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Home schooling is child’s play with project packs funded by North Highland Initiative

By Alan Hendry

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Children across the north Highlands will benefit from the Care and Learning Alliance's Playful Project Packs.
Children across the north Highlands will benefit from the Care and Learning Alliance's Playful Project Packs.

Families and carers in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire are being offered a new way to play and learn together at home during the coronavirus pandemic.

The Highland-wide Care and Learning Alliance (CALA) has been awarded a £1000 grant from North Highland Initiative’s Community Support Programme to provide vulnerable families with Playful Project Packs. These include gardening tools, seeds, compost and learning tasks, as well as eco-friendly tips and activities.

Distributed by post, the packs will provide support and guidance to extend children’s and family learning from the home setting, while encouraging achievable outdoor activities in line with the aims and guidance of the Scottish Government, including Covid-19 and outdoor learning.

CALA is the largest early years membership organisation in the Highland and Moray area, working with local and national stakeholders to provide universal and targeted children’s services. The organisation aims to deliver early education and childcare to parents, carers and their children aged up to 16 years.

Supporting family learning through play and activities, CALA is active in all communities across the north Highlands, supporting toddler groups, parenting classes and BookBug reading sessions.

Young children learn through observing, experimenting, doing and using their senses. Research shows that where this is actively supported by parents it has a positive impact on children’s education.

CALA says that through provision of these packs, and the availability of virtual support, children and parents will be provided with the resources, guidance and support to engage together indoors and out giving a focus to home learning at a time of great uncertainty and change to daily routines.

Throughout the pandemic, many families in remote and rural areas are struggling to support their young children with home learning, play materials and how to support and extend children’s play learning in purposeful ways.

Thanks to funding from the North Highland Community Support Programme, the Playful Project Packs will not only provide children with a series of active, exciting play and learning they can do with their parents, it will support family learning on growing, as well as parent and carer confidence as children’s first educators.

CALA says the packs will not only provide rich opportunities to stimulate children’s interest in growing and gardening incorporating learning in maths, literacy, sciences and develop their concentration, but has the potential to make a significant difference to the overall health and wellbeing of the children and their parents.

Its chief executive Jaci Douglas said: “On behalf of all at CALA, we want to say a huge-thank you to our funders for making these packs possible. We’re grateful that we can be providing children and families with resources that are not only fun but help with their learning and development as well.

"Anything that encourages children and families to be active and play together is to be welcomed and these little packs we know will bring a huge amount of joy.

“We’re also really grateful for the support of our local post offices. The ability to work together within our communities to help and support each other is vital, especially at a time such as this.

“We know families are finding the crisis situation challenging and anxious. Anything we can do to alleviate that and support them is to be welcomed.

“CALA’s skilled practitioners are also working hard to keep our dedicated web pages updated with new, simple and low-cost fun activities to try at home, as well as information and resources for families on everything from safety online to support with mental health. We also have the option for families to contact us for any advice and support they might need at this time.”

Launched in March, the North Highland Initiative’s Community Support Programme is awarding grants of up to £1000 for small initiatives in the education, conservation, and community service and support sectors in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross-shire.

Priority is being given to those initiatives where government support packages are unable to help, and those ineligible for emergency grants.

David Whiteford, chairman of the North Highland Initiative, said: “The Care and Learning Alliance is yet another great example of how north Highland communities are coming together to support each other during the pandemic. We’re proud to be supporting its continued efforts by providing the funding it needs to distribute the new Playful Project Packs to vulnerable families across remote parts of the region.

“Our adapted NHI support fund is already helping communities that are experiencing particular hardship as a result of the ongoing coronavirus crisis. Our aim is to target areas, projects and local initiatives for which government support packages may not be able to assist, and those ineligible for emergency funding.

“With a limit of £1000 of funding per project available, this allows us to provide multiple smaller grants aimed at reaching out to as many communities as possible and we now want to encourage even more community groups from across the north Highlands to apply.”

CALA is also encouraging parents and children to take photos, share their stories of how they have used their Playful Project Packs and the difference this has made on Twitter at CALAchildcare or by email to info@calachildcare.co.uk

CALA is part-funded by Highland Council, Scottish Government, Corra Foundation and Bòrd na Gàidhlig.

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