Some Scottish councils have closed their critical childcare hubs and are today welcoming small numbers of children back into their usual schools for the first time since the coronavirus lockdown began on 20 March.
As of this week, Scotland’s largest local authority, Glasgow City Council, has switched from providing critical childcare for the children of key workers and vulnerable children in hubs – usually schools – to inviting children to attend their local school.
Inverclyde Council has also stopped running the hub-school model.
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Inverclyde Council leader Stephen McCabe, who is also the children and young people spokesperson for local authorities' body Cosla, told Tes Scotland that his council had abandoned the hub childcare model in a bid to encourage more vulnerable children to attend.
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In early April, Tes Scotland highlighted that the children’s commissioner, Bruce Adamson, was concerned by the “very, very low” uptake of critical childcare places by vulnerable children. And giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament's education committee last month, John Swinney, the education secretary, said he would like to see the number of vulnerable children attending hubs rise.
Mr McCabe said: “From this week, children who were attending hubs will attend their own school – that starts today. Then you will have small numbers in each school rather than still fairly small numbers in each hub.
“We are trying to encourage more of the vulnerable children to take up places. Children might find it easier to go to their own school, which they are familiar with and which might be closer. Also, if staff are in the local school they can reach out and encourage more vulnerable children to attend.
“It will be interesting to see over the coming weeks whether this does lead to an increase in the number of children attending.”
Glasgow City Council education director Maureen McKenna informed headteachers that hubs would stop running as of today in a briefing sent out around a week ago. She said school staff would be “part of a rota to supervise” and she expected “almost all staff to be part of the rota”.
She added that school staff who required childcare “should arrange childcare at their own child’s school”.
When the Scottish government published its guidance in May on reopening schools, it told councils to increase the number of vulnerable children attending hubs.
There was no upper limit set on the number of children who could attend, said Mr McCabe. But numbers would depend on how many children and staff could “safely fit in a school building and retain social distancing”.