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Two people sitting on purple stools in front of shelves of books. The person on the right has a yellow soft toy sitting on their lap. The person on the left has a small child sitting on their lap.

Nominations open for Bookbug Hero Award 2024 – here’s everything you need to know

Posted 13.10.23 by Alice Hinds

The Scottish Book Trust has launched the fifth annual Bookbug Hero Award, and is now calling on people to nominate practitioners who use reading to improve the lives of children and families across Scotland.

Run in association with Walker Books, publishers of award-winning authors including Anthony Horowitz, Angie Thomas and Cassandra Clare, the Bookbug Hero Award 2024 is open to librarians, early years workers, volunteers, health visitors or anyone who uses Bookbug to enhance literacy programmes within the local community.

The biggest nationwide universal book gifting programme in the world, Bookbug sees every child in Scotland receive four free book bags between their birth and first year of school, and around 375 Bookbug Sessions take place each week in libraries and community spaces across Scotland, while Bookbug for the Home practitioners also support families on a one-to-one basis.

Nominations are open from now until Friday 10 December 2023, and the winner will be celebrated with a short film made about their work, as well as a special trophy and a bundle of picture books worth £500.

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, the national charity changing lives with reading and writing, said: “Bookbug reaches children all over Scotland, providing vital access to books. Without the work of Bookbug practitioners, many families would not discover the fun and lifechanging benefits of sharing stories, songs and rhymes. It is fantastic to be able to recognise this important work through the Bookbug Hero Award, for the fifth time. Our thanks to Walker Books for their continued support in recognising these heroes.”

The team at Walker Books added: “We really appreciate all that Bookbug and the heroes who run the programmes do for communities, and we are really pleased that we can continue to show our appreciation and support of that work by sponsoring the award. We love that it shines a light on those practitioners who champion reading, and work tirelessly to change lives through stories and can’t wait to hear more about the next winner!”

Librarian Ian Keane, winner of the Bookbug Hero Award 2022, said tacking home the prize had a huge impact on his local community – and even saw more people come to his library.

“Our library service was losing the battle and losing the war on maintaining Public Services,” he said. “To have a national agency declare that you and your service are doing great was a shock (a good one).

“It reinvigorated the whole team, it inspired us to work harder, we nearly doubled the number of attendees in the 'Hero' year. It has recalled us to life and reminded us of our relevance and worth. The war for public service is still being fought but thanks to the Bookbug Hero Award, for a little while at least we won our battles and found new strength. It won't be long before the early Bookbug toddlers return with their children. Hopefully, if we keep winning, the Library and our team will be there to greet them.”

For more information and to nominate your local Bookbug Hero, click here to visit the Scottish Book Trust website

Want to discover more about how reading can improve children’s lives? At Children in Scotland’s up-coming Early Years Conference 2023, author Laura Henry-Allain MBE, creator of the JoJo and Gran Gran characters, will deliver a keynote address, sharing her personal story of growing up as a working-class, dyslexic child on a council estate in west London, as well as the importance of diversity and inclusion in education. Click here to book your place

Pink and orange text on a white background 'I am super excited to be delivering a keynote speech at the Early Years Conference. The conference is a must for anyone who works within early years education, irrespective of their role. Laura Henry-Allain MBE keynote speaker. On the right an image of a smiling person with long black hair. The image sits inside a pink speech mark. Along the bottom white text on a green background Children in Scotland's Early Years Conference
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New report shows expansion of funded childcare delivers for low income families

Posted 06.10.23 by Alice Hinds

More parents have been able to start work or progress their careers, improve overall health and wellbeing, and develop better relationships with their children thanks to a Scottish Government Fund to expand access to school age childcare, a new report has revealed

Introduced to test and run new models of school age childcare, the second phase of the Access to Childcare Fund saw eight childcare providers across Scotland receive a share of almost £600,000, helping 650 children from low income families access school age childcare.

Conducted independently by Ipsos Scotland, and released today (6 October), The Access to Childcare Fund Phase 2 Evaluation Report aimed to assess the benefits of the Fund, and the findings reveal a range of positive outcomes, including increased opportunities for children to develop social skills and strengthen relationships with both adults and peers, especially for those with additional support needs.

