Open Kindergarten project

This project, which is running until 2026, looks at how a Nordic model of supporting parents, carers and their young children could achieve better outcomes for families in Scotland.

About Open Kindergartens

Open Kindergartens are a long-standing concept in parent support in the Nordic countries. Groups of parents, carers and their young children meet regularly in family centres and are supported by highly-qualified early years staff who work alongside specialists to develop parents’ skills, confidence and knowledge.

Our first step (2015)

Parenting across Scotland’s work in this area goes back to 2015 when Clare Simpson, PAS’ previous director, undertook a Churchill Fellowship to Sweden, Norway and Denmark to explore those countries approaches to supporting families in the early years. A key feature of the study visit was understanding how they used the Open Kindergarten approach.

Read Clare’s original report here>

Stage One (2018)

In 2018, Parenting across Scotland teamed up with Children in Scotland and the University of Stirling to undertake a feasibility study to explore whether the Open Kindergarten model could be adapted to Scotland to improve outcomes for children in the early years.

The conclusions of that study were that Open Kindergartens could:

  • Meet parents’ support and learning needs more effectively
  • Provide parents with critical peer support
  • Upskill the early years workforce, particularly on parental engagement
  • Represent a sustainable and financially viable model, readily capable of being upscaled and, most importantly, contribute to achieving better and more equitable outcomes for children.

Read the feasibility study here >

Stage Two (2019-2020)

Between April 2019 and April 2020, the three partners worked with Midlothian Sure Start and the City of Edinburgh Council to pilot the project at two contrasting early years settings based in Edinburgh and Midlothian.

The pilot project involved free, twice-weekly drop-in sessions as well as community outreach work to overcome barriers to parental participation. The key objectives were to reduce social isolation among parents of very young children (0-3 years), support effective parenting, and contribute to optimising child wellbeing in health, learning and development.

The University of Stirling conducted an evaluation of the pilot project which concluded that Open Kindergarten filled a gap in early years services and had a positive impact for both parents and children.

You can access the summary and full evaluation report here >

In December 2020 members of the project team recorded a webinar to discuss key learning from the project. The film includes important insights from early years workers based in Mayfield in Midlothian and Tromsø in Norway. The film will be of interest to early years practitioners, early years managers, policy leads, and anyone interested in early years family support in Scotland. View the film here:

What’s next (2024-2026)

Since our Stage 2 project finished, Midlothian Surestart has continued to build Open Kindergarten approaches into their services.

Now in 2024, the original project partners are coming together again to develop a plan for the next stage of our Open Kindergarten work. This will involve testing and rolling out the model in more sites across Scotland and developing learning resources to help embed the Open Kindergarten approach in a variety of early learning and childcare settings.

Watch this space for more news.

Roof over opening petals with window - graphic