What would make Scotland the best place in the world to bring up children?
The Scottish Government will soon be launching their National Parenting Strategy. You can read more about it here. This is a brilliant opportunity to use our voices as parents and let the Government know what they’re doing well… but more importantly what they could be doing better.
I’ve been asked by the charity Parenting Across Scotland to do a quick post with my own thoughts, but also to help gather your thoughts. Please do feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments below, or if you’re on Twitter you can tweet using the #PAS12 hashtag.
I was brought up as a child in Scotland, and I started to bring my own child up in Scotland, so I’m well aware that the policies that could make a difference range from large infrastructural changes to tiny tweakings of dinky details.
Pregnancy and parenting support
Places like the Pregnancy and Parents Centre in Edinburgh provide incredible support in the community, and they really recognise that the parenting journey starts when you’re pregnant, not just when you give birth. They provide both informal and formal support – counselling, yoga, and birth preparation classes, but also a friendly and affordable meeting place to catch up with other pregnant women and new Mums. When I had DorkySon, the first time I left the house on my own with him was to go to a coffee morning at the PPC, because I knew there would be a friendly welcome. Unfortunately, places like the PPC have to spend as much time on fundraising activities as they do on their core support work. Better funding of places like this – that can already demonstrate the value they bring to a community – would be brilliant.
Affordable childcare, and flexible employment opportunities
Before I had DorkySon I worked full time in the charity sector. It was a brilliant job, but the combination of a third sector salary and the cost of childcare in Edinburgh meant that it made no financial sense for me to go back to work after becoming a parent. If I had worked full time and he had been in nursery full time, my entire salary would have gone on nursery fees. To spend 5 days away from my son and not be making any income was something I saw as a lose-lose opportunity.
I see this as an issue that really has to be tackled from both sides. Most mothers would make brilliant employees! We are hard working, resourceful, well used to juggling a hundred things at once, skilled negotiators, natural networkers… If employers could approach employment creatively and step away from the idea that you have to be sat in an office from 9-5 to do your job well, and if the Government could help with providing quality, flexible childcare for children from the age of 1, then I think that would be a huge step to a happier and wealthier society.
Outdoor play areas
There is nothing sadder than seeing a neglected play area, but unfortunately Scotland is full of them. One battered looking slide covered in graffiti, a couple of swings that some local teenagers have tied up so they can’t be used, and a scratchy looking patch of grass that’s full of dog poo. Not exactly where you want your toddler to spend his afternoons. But on the flip side, when proper investment is made in play areas, such as the BRILLIANT park on the Meadows in Edinburgh, then you’ll they’ll always be busy and well used, our children will be happier and healthier, and new parents will have more opportunities to get out and about meeting other families.
A diverse culture
When I lived in Edinburgh, I felt like my son was being exposed to a wide variety of people from different countries and cultures. I loved that he would hear different languages being spoken and have the opportunity to spend time with people who ate different food, wore different clothes and listened to different music. I think it’s hugely important the Scotland remains a place where there is a real international buzz. In rural areas where that doesn’t happen as much, maybe it would be helpful to look at other ways to open children’s eyes to how big the world is – through cultural exchanges in schools, to penpal schemes, to visiting music or drama groups.
Looking after the environment
I was lucky enough to be born in the Western Isles, where you can’t help but feel connected to the land. From fishing to crofting, the majority of jobs are dependent on a healthy natural environment, and it’s important to take care of that environment on the big scale as well as the small scale. If we can create a Scotland where all our children are able to breathe clean air, to eat healthy, local food, to recycle, to live in warm homes and to walk or cycle around their towns, then I think that would be the best gift we could give them.
What do you think? What would be the best changes that could be made in Scotland to support you as a parent, and to help your children live happy lives? Would it be free entry to local attractions? More events in your local library? Parenting classes? Free school meals for all? Better financial support?
Leave your thoughts below – anonymously if you prefer.
Brilliant list, some really important points about the environment we bring kids up in. Put together my own wishlist: http://www.rossmcculloch.com/what-would-make-scotland-the-best-in-the-worl
Everything you said. We especially need to get affordable childcare and flexible working patterns sorted out here. Scottish workplaces are often good at thinking outside of the norm so this could easily be an extension of this. Raising the nursery places to 15 hours to match England’s, instead of 12 and a bit , would make a really big difference to parents like me that freelance from home. On that note, more home working opportunities would be brilliant.
