A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Castlegate's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Castlegate is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Highlighting best practice
Highlighting best practice
DirectorsSeonaid Blackie and
Christine Hamilton
Our forest school project,
Castlegate in the Woods
Castlegate Nursery & Out of School Club Limited was
established by Director Christine Hamilton’s mother in
1993 with just two members of staff and four children.
Twenty-seven years on, Christine tells us, the nursery has a team
of 20 staff who care for over 170 children through nursery, out-
of-school and holiday club provision. Operating from a single
site in the rural town of Kelso in the Scottish Borders, Christine
discusses the challenges facing the Scottish private childcare
sector. Although a move to their current site in 2007 allowed
them to refocus their provision and establish the nursery as
a leading local provider, Christine explains the sector is still
fraught with difficulties and uncertainty.
Creating the most natural environment for your child to grow
Our original site was an old church hall with very limited outdoor space, and when we
moved to our current site, it took us time to settle in. Our outdoor spaces now include
a dedicated baby garden, “back garden” for our toddlers and “the field” that has been
developed extensively over the last year for our pre-school and school-age children.
Guidance for outdoor play in early years stresses that young children require daily
access to stimulating outdoor play experiences. Our approach to outdoor play is
embedded much deeper than “access”. Regardless of weather, the majority of
our children prefer to be outside adventuring in their small woodlands, grass areas
and digging zones, and they have plots and a greenhouse where they grow fruit,
vegetables and herbs for their snacks and lunches.
»Directors:Seonaid Blackie and
Christine Hamilton
»Established in 1993
»Services:Daycare, before and
after school and holiday club
»No. of employees:20
»Specialise in outdoor play
»Care Inspectorate:“Very
»Winner at the NMT Awards
»Finalists at The Herald Scottish
Family Business Awards 2019,
Rural Family Business of the
Year Award
Our resources include a lot of loose
parts donated by our families and the
wider community including crates,
wood, tyres and cable drums. These
loose parts do not have a designated
use and can be whatever the children
want them to be, boosting their
creativity and imaginative skills. With
the world of work changing so quickly,
children need the ability to take risks,
fail and solve problems, and we
support them to do this by providing
an enriching environment where
they can develop their creative minds
through their play.
As an extension of our on-site provision,
we have also run a project for the
past decade called “Castlegate in
the Woods”. This is our forest school
provision, which is organised and
facilitated by our founder Seonaid, who
is also our qualified forest schoolleader.
A culture of love
Our provision is underpinned by love
and strong connections, and over the
past year, we have focused on delving
into love-led practice, also known as
attachment-led practice, and what
this means to us and our provision.
John Bowlby, the psychologist who
developed attachment theory, believed
that the attachments children develop
in early childhood are pivotal to their
development and future life. This
ties in with the Adverse Childhood
Experiences agenda, which is steadily
becoming more influential across
Scotland. As a setting, we are currently
working towards becoming an ACE-
aware setting, which will involve
ongoing training for all staff regardless
of their role. However much time
children spend with us, we want to
provide the support and understanding
that any child might need when they
are experiencing difficulties in their
life, and we are starting our journey by
developing our understanding of how
childhood trauma can negatively affect
development and future life chances.
Building business confidence
We have an established relationship
with our local Business Gateway
team, and this has really helped our
business develop over the past few
years. We took part in their Digital
Boost programme, which supported us
to introduce new office management
systems. This has benefited our families
through improved processes like
electronic billing and our general office
productivity, including our ability to
collaborate on pieces of work through
improved back office systems.
Loose parts play
Providing an
where they
can develop
their creative
minds through
their play
Highlighting best practice
Highlighting best practice
Involvement in the digital programme
also helped us understand the
importance of marketing our services,
and a successful business fund
application enabled us to focus our
brand and develop branding materials.
A new website in 2019 and stronger
social media presence means that we
are in a much better place to share
information and interact with our
families while promoting ourselves as
a setting of high quality, specialising in
outdoor play.
These positive changes increased our
confidence and led us to apply for
wider recognition of what we achieve
together. We were delighted to be
chosen as finalists in two categories
in the Nursery Management Today
Awards 2019: Outdoor Learning
Environment and Individual Nursery,
the former of which we won. One
of our team was also shortlisted as a
finalist in the Scottish Nursery Room
Leader category.
The challenge of being heard
We feel that uncertainty over Brexit,
along with increasing austerity
measures over recent years, has
increased political noise, both
nationally and locally. This makes
it very difficult for the important
challenges in our sector to be listened
to and to be resolved.
It is disheartening to repeatedly hear the
SNP say that everything will be in place
for their expansion of funded hours
from 600 to 1,140 by August 2020. In
reality, we are already in the midst of
local expansion plans with 90 per cent
of our eligible children able to receive
1,140 hours from August 2019, and yet
we still do not have solutions to our key
concerns either from government or our
council. These include the inadequate
funding rate given to partner providers,
which will be the same for 1,140 hours
as it is for 600 hours, a lack of access
to capital funding locally and a serious
staff drain to council-run provisions,
largely because of the higher wages
the council can afford.
We believe that the private sector in
Scotland is brimming with untapped
expertise; in our setting alone, my
mum and I have nearly four decades
of experience of running our business.
There are opportunities for improved
partnership working with providers and,
through this, we would work towards
getting a good deal for our children and
our staff who should be treated with
equal importance regardless of what
type of setting they work in.
The private
sector in
Scotland is
brimming with
Supporting the freedom
of child-led play