Minister for Children and Young People, Natalie Don said: “As we mark Challenge Poverty Week this report highlights the impact our support continues to make for children, young people and their families who are most in need, and how childcare providers can be key in supporting these families.

“Improving access to childcare not only brings wide ranging benefits for the children, it also helps parents to get back into work, engage in training or progress their careers. Quality childcare provision is both an anti-poverty and a pro-growth measure.

“This report follows our commitment in the Programme for Government to expand our childcare offering, and sets out the difference that funded school-age childcare can make to support families to enter and sustain employment.”

Currently, all three and four-year-olds and eligible two-year-olds are eligible to take up 1,140 hours of funded early learning and childcare in Scotland, and the evidence collected as part of the evaluation indicates that the Phase 2 projects met the aims to make childcare more accessible, affordable and flexible for parents and carers from low income families, as well as those most at risk of experiencing poverty.

Work is now underway with local authorities and other partners to expand national provision for families with two-year-olds, as well as targeted early delivery of all-age childcare for low income families.

Phase 2 of the Fund, which was managed by Children in Scotland and an expert advisory group, supported the following providers:

· Hame Fae Hame
· St Mirin’s Out of School Care
· The Indigo Childcare Group
· SHIP (Support, Help and Integration in Perthshire)
· SupERkids
· Clyde Gateway
· Stepping Stones for Families
· The Wee Childcare Company.

For more information, and to read the full report, click here to visit the Scottish Government website:

Click here for more about the Access to Childcare Fund:

Photo. A child of preschool age with a black jacket, blue bag and green cap stands looking at a nursery notice board. The picture is taken from behind.

More than a third of parents unable to access suitable childcare

Posted 22 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

New research has revealed that affordability and flexibility are key barriers for parents trying to find childcare settings for their pre-school children.

Flexible Childcare Services Scotland (FCSS), a national charity that runs 23 childcare settings across Scotland, conducted the research with 600 parents in order to better understand some of the challenges of accessing childcare for younger children.

Their findings revealed:

  • More than a third of parents (36%) find it difficult to find preschool childcare. Of these 76% said this was due to affordability issues.
  • Two fifths (41%) of parents of preschool children said they were unable to access childcare during the working day.
  • 64% of respondents indicated their employer provided little or no flexible working.

In addition, parents spoke about the difficulties of securing childcare hours which fitted around their working patterns or employment commitments, affordability and long waiting lists. These issues are anticipated to only be exacerbated by the ongoing, and increasing, cost-of-living crisis with a recent report (click to access) from the Poverty Alliance and the Scottish Budget Group identifying this will disproportionately impact women and single parents.

Flexible Childcare Services Scotland’s Chief Executive, Susan McGhee, said:

“This research shows the harsh reality that families across the country face – to work or not to work. As the cost-of-living crisis intensifies, this problem is likely to be compounded putting even greater challenges on families.”

Created by One Parent Families Scotland, FCSS was launched in 2019 in response to findings from the charity that the parents they were supporting were unable to engage in training, education or employment due to a lack of flexible childcare provision.

FCSS believes the model it operates in its own centres in Dundee, Inverness, Keith and across Aberdeenshire, along with the models adapted for other childcare providers, can deliver the flexible solutions modern families need. This includes the free childcare management software, Caerus, which helps childcare providers manage their entire setting, and release any extra capacity as flexible spaces. This model will help parents save money as they only pay for the spaces used, and will allow providers to maximise their occupancy and income through using all spaces available.

Click here to find out more about Flexible Childcare Services Scotland

New edition of Insight magazine available now

The winter edition of Insight, Children in Scotland's biannual membership magazine, is published today.

Providing a space for reflection and aiming to drive dialogue, Insight has been created for our members as a key part of our membership benefits offer and is also available by subscription to non-members.

Across the magazine, we profile the individuals pushing for progress and the projects making it possible; look critically at some of the big issues facing children, young people and families, and share new examples of best practice from across the children's sector.

