The new standard will include a training and induction programme which will be developed by the Scottish Government in partnership with the Care Inspectorate - the equivalent of Ofsted in Scotland - and the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA).
Its aim is to drive-up the quality of childcare provided by childminders, who the Scottish government says will be ‘central’ to the delivery of the expansion of free childcare from 16 to 30 hours a week for all three- and four-year-olds by 2020.
The standards will also take into account existing national policy and frameworks, be accessible, use a variety of mediums of delivery, focus on good outcomes for children and link to career pathways for early years workers.
Making the announcement, Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said, ‘Childminders do an absolutely crucial job for parents across Scotland, ensuring that their children are properly cared for while they go out and work.
‘They play a vital role in children’s development and will be central to our ambitions for a massive expansion of early learning and childcare in the years to come.
‘However, at present, childminders are not required to undertake any training or even induction. As recently highlighted [in the Early years workforce review], well-trained, supported and suitably qualified staff are fundamental to improving quality and have a key role in addressing our most entrenched problems of poverty, poor health and poor attainment.
‘That is why, alongside the commitment to increasing the level of entitlement to free early learning and childcare to 1,140 hours per year, we will also ensure the provision which will be offered is of the highest possible quality. These new standards will help drive up quality and ensure parents can rest assured that their children are in the best possible hands.’
Ms Sturgeon also announced an increase to the flexibility of the free childcare offer to make it easier for parents to fit the hours around their working patterns.
According to the campaign group Fair Funding for Our Kids, thousands of children are unable to take up the current offer as the majority of places are available at council-run settings, many of which offer sessional care and open term-time only.
Maggie Simpson, chief executive of the Scottish Childminding Association (SCMA), said, ‘I’m delighted to hear of another piece being added to the jigsaw. The announcement of the development of a quality standard for childminders will bring childminding in line with the opportunities that are already enjoyed by the rest of the early years workforce.
‘There is already a robust registration and inspection process carried out by the Care Inspectorate with childminding services among the highest graded early learning and childcare providers.
‘SCMA and our childminder members also wanted to see more direct access to qualifications and I look forward to working with the Care Inspectorate, Scottish Government and the Scottish Social Services Council and on the development of this quality standard for childminders.’
Further details of the standard will be announced in due course.