Childminders and outdoor nurseries in Scotland now able to open to more children

Childminders and fully outdoor nurseries in Scotland are now able to reopen from today (3 June).

Childminders in Scotland can reopen to more children from 3 June
Childminders in Scotland can reopen to more children from 3 June

Childminders had closed at the start of the pandemic, except to key workers and vulnerable children.

The move to reopen to more children is part of the first phase of the Scottish Government's four-phase plan for gradually lifting lockdown.

The Scottish Government has also confirmed schools across the country can return from Tuesday 11 August, but other Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) settings will only open when it is safe to do so and the country has moved to Phase 3.

The Scottish Government has published its new public health guidance, alongside the Care Inspectorate and Health Protection Scotland, to support childminders to reopen and operate safely from Wednesday 3 June.

Childminders will be able to provide childcare for a maximum of four families, excluding their own, at any one time, but should continue to prioritise childcare for key workers and vulnerable children.

A recent survey by the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA), which contributed to the guidance, found that around 930 settings had stayed open to provide critical childcare.

The Coronavirus (COVID-19): childminder services guidance says that childminders must follow public health advice. A risk assessment must be carried out before reopening, giving consideration to the guidance document.

In order to reduce indirect transmission, enhanced cleaning and hygiene measures must be put in place.

Physical distancing will not be expected between children, but measures must be put into place to limit extra parents or carers entering the childminding setting and to maintain physical distancing when adults may interact, for example at pick up and drop off times, or if the childminder employs an assistant that is not a member of their household.

The Scottish government said that restrictions on childminder capacity are expected to be lifted during Phase 3, depending on the public health advice.

Outdoor nurseries to reopen

All of Scotland’s 26 registered fully outdoor nurseries will also be able to open from 3 June.

The Scottish government has strict definitions for this type of setting this model of setting, which has developed over recent years and can sometimes be referred to as a forest nursery or kindergarten. In these settings children are outdoors all of the time except in extreme weather conditions.

Children and staff will have access to a sheltered area this could be a permanent or temporary structure. There may also be a meeting point, premises or a base camp used for the drop off and collection of children. These settings will have a comprehensive contingency plan which has been articulated and agreed with parents in the rare occasion where severe weather conditions prevent children from being outside.

This should not be confused with settings which provide outdoor experiences as part of their provision of early learning and childcare or school age childcare, the government said.

New Coronavirus (COVID-19): fully outdoor childcare providers guidance says that 'age appropriate’ public health measures will be put in place for ELC [early learning and childcare] settings, building on practice undertaken in other countries where nurseries have already reopened, including Denmark and Norway. 

The guidance includes practical measures that outdoor nurseries should take, including:

  • Enhanced hand hygiene and cleaning practices
  • Caring for children in small groups
  • Minimising contact between those groups
  • Maximising use of outdoor spaces
  • Physical distancing between adults in the setting, including parents at drop-off and pick-up times

The Strategic Framework for Reopening Schools and ELC states that it is not appropriate for young children to maintain the models of physical distancing that would be suitable for older children, either practically or in terms of child development. In particular, it is not desirable or possible to implement strict physical distancing between young children or between a young child and their key worker. 

Settings should establish cohorts of children who will remain together throughout each day. These groups should consist of up to 8 children who should remain with the same staff ‘where practicable’ throughout the day.

Graeme McAlister, chief executive of the SCMA, said the reopening of childminding would help more families access high-quality childcare as the lockdown eases, but stressed that there was no requirement for childminders to open immediately.

 ‘We anticipate this will be a gradual process while childminders who have been closed prepare their settings. The publication of the new guidance is crucial to help inform practice, including important measures to minimise the risk of infection and transmission.’

There are currently around 4,800 registered childminders in Scotland providing childcare for around 33,000 children.

Many childminders who chose to temporarily close have been maintaining contact with children and families online and by phone, helping to continue their close relationships.

Liz Stewart, from Edinburgh, a childminder for 20 years chose to temporarily close her service in March but is now preparing to reopen.

‘I have missed all of my ‘minded’ children terribly,’ she said. ‘The house has been so quiet! I found some creative ways to ensure we all stayed in touch after I had to close, I really enjoyed writing letters to the children, some of them had never received a letter addressed to them before, so it was really special. I’ve spoken to parents to establish what hours they will require, many of their working patterns have changed so things will definitely look a little different after I reopen. It will be so emotional for me when the children return.'

Maree Todd, minister for children and young people, said, ‘While some childminders have been providing childcare to key worker families and vulnerable children throughout the pandemic, many have stayed at home to keep Scotland safe. For that, I am very grateful.

‘There are still restrictions in place to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus in childminding settings, and the guidance explains the measures childminders are advised to take. In particular, childminders must limit the number of households for whom they provide childcare to a maximum of four at any one time. My team and I will continue to work closely with the Scottish Childminding Association to support childminders in their vital role.’




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