In this issue Kenny Murray, new Director of Inclusion and Engagement at Who Cares? Scotland, tells us why accountability is key; Dr Lynn McNair reflects on the opportunities a later school start age could bring; Alison Watson from Shelter Scotland comments on the record number of children in temporary accommodation; and Magic Torch Comics share how sequential storytelling can help unlock literacy.

Jennifer Drummond, Editor of Insight, says:

As we approach the end of the year, the conversation continues around how to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis that is impacting so many families.

“From addressing stigma and campaigning for equality for those who are Care Experienced, to supporting those facing homelessness or dealing with childhood trauma, this latest edition considers some of the challenges facing our most disadvantaged communities.”

Insight is available for free to all Children in Scotland members, as both print and digital editions.

Click here to find out more about joining us in membership

Non-members can subscribe to receive Insight for just £10 per year (2 issues).

Click here find out more about subscribing to Insight.


Insight: Issue 3

Find out more about what's inside the latest issue. Image by Mary Buchanan

Click here to read more

Join us in membership

Find our more about the benefits of our joining our network

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Headshot_Jenifer Johnston

Comment: New Scottish Government plans give me hope for working mothers

Posted 1 November 2022, by Jennifer Drummond

Jenifer Johnson (pictured) reflects on the promises of the new Best Start Plan and her hopes for a policy landscape that makes the connection between women in work and affordable, accessible childcare

I felt so… short-sighted? Putting the phone down after speaking to the nursery about fees, my sums for going back to work after a year of maternity leave didn’t add up. Three days a week for a private nursery place was going to cost more, much more, than I’d anticipated. I’d just – gratefully - arranged to lose 40% of my income to go back to my job part-time instead of full-time. But the nursery bill took my breath away.

I mentally kicked myself. I should have saved more. I should have saved before I got pregnant. I should have been saving for years. Putting the phone down I realised there would be no way of keeping my career where it was at because the childcare I needed to do so would cost more than the mortgage.

And then there were two.

Juggling childcare and career

I had my kids in 2014 and 2016 so the Scottish Government Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) policy helped me in a rolling way. The introduction of 600 hours of paid for early learning and childcare eventually took a chunk out of the nursery bill for small person #1. Then small person #2 got the full benefit of a funded 1,140 hours of ELC. The nursery attached to our primary school expanded to fit the policy change, and the quality of care there was far higher than the private nursery.

The downside was the school hours and the term-time holidays. My ever amazing mum stepped into the breach when I went back to work full-time, with some hours from the private nursery awkwardly tacked onto the sides and frantic drives between them in lunch hours and after work.

Connecting the dots

But the Scottish Government has now, thankfully, realised two important and connected things. Firstly, that women go to work. Secondly, that children exist before the age of three. This has been captured in the new Best Start Plan (click to access), which aims to "build a system of school age childcare and an early learning and childcare offer for one- and two-year-olds, starting with those who need it most".

I read an awful lot of policy papers, so I don't say this lightly - there are some truly wonderful things in this sensible document.

The Plan proposes developing a new offer for one- and two-year-olds rooted in expanding access to funded childcare for more of the child poverty priority families over the course of this Parliament. The woeful availability or affordability of wraparound school-aged childcare is in scope as well, starting by identifying and supporting targeted early adopter communities across Scotland where good school age childcare can be modelled for other areas.

Critically, there is recognition in the Plan that women work. It notes: "For parents and carers, international research suggests that affordable and flexible ELC can improve standards of living and address child poverty through reducing pressures on family income and enabling parents and carers, particularly women, to participate in work, education or training.”

There is an affirmation that childcare is a vital element of Scotland's economic infrastructure, that ELC enables parents and carers to work and increase their working hours, and that ELC provision can help to address gender inequality in pay. All of this is also part of the Scottish policy-land dictionary acronym of 2022, NSET - the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

For the first time, this connection is a real thing.

Changing focus to better support working mothers

A few years ago I challenged a Scottish Government minister on the 1,140 hours policy, asking why parents weren't just given the money from that Fund to spend on childcare they needed when children were ages 0-5 so that going back to work after maternity leave wasn't so financially tough. It could give women the chance to keep their careers at the level they were at by spreading state-backed spend as they needed to. There was a firm shake of the head. "This policy is nothing to do with working women. It's about attainment. Career choices don't come in to it." I think my jaw hung open all the way home. Where did the Scottish Government think I was when I needed childcare for my children? After maternity leave you are skint, heading back to work and hit with a massive nursery bill. A bit of bridging from the state would go a long way to support Scotland's productivity.