More parent rooms like the brilliant one in John Lewis, where you can go change a nappy never mind what gender the parent in charge of that nappy is, where it’s clean and comfy and there’s a toddler sized loo too. It’s a shame that the changing tables in some places are grotty, only accessible for women, or both.
Play areas – when things need to be taken away for safety reasons, like our park at home lost its slide due to vandalism, it really needs to be replaced with something to keep the balance of the playground. There’s now very little to interest the smaller kids and it looks awful. This seems to be happening across the region.
We could use some more free inside places to go in Edinburgh. The kids never do get bored of the museum but a change would be lovely. We’re already very lucky with our range of free and paying classes and groups, through we could use some afternoon ones.
However Scotland is already a much better place to raise your kid than any part of England I’ve ever lived in – although York comes a very close second in terms of community feeling, local activities and support. Scotland can keep on being brilliant by carrying on with its own education system for instance. I’m much happier with the system my 3 year old has started than the one I went through in England.
I agree with all of this. I started my brainstorm for this post by thinking about the things that I’m really missing about Scotland. Must confess that I’m not much looking forward to T starting school down here this time next year.
Thanks so much for taking the time to write such a helpful comment lovely xx
You’re welcome. 🙂 I’ll add anything else I think of.
Starting school?!? We’re quite lucky with my wee one’s birth month – she’ll be a few months over 5 before she starts in Scotland and has another year after this of preschool (she’s in antepreschool just now). In England her peers are starting next september. They seem so small!
Thanks, Dorkymum. Parenting across Scotland is really hoping that the new National Parenting Strategy will make a difference for parents in Scotland.
Loving your list – so much on there that’s really important. Having community places to go that parents themselves are really part of running is important. Childcare and making workplaces more flexible would make our society so much more family friendly. I know that Scottish Government is looking at extending childcare hours for families. It also held a business summit to start the process of employers thinking family friendly. More needs to be done but things are starting to move.
Play and the environment – YES! We need more spaces for children to play. We need children to grow up and really appreciate the environment that they’re part of and then as well as enjoying the beautiful environment that is Scotland they can look after it for future generations.
Excellent list – childcare seems to crop up on all the posts. It’s crucial – I have to work for two days for nothing before I start earning.
Outdoor spaces are important too. We are blessed with some excellent ones and perhaps that’s what sets living in Scotland apart as somewhere special.
Fab post. On the childcare,it is great that you get free childcare from 3 but is not practical if you work. I would love gemma to go to the nursery attached to the primary she will go to but 4 mornings is not practical. It isn’t a full morning so wouldn’t be worth going into work to get back! I only work 21 hours but it just won’t work and so oversubscribed they have to go everyday or not at all.
Of course we will get funding to help with her private nursery that she goes to 2 days a week.it is a fab nursery but on the other side of town so not great preparation. This hasn’t been thought through for mothers who work. I have only been able to work as my mum and sister have helped out and until recently only had to use nursery one day a week.
There is a lot to do in.Edinburgh for free but limited in wet weather.
During school hols the swimming and music classes are off but little on for under 5s,everything geared up for school age kids.
There are a lot of good parks,the new one at the skate park at balgreen is fab but it is such a shame they’re not all like that.
Agree with john lewis facilities,wish more like it. There are a number of places that are very poor and dirty.
Love a trip to dobbies at dalkeith,look at the fish,animals etc then good coffee and a play in the park. These things though are not accessible to those without their own transport which is a big down fall.we have recently got a 2nd car which makes these things possible.
How about making our roads safe enough for children to walk or cycle to school, the way in which they used to. In the Netherlands over 90% of children walk or cycle to school and the same pattern can be seen in other European countries, why not here?
Well the UK has one of the worse records in Europe for child pedestrian and cycle safety. In the Netherlands in the 1970′s their record on road safety was as bad as ours, the difference was they ran a series of “Stop der Kindermort” campaigns. Here our policy on road safety was based on trying to keep children off the roads so that they won’t inconvenience more important people who were driving cars at speed through out cities, towns and villages (something I have written about here http://www.kimharding.net/blog/?p=1716).
Earlier this year in Edinburgh 3,000 gathered, many of them families, to Pedal on Parliament (http://pedalonparliament.org/) to call for safer roads for all. It is time we got our politicians to think of the children, rather than just a few selfish adults who think their convenience when driving is more important than a child’s life.
I’m ready to move to Scotland now!
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