her peers in Primary one. It’s public perception that children have to go to nursery or you, as a parent, are holding your child back. My daughter is already socialising with the children she will go to school with while she is with Ellen and I have no concerns about her development whatsoever.”

Catherine Diamond, Principal Teacher of Early Years at Orkney council says: “The local authority invited all registered childminders to explore entering into partnership to offer funded Early Learning and Childcare. We have also met local childminding groups and explained the changes in hours. We do intend that childminders will feature as part of our delivery plan and that parents will be able to exercise choice.”