I hope this new Plan could change - at the very least - the visibility of work and childcare as connected parts.

When my small people have kids, when I am a Gran, I hope that childcare is available and affordable enough for women to thrive in their careers. I hope that the professionals (mainly women) working in childcare are paid a decent wage which rewards the hard, hard work of nurturing the babies and toddlers of strangers. I hope that school buildings and playgrounds are open at weekends and holidays, and don't just exist as resources behind locked gates during term-time. I hope kids can go somewhere warm and fun and nice before and after school, at a bearable cost, so that families can have the best chance of employment. I hope Scotland gets so much better at this. With this new document, I feel like it could finally become reality.

Jenifer Johnston works in communications and public affairs. She is on Twitter @TheLastGoodGirl. 


Photo. A child of preschool age with a black jacket, blue bag and green cap stands looking at a nursery notice board. The picture is taken from behind.

News: Young people to face impact of school strikes planned for September

Posted 23 August, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Children and young people in nine local authority areas are likely to be affected by strike action planned for next month.

The action has been confirmed by Scotland’s largest local government union amid ongoing pay disputes.

The union, UNISON, has said school and early years staff in Aberdeenshire, Clackmannanshire, East Renfrewshire, Glasgow, Inverclyde, Orkney, North Lanarkshire, South Lanarkshire and Stirling are preparing to walk out for three days in September.

Staff from schools, early years centres and nurseries will join council colleagues from waste and recycling centres on strike for three days from 6-8 September. It is understood teaching staff will continue to work.

Coming just weeks into the new school year, the action is believed to be the largest strike action among council workers since the Trade Union Act was introduced in 2016.

It comes after talks with COSLA, the local government body, failed to reach an agreement over pay and as the Bank of England predicts inflation to rise to more than 13% over the next few months.

Commenting on the ongoing discussions, Johanna Baxter, Unison Scotland’s Head of Local Government, said:

“We are in urgent negotiations with the employer to try and find a solution, but so far we have only had an offer of talks – we have not had a pay offer.

“Until we can explain to UNISON members how a pay offer might impact on them, council workers have been left with no choice but to strike.”

Following further talks with COSLA today (Tuesday 23 August) Ms Baxter confirmed there had been “no breakthrough” with both parties now calling on the Deputy First Minister to put additional funding in place for local authorities in order for talks to continue.

Update from the Editor, 2 Sept: A fresh pay offer has been tabled for council workers. GMB, Unison and Unite have all agreed to suspend strike action until their members have had a chance to vote on the new offer. 

Greyscale headshot of a woman with shoulder-length blonde straight hair. She is smiling and wearing a patterned high-neck top

Q&A with Sarah Dyer: Talking the talk and walking the walk

Posted 17 August, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Sarah Dyer, an Early Years Officer from Fife, will be taking The Big Stroll as part of the Kiltwalk 2022 in aid of Children in Scotland. Here, she tells us how supporting children and young people during the pandemic gave her the motivation to fundraise for us.

What inspired you to sign up for the Kiltwalk 2022? 

I was looking to be more active and start walking more.  Someone at work suggested that I take part in a charity walk to give me some  motivation. I had seen adverts on TV for the Kiltwalk and always thought it looked really fun. This year's Kiltwalk is on my 41st birthday so I took that as a sign and registered.

How are you preparing? Do you have a special training regime? 

I have been going for walks with friends who are also taking part in the Kiltwalk, covering just over 5 miles.  I try to walk about 2-3 miles a day but with only a few weeks to go until the big day I really need to up my game and increase those distances!!

Have you walked for charity before or completed any other charity events in the past? 

I've never walked this distance before but I think having friends to chat to and the atmosphere on the day will help.

I have previously taken part in charity events and have abseiled from the Wallace Monument and Tynecastle Football Stadium for the RNIB.

Why did you choose to walk for Children in Scotland? 

