Reay Under 5’s – Fun in the mud!

The following blog article was submitted by Yvonne Morris, Senior Early Years Practitioner at Reay Under 5’s:

We were lucky enough to get another area for the children to use for outdoor learning and play. Our dads recently cleared this area for us, made some new fencing and spread bark chips. We purchased a new Mud Kitchen and new sandpit for the children and now have a super outside area which will support the development of children’s curiosity and exploration.

Wow, what fun they had investigating and exploring. Lots of digging, pouring, filling to further develop their mathematical learning. As well as mixing mud and sand they used their imagination and senses as they made ‘pancakes’ and ‘blueberry pies’. The play has led to further development and fantastic communication as they extend their language skills using descriptive words whilst sharing with staff and peers what they are doing: ‘I am mixing all the ingredients’,’ it is gooey’. The benefits of our new area will be fantastic for the children’s development in so many ways giving them endless opportunities.

Empowering Parents in Prison

Mairianne Nairn and Gillian Forbes, supporting dads and their families at Inverness Prison

The following blog article was submitted by Mairianne Nairn, CALA Family Support Project Coordinator.

In my role as Family Support Project Coordinator, I have been working closely with Family Contact staff at HM Prison Inverness to offer a range of support and opportunities to dads and their families. Alongside Council colleague Gillian Forbes, I recently delivered a 12 week Pathway programme in the prison resulting in two fathers graduating with nationally recognised SCQF level 4 qualifications through the programme.

This is the first Pathway group to be delivered within a Prison in the whole of the UK and the first Pathway for the Highlands.

Every week we had a fun packed peep session, I’m sure the Dads and children would agree that Messy Play was the absolute favourite thing thoroughly enjoyed by all! After our hour of peep we waved goodbye to the families and got out the coffee and the chocolate biscuits and set to work on portfolios.

At the end of the 12 weeks, prison governor Stephen Coyle presented two dads with their certificates

Some weeks brought challenges, but the Dads were determined to achieve their goal and worked so hard, completing portfolios to a very high standard. We ended the 12 weeks with a celebration with the families and the Prison Governor joined us to chat to the dads and present them with their certificates. Thanks to the Community Justice Partnership’s generous funding we were able to gift each family a box of resources so they can replicate the activities at home.

The peep Pathway at the prison was only possible thanks to an excellent working relationship with fellow practitioner Gillian Forbes from Highland Council and Scottish Prison Service staff who supported the families along with all the other professionals involved throughout to ensure the programme’s success.

During the 12 weeks of the course, it has been a pleasure to work with the Dads to complete their portfolios and explore the topics. I have observed first hand the positive effect this has had on parent and child as their understanding of their child’s development and how best to support it has deepened. Peep is a wonderful programme that allows the practitioner to deliver an adult learning programme in a positive atmosphere with families learning alongside each other. I look forward to returning to the Prison to deliver another round of Pathway training where one of the dads is coming back to complete his level 5.

What is peep?

The CALA Family Support Team have a diverse set of skills and tools at their disposal to ensure we can give the very best tailored support to families and groups one of those tools is peep.

The peep learning together programme is an evidence-based intervention, developed by the charity ‘Peeple‘ and focuses on the all-important home learning environment and strengthening the relationship between parent and child.

Peep sessions come in all shapes in sizes as it is a wonderfully flexible programme and can be in a group, in the home, over a number of weeks or a one-off session. Above all things peep sessions are fun!

Peep sessions involve songs, stories, activities and discussion linked to the programmes five strands of learning:

  • Personal, social and emotional development
  • Communication and language
  • Early literacy development
  • Early numeracy development
  • Health and physical development

The peep Progression Pathway allows parents to gain a City & Guilds qualification whilst participating in weekly peep sessions then taking additional time to complete a portfolio related to their learning during the session.


Upcoming free event in Inverness: nature is the best playground

What: Scotland’s Play Council Seminar on Nature is the best playground – the benefits of outdoor play in the home, early learning and childcare, in school and in the community

When: Saturday 17th November 2018

Where: Culloden-Balloch Baptist Church, Inverness

How to book: click here

Free e-learning resource from NHS Health Scotland: British Sign Language (BSL)

The following blog update comes courtesy of the Care Inspectorate’s Newsletter: 

We are pleased to let you know about a new e-learning resource that is free and available to you and your staff.

The new module is relevant for all staff across health, mental health and social care. It aims to develop awareness of the different types of British Sign Language (BSL) and share good practice in communicating with people who use BSL, to improve their experience of services.

The module covers the following key learning outcomes:

    • Recognise the different types of communication support needs.
    • Describe the basics of BSL as a language and the rights of BSL users.
    • Respond appropriately to the communication preference of BSL users.
    • Reflect on ways of improving current practice.

NHS Health Scotland’s Workforce Development team developed the module in partnership with BSL users and colleagues from DeafScotland, Deafblind Scotland, the Care Inspectorate, the Scottish Social Services Council, NHS Education Scotland, NHS Lothian and NHS Forth Valley.

We encourage all care service providers and staff to enrol themselves onto this short and enjoyable module. Follow the link at the bottom of this email to NHS Health Scotland’s Virtual Learning Environment.