This article was sponsored by Castlegate. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss

Even by the standards of the day –this has been one of the most exciting and unpredictable years in British politics.

The leadership election we’ve just seen marks a huge moment in our country’s history. This government is taking a decisive new direction, embracing the opportunities of Brexit and preparing our country to flourish outside the EU.

As international trade secretary, I’ll be driving forward work on the free trade agreements that are going to be a priority for the government. Free trade isn’t just an abstract concept bandied around by technocrats. It is crucial for a strong economy and for the ability of families to make ends meet. Free trade benefits people in every part of our country, as British firms export to new markets and people doing the weekly shop have access to a wider choice of goods at lower prices.

The essence of free trade is in the title: freedom. It’s about giving people the power to exchange their goods without heavy government taxation or interference. Commerce and free exchange are the engine room of prosperity and social mobility. I’m determined to tackle the forces who want to hold that back.

One of my priorities is agreeing an exciting new free trade deal with the US, building on the great relationship between our two countries and the Prime Minister and US President. But I’ll also be talking to other partners including New Zealand, Australia and fast-growing Asian markets.

And with the EU too, we want a friendly and constructive relationship, as constitutional equals, and as friends and partners in facing the challenges that lie ahead – a relationship based on a deep free trade agreement. Our country produces some of the world’s most successful exports, and the opportunity to bring these to the rest of the world should make us all excited about the future. It is this excitement, optimism and ambition which I believe will come to define this government.

For too long now, we have been told Britain isn’t big or important enough to survive outside the EU – that we have to accept a deal that reflects our reduced circumstances. I say that’s rubbish. With the right policies in place, we can be the most competitive, free-thinking, prosperous nation on Earth exporting to the world and leading in new developments like AI. To do that, we’ll give the brilliant next generation of entrepreneurs the tools they need to succeed. Since 2015, there has been a staggering 85 per cent rise in the number of businesses set up by 18 to 24 year olds – twice the level set up by the same age group in France and Germany. We’ll help them flourish by championing enterprise, cutting taxes and making regulation flexible and responsive to their needs.

As we do that, we’ll level up and unite all parts of the UK with great transport links, fibre broadband in every home and proper school funding, so everyone shares in our country’s success.

2019 has been the year of brewing economic and political revolution. 2020 will be the year when a revitalised Conservative government turbo charges the economy, boosts prospects for people across the country, and catapults Britain back to the forefront of the world stage.

Rt Hon Elizabeth Truss
Secretary of State for International Development