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Intergenerational work encouraged more widely to early years providers

About the research

Exploring innovative delivery models to sustain rural communities research project that was funded by the Scottish Government and the European Social Innovation Fund and led by ourselves – Care and Learning Alliance (CALA).

The research project explored new models of rural childcare to support and sustain an inclusive rural economy in the Highlands. Many of our findings, however, will be of interest to providers outwith Highland.

The research focused on the key issue of how high quality, flexible, accessible and affordable early learning and childcare can be provided in the Highlands and supported and sustained in an inclusive rural economy. This was explored through the following four key work strands:

  • The availability of a strong and sustainable workforce – reviewing the workforce implications of the expansion agenda, including staffing, qualifications and where the future workforce will come from
  • The use of ‘alternative’ places and times – looking at different venues/facilities and models in ELC, asking how flexibility and accessibility may be impacted by the timings of sessions.
  • The value of intergenerational partnerships – assessing the benefits to ELC provision and the wider community of developing intergenerational working and partnerships.*
  • Transport issues – reviewing a wide range of different transport options to support a more mobile approach to the delivery of ELC in rural areas.

While compartmentalising the research into four strands was valuable to focus attention, some conclusions have been drawn which pertain to several or all of the strands and these are discussed further here.

Introducing environmental stewardship to the curriculum
The transition to 1140 hours occurs in an era where there is a far greater awareness of the impacts of our consumption patterns and behaviours on the climate and environment. It was very encouraging to observe and learn of providers who prioritise the promotion of environmentally friendly learning activities and consideration should be given by all settings to identify how such learning can be incorporated in the curriculum.

Two very different scales of waste reduction were observed at Cradlehall Primary School, where they had renovated a disused bus for learning opportunities and at Westpark Primary School, where over a 6-year period the staff had received donations of scrap materials which were recycled and used in the design of their naturalistic outdoor learning area. Additionally, Lochinver ELC bring their children on beach litter picks and engaged with their local harbour authorities to implement a successful marine litter reduction scheme which they had found out about from a survey they had conducted.

These examples demonstrate how settings can introduce environmentally friendly concepts and practices to their pedagogical approach. As ELC settings begin to explore alternative learning opportunities in the natural environment it is essential that consideration is given to sustainable use of those environments and this creates the opportunity to incorporate these sustainable practices in the curriculum.

Mandatory training in outdoor learning and intergenerational partnership engagement.

Universities and colleges who deliver courses in ELC-related subjects have recognised the trend of increased outdoor learning and reacted by designing and providing modules on outdoor training.

Any diversification of service delivery into outdoor or intergenerational provision, and perhaps even transport solutions will require staff who are engaged in and fully trained to deliver sessions in a safe manner while ensuring quality is maintained.

All settings who are committed to continuous professional development should consider training their staff to a level where they are capable of and confident to deliver ELC sessions outdoor and in intergenerational partnership arrangements.

Clearly the scale of a setting determines their ability to deliver such training. However, this creates an opportunity for accredited training providers to support smaller settings by designing courses specifically tailored for smaller settings who wish to develop their provision into either area.


  • Consider how Learning for Sustainability can be integrated into the curriculum to promote environmental stewardship and responsible citizenship.
  • Training for all ELC practitioners in outdoors and intergenerational training as part of their qualification and for qualified staff, mandatory.
  • Local Authorities support newly developed ELC settings, particularly in rural areas by allowing funded hours on a probationary period whilst the new facility settles in, so long as has had initial Care Inspectorate visit/approval.
  • ELC settings to see how they can increase parental involvement in ELC activities, particularly outdoor activities where ratios of children to adults are less.

Read the executive summary and full report below:

18th August 2020