Shetland childcare business sets a high standard

by Mark Burgess -

Shetland is an idyllic place to raise a family, with good employment, an exceptional natural environment and excellent attainment by local schools. It also has brilliant childcare services, as evidenced recently with the involvement of a local childcare provider with the high profile publication, The Parliamentary Review.

Hame Fae Hame is a private childcare facility based in Scalloway, established in 2008 and currently employing 18 staff. Manager Kaye Sandison has always taken a pride in seeking to deliver a literal “home away from home” and a rewarding experience for children aged one to 12 years. The company’s attention to supporting things like staff development and working together with the school and education department are some of the elements that caught the eye of high ranking politicians and civil servants on a national level.

The Parliamentary Review shares good practice and key information in a variety of industry sectors, toward “the strategic aim of raising standards by highlighting best practice”. Described as featuring a combination of political commentary from leading journalists with input from politicians in key sector-specific roles, The Parliamentary Review is a “go-to” place for shared information to the well-informed.

How then, you may wonder, does a childcare business from a small village in Shetland stand out among some 38,000 similar businesses nationwide, to warrant inclusion in such a prestigious publication?

“Initially it was a letter from Sir Eric Pickles and Lord Blunkett,” says Kaye, ”inviting us to take part in the review. I did think it was a joke, but it quickly became apparent that it was not!”

In the publication, Kaye speaks of her holistic approach to childcare, using play-based activities with the children trusted into her care. The facility provides a “wraparound” service that was not available from other providers, allowing parents flexibility in their working lives or commitments.

At Hame Fae Hame they provide kitchen facilities, a small but secure garden area (along with outdoor play) and the means for children of all ages to see their own produce become part of a meal. They also try to be involved with the wider community at any opportunity, helping children to grow up to become “engaged citizens”.

When the business was originally set up, facilities were created in partnership with the local housing association as part of a major property redevelopment in Scalloway. Such was the demand for Hame Fae Hame’s services that they outgrew these premises and moved to a disused part of the local school campus, placing private childcare alongside publicly provided school, nursery and playgroup facilities in a truly integrated approach for transitions and day-to-day running. As a result of this, the business has increased the school roll, as parents have moved children to Scalloway to take advantage of this integrated approach.

The company’s staff benefit from all their training being funded in-house, which, as Kaye says is: “Recognition that a highly qualified workforce will lead to a better quality of service and improved perception of the industry,” which will, in-turn, potentially attract more people into working in this sector as a career path.

Following the review’s publication, Kaye has accepted an invitation to become a Parliamentary Review member. She says: “Hopefully the review will help highlight issues such as qualification issues, but may also have a positive impact on recruitment, retention and pay.”

This is not the first time the business has been in a position to provide input at a high political level. A visit by Maree Todd MSP, Scottish Minister for Children and Young People came before the publication and more recently John Swinney MSP, Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills took the time to visit Hame Fae Hame during a recent electoral campaign to discuss, among other things, the changes that extended hours of publicly funded childcare being introduced this year would have on private nurseries.

While this Scottish Government policy has not been met with universal favour among private childcare providers, Kaye is open minded about the effect on her business, saying: “I’m fairly sure it won’t have too much of an impact as Hame Fae Hame offer a flexible wraparound service which is not replicated elsewhere in the isles.”

Meanwhile, life goes on in the day to day cacophony of bustling childcare facility filled with children, busy and interested but completely unawares that their home away from home has caught the interest of lords and cabinet ministers. A shining light of how a rural childcare business can work in partnership with property development, education and the wider community, while continuing to meet the daily needs of their young charges and their parents.

As the old adage goes, “the hand that rocks the cradle rules the world”. And, in this case, the hand that helps rock the cradle, helps the rulers of our world to be better informed and understand better ways of doing things, and all through the influence of a small business with high standards in a village far from the halls of power.

Read the full Parliamentary Review online

Posted in: News

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