How have you been involved in the campaign?
We bring together everyone concerned that three- to five- year-olds are not able to access their entitlement to a free nursery place for 600 hours a year. The campaign was set up in 2014 by a group of Glasgow-based parents. It became clear that parents everywhere faced the same issues, and the campaign soon expanded across Scotland. Earlier this year, the original group announced their intention to end the campaign, as most of their children had now moved on to school. I and another parent asked if we could take it over.
How have you balanced the campaign with work/parenthood?
We do a lot of late-night phone calls after the kids have gone to bed. We have to fit in FFFOK around our work and kids. There have been days when I’ve been frantically returning journalists’ calls as I rush between meetings at my day job. You just have to make it work.
What have been its successes?
Very recently we achieved our greatest success so far, when Glasgow City Council decided that it would no longer cap places in partnership nurseries. This had been one of the campaign’s original aims, so we were delighted. Previously, the council had set the number of places it would fund in each nursery, without reference to the number of children attending. For example, at my daughter’s nursery, there were only 18 funded places between 36 three- to five-year-olds. We have also persuaded opposition parties to raise our issues and prevented the Scottish Government from being able to claim it had delivered 600 hours of free childcare for every three- to five- year-old. In a recent Scottish Parliament debate, FFFOK was mentioned 12 times and the Scottish Labour education spokesman said the group had done a ‘tremendous job’ highlighting the difficulties faced by parents. Just this week, the First Minister announced a consultation on making childcare funding ‘follow the child’.
What is left to achieve?
A lot, sadly. All of the current debate is about how to achieve the Scottish Government’s target of doubling free hours to 1,140 by 2020. Which is all well and good, but they haven’t delivered the 600 hours yet. One in five children still gets nothing, because two-thirds of places are provided on a half-day basis, and what working parent can make use of that? We need to focus on delivering for today’s three- to five-year-olds: they can’t wait till 2020.
What advice would you give to other parents trying to campaign?
Just do it. Don’t try to figure out how you’re going to find the time: you’ll make the time. And don’t worry about going up against professional politicians: you are the expert in what’s going on in your children’s lives.