Family learning centres in Midlothian

Midlothian has recently moved towards a model of family learning centres with an integrated approach to supporting families. In the centres, sectors and services work together so that families can access services more easily. Services for pre birth to five year olds, primary school and out of school care are all located in the same building, to ensure seamless transitions for children and families.

Midlothian’s first family learning centre opened in Woodburn primary school in February 2016. The Gorebridge family learning centre will open in a community hub, "The Beacon," in May 2017. This enhanced partnership approach will be extended to all Midlothian Sure Start centres in Penicuik, Mayfield, Loanhead and Bonnyrigg.

Vision and approach

Midlothian’s vision for the early years is to reduce inequalities in its top three community planning priority areas in Midlothian through the provision of family learning centres. This ambition is built on a history of partnership working between Midlothian Sure Start, the NHS, Midlothian council and Homelink family support.

The centres provide services which are strengths based, respectful and person-centred. They work on the principle of developing in partnership with communities rather than 'doing to' communities. Each centre has a parent forum, and half of the board are families who are either using or have used the services.

Services to families

The centres provide services from pre birth to school and beyond. Midwives provide ante-natal care, including dads-to-be courses. Delivery of the 27-30 month child health (including integration into the child's plan where necessary) is being piloted in centres. Opportunities are provided for parents to attend health checks onsite. A speech and language therapist is also co-located as part of the team.

The centres offer a range of services to parents and grandparents. These include:

  • parenting support through programmes such as Incredible Years, How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Raising Children with Confidence
  • therapeutic groups (art therapy and perinatal mental health),
  • counselling
  • courses, such as Living Life to the Full
  • developing skills - literacy and numeracy, and cooking

Midlothian Sure Start also provides an outreach group to local army families on base and in family homes.

There is a focus on community capacity building and helping families to progress. Parents who attend parenting classes have the opportunity to move onto creche worker training, and to employment and further training.

Early learning and childcare

The centres are testing how to provide a fully flexible approach to the delivery of 1140 hours of early learning and childcare, which is sensitive to the needs of both parent and child. Space at the centres is based on a blueprint, developed by Midlothian council’s early years team for child focused quality accommodation, which meets the needs of very young children. This includes an open door approach to outdoor play, with the quality of outdoor space receiving the same attention as the creation of a quality indoor space.

"Research shows that parents’ involvement in their children's learning is the single most important factor in enabling children from disadvantaged backgrounds to do well." Accordingly, the central focus of the family learning centre approach is to engage parents in their child’s learning and development. The centres offer the Pen Green PICL (parents involved in their children's learning) programme, the "Big Bed-time Read, PEEP groups and Midlothian Sure Start’s A Good Start programme.

The family learning centre has installed a one way viewing gallery so that parents can watch their children, and find out about how to help them learn.

Workforce development

Staff are offered a wide range of training training opportunities including:

  • Froebel training
  • infant mental health
  • Star Catchers creative skills
  • sleep awareness
  • forest school initiative
  • parenting courses
  • PEEP

Midlothian SureStart works in partnership with Midlothian council to provide qualification training to early years practitioners, with some undertaking the BA in Childhood Studies. Multi agency training on the shared value base is also offered to staff.