As an Early Years Officer and a mum, I understand the challenges that children and young people face.  During the pandemic, I became aware of Children in Scotland and your fantastic resources for people working with children, in particular your webinars and training courses to enable a better understanding of the challenges that children in our country face and how best to support them.

I chose to walk for Children in Scotland because, like me, you strive to improve children's lives, focusing on improving outcomes for children facing all sorts of barriers and helping them to reach their full potential.

Sarah Dyer will be walking The Big Stroll, a distance of 14.8 miles, as part of the Edinburgh Kiltwalk on Saturday 18 September.

Click here to sponsor Sarah, on behalf of Children in Scotland


A white box with black illustration on it. The box is filled with baby items

News: Scotland’s Baby Box refreshed for five-year anniversary

Posted 1 July, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

Scotland’s Baby Box has been updated to include new clothing designs and a baby toothbrush to support early oral health as it approaches its five year milestone.

The Baby Box provides families with a range of essential items for the first six months of their baby’s life. They are delivered in a sturdy box which can be used as a safe sleeping space during those early months. The contents of the box are designed to inform and support positive parenting behaviours.

Since the launch in August 2017, approximately 222,450 boxes have been delivered to families across Scotland with an engagement rate of around 98%.

Whilst on a visit to APS (Group) Scotland, where the boxes are packed and distributed, Scottish Government Children’s Minister, Claire Haughey, said:

“As every parent knows, the costs associated with having a baby are significant. Household budgets are under increasing pressure from the rising cost of living, so it is reassuring to know that all families in Scotland, regardless of their circumstances, have access to essential items needed for the first six months of their newborn’s life.

“Uptake for the Baby Box has grown to about 98% since it was introduced in 2017. As we head towards the fifth anniversary, I am proud that the Baby Box continues to support newborns and their families.”

An independent evaluation of the Scottish Baby Box scheme, published in 2021, found 97% of the parents who took part in the research rated the box and its contents good. Parents were also positive in their assessment of how the box had benefited their family, both financially and in terms of wider benefits such as informing them about, or reinforcing, key child health and development messages.

The same review found the majority (88%) of health visitors, midwives and family nurses felt clear on the aims of the Baby Box Scheme although revealed a potential gap in training and understanding across a range of health professionals.

The Baby Box is available to every new parent in Scotland and can be applied for via midwives.

Click here to find out more about Scotland's Baby Box

Click here to access the Baby Box evaluation, conducted by Ipsos MORI Scotland

A photo of a young boy reading a picture book. He is lying on his front with his hands over his cheeks, and is smiling.

News: Thousands of books donated to families in Scotland

Posted 6 April 2022, by Nina Joynson

More than 2,500 books have been donated to families supported by Home-Start Scotland to encourage engagement with reading from a young age.

Scottish Book Trust has donated thousands of picture books to Home-Start, to be shared among many of the 30 local branches that work across the country.

Home-Start helps families who need support for a variety of reasons, including financial worries, mental and physical health issues, coping with twins, bereavement, isolation and loneliness.

The book donation will include picture books suitable for babies, toddlers and children up to primary school age, to help spark children's interest in reading from a young age.

Scottish Book Trust is a national charity that encourages reading and writing across communities in Scotland, with a focus on those who are vulnerable and under-represented. Through Bookbug and Read, Write, Count, the organisation provides a book gifting programme and story sessions for young readers and their families.

Marc Lambert, CEO of Scottish Book Trust, said:

“Books have the power to change lives. A love of reading inspires creativity. There are many benefits to sharing stories, songs and rhymes with toddlers and pre-schoolers, it gives them the best start in life. We are delighted to support Home-Start Scotland and hope these books will support many families within our communities.

“Research proves that reading for pleasure is central in helping to support wellbeing and mental health, positively impacting learners' attainment across the curriculum, sparking critical thinking, creativity, empathy and resilience.”

Christine Carlin, Director of Home-Start Scotland, said:

“For parents, just a few minutes reading to their children gives them time to step back from the stress of everyday life and enjoy special time with their youngsters.

