Childcare providers have worked creatively over the pandemic to increase opportunities for outdoor learning, as evidence shows that the risk of transmission is reduced outdoors. To support that, we launched in December 2020 a £1 million outdoor clothing fund for providers of funded early learning and childcare as part of our wider winter support package. The fund was used to buy outdoor winter clothing for children who needed it most. A total of 1,040 childcare providers successfully bid for that funding, and children continue to benefit from the clothing this year.
We continue to work closely with the childcare sector to monitor the impacts of the pandemic and to keep the need for further financial support under review.
We are supporting the growth of outdoor learning and practitioner confidence in that area in a number of ways. During the pandemic, we funded a virtual nature school programme, which supported more than 2,000 practitioners and 40,000 children and family members to have quality outdoor experiences. We funded Inspiring Scotland through the early learning and childcare expansion to increase outdoor play and learning activities. We continue to add to our “Out to Play” practitioner guidance series, and the national practice guidance “Realising the Ambition” is also supporting practitioners to deliver more outdoor play. We will work with practitioners to develop strong communities of practice.
The minister will know that, at the moment, pupils are not just in need of warm clothing outdoors. To be frank, they are freezing indoors in classrooms. What additional financial help is being made available for parents to keep their children warm inside schools? Teachers are having to open windows in the middle of winter in place of proper classroom ventilation.