"Even just sitting closely together looking at a book feels special. For children reading books themselves, it creates a calm, quiet time to build explore and share how they feel, their thoughts and experiences. Reading opens up a world of endless possibilities!”

Click here to find your local Home-Start

Government ‘must be brave’ in leading education reforms, with focus on rights, early years and meeting all learners’ needs

10 March 2022

Children in Scotland has welcomed the emphasis on children’s rights, the early years and meeting all learners’ needs in Professor Ken Muir’s education reform report, published yesterday.

But the charity also warned that implementation success depends on the Scottish Government being bold and taking forward the recommendations at appropriate speed.

Click here to read Professor Muir’s report

Amy Woodhouse, Head of Policy, Projects and Participation, said:

“The Scottish Government could make a significant difference to the education of young people in Scotland if they lead on these recommendations with confidence and bravery.

“We welcome many of the guiding principles and proposals set out in Professor Muir’s report, including:

  • The focus on a child rights approach, with Article 29 of the UNCRC explicitly referred to
  • Increased recognition of the role and value of the early years
  • A review of the roles and purposes of assessment, so that it is not leading learning
  • Learners’ voices, experiences, perspectives and rights being central to decision-making
  • Trusting relationships between children, young people and teachers
  • Greater resourcing and attention placed on ensuring that the needs of individual leaners are met, as set out in Angela Morgan’s review of additional support for learning.

“Some of these core principles closely align with our own project work and evidence.

"The emphasis on trusting relationships, for example, links to our diversity in teaching project with the GTCS and Intercultural Youth Scotland, while focus on individual learners echoes calls made by the Inclusion Ambassadors network.

Click here to find out more about our diversity in teaching project

Click here to find out more about the Inclusion Ambassadors

“We are also encouraged by the Scottish Government’s responses to some of the key report recommendations, including:

  • Their commitment to ensuring that all children, young people and learners are placed at the heart of discussions about the renewed vision (recommendations 1 and 2) and that children’s rights as described by the UNCRC are embedded throughout our education system
  • Their promise that assessments, including examinations, should follow from the purposes of the curriculum, and not be seen to lead them (in response to recommendations 3, 4, 5 on the new qualifications authority with a revised governance structure to include more representation from and accountability to all learners)
  • Their acceptance of the absolute centrality of co-designing education policy, responding to recommendations 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12 covering the setting up of a new national agency with a participative approach to governance in all of its work
  • Their pledge to introduce specific proposals to consult with the Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) sector before the summer, in response to recommendations 13, 14, 15, and 16 calling for the new independent Inspectorate to re-engage with the Care Inspectorate to agree a shared inspection framework designed to reduce the burden on ELC
  • Their commitment to act on points 17, 18 and 19, which urge the Scottish Government and other national bodies to collaborate more effectively to ensure that policies align well with each other and with any revised vision for Scottish education, leading, we hope, to better joined-up work across directorates.

“These are welcome public promises and strong foundations for progress but to make a difference for children and young people the Scottish Government must:

  • Be brave and confident, using these principles as an opportunity to lead genuine change to our education system
  • Take forward the recommendations with appropriate speed and depth, ensuring that change is experienced by learners and is not cosmetic
  • Follow the call in our 2021-26 Manifesto that wellbeing should be the central focus of Scottish education and at the heart of changes in vision, values and systems
  • Deliver on calls made by the Inclusion Ambassadors in Angela Morgan’s review of additional support for learning about making meeting all learners' needs a real priority
  • Deliver on the promise of embedding a child rights approach at all levels – in the classroom, in governance, across the wider life of school, and at local authority and national levels.”

Click here to find out more about our 2021-26 Manifesto

Putting Learners at the Centre

Replacement of the SQA and reform of Education Scotland is addressed in Professor Muir's report, published 9/3/22

Click here to read more

2021-26 Manifesto

Find out more about Enquire, the Scottish advice service for additional support for learning

Click here for more

Inclusion Ambassadors

We support a network of young people with additional support for learning needs, ensuring that their views are shared

Click here for more

Diversity in teaching

A current project, in partnership with GTCS and Intercultural Youth Scotland

Click here for more

News, March 2022: Failure to launch

The SQA's exams guidance has been widely criticised

Click here to read