Please note, new users will need to create an account and log in before accessing the course. You can create a new account on the following link:

Self-enrolment: Once you have created an account and logged in, click the following link and self-enrol in the course –

Congratulations to Watten ELC for attaining their Eco-Schools Green Flag Award

The following blog article comes from Donna Sinclair and the staff of Watten ELC:

Congratulations to Watten ELC for attaining their Eco-Schools Green Flag Award status.

The feedback from the Eco-Schools Interim Assessment report included “it’s wonderful to see this campaign being carried out in an Early Years context, it is very clear both from the quotes from children and the wonderful photos of children working in the centre groups that Eco-Schools at Watten ELC is very hands-on and child led.  Curricular links outlined in the application and Action Plans are outstanding and well thought out.  An outstanding application for a First Green Flag“. 

Well done to the staff and children for all the hard work put in to achieve this award, a definite inspiration to us all.

Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) Inclusion Fund

The following blog article comes courtesy of Children in Scotland

The second round of the Scottish Government’s Early Learning & Childcare Inclusion Fund is now open to applications.
The ELC Inclusion Fund provides funding to selected Scottish registered ELC providers to support children with additional support needs (ASN) in Scotland access their funded ELC entitlement. It funds staff working in ELC settings to receive appropriate training and fund resources, equipment and adaptations to help meet the needs of these children.

Details on the funding and how to apply can be found at

Closing date for applying to the fund is 5 pm on 31 October 2018. For further details email [email protected]

Not included, not engaged, not involved: a report on the experiences of autistic children missing school

Not Included, Not Engaged, Not Involved – Children in Scotland, Scottish Autism and National Autistic Society’s research report 2018 on the experiences of autistic children missing school.

The report, based on analysis of 1434 responses to an online survey (from every local authority) suggests nine calls for action and a range of further actions needed. Full report:

Children’s Rights

REACH have produced three short useful videos to help school pupils understand more about their rights to help pupils to access support and have a voice at school.

You can watch the videos on YouTube by clicking the links below: 

It’s not easy to talk

Your rights your say

How to make your voice heard at school

To find out more about REACH – why not visit their website:

Looking back at the 2018 CALA Conference

We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who attended our annual conference, including our amazing workshop leaders, fantastic speakers, CALA staff members, and each and every one of our attendees – you all helped make the day very memorable. The theme this year was ‘The extraordinary power of play; when we play the whole world wins’.

Over 130 people joined us at Culloden-Balloch Baptist Church for a day of workshops, speakers, playing, learning, communicating, and a little bit of singing.

If you couldn’t make it along, or you just want to recap the day, Corrina has made a video with some highlights from the day. Click the thumbnail below to watch: 

Highland Child Protection Committee Masterclass: Fabricated and Induced Illness

Highland Child Protection Committee Masterclass: Fabricated and Induced Illness
Delivered by: Dr Danya Glaser
Thursday 25th October 2018, 10 am – 3 pm, Inverness

Register your place by visiting the Highland Child Protection Committee website. 

Maths week: 10th – 16th September 2018

Maths week is a good time to take a look at how you are providing numeracy and maths experiences across your setting. There’s a whole lot of resources available to support you, the children and their families so we’ve put together just some of them below for you. Not an exhaustive list by any means but hopefully a few wee ideas to get you going!

Lots of people have hang-ups about maths work so remember it’s all about having fun with numbers, exploring and experimenting. As we know, children learn really well through sensory experiences and playing outdoors with open-ended resources so see how many different ways you can bring numeracy and maths into all the regular activities on offer – opportunities in the sandpit, mud kitchen etc for pouring, measuring, estimating, using mathematical language to compare and describe the glorious concoctions! Collect different kinds of loose parts e.g. different sizes and shapes of boxes, sticks, leaves or anything you can find, and you have ready-made resources to explore all aspects of numeracy and maths.

Here are just a few websites you can look at for some inspiration, guidance and ideas.

Highland Council Numeracy Blog

Creative Star: Juliet Robertson – great ideas for using loose parts and outdoor maths experiences. 

Twinkl – a free downloadable resource pack for Maths Week which could spark some ideas for you. 

If you, or other adults, or parents and carers want to improve their own number skills or help their children there are a lot of resources available from National Numeracy here:

Don’t forget all the different songs, rhymes and story books you can use that are full of maths ideas. There are so many counting stories and books full of rich colours and patterns to spark conversation. Why not act some out, or make up your own? We know that using our whole bodies helps learning. There’s some ideas of books to borrow from the library here:

Whatever you do – have loads of fun with numeracy and maths and send us some stories and photos of what you get up to!

Marion Laidlaw

CALA Improvement Coordinator

Upcoming Training: Activity & Wellbeing (free to all Highland childcare practitioners)

The Scottish out of School Care Network (SOSCN) offers these two FREE workshop training sessions on ‘Activity & Wellbeing; the first steps’ and ‘Activity & Wellbeing; next steps’. Delivered in partnership with Care and Learning Alliance, these sessions are being delivered in Inverness. The sessions are available to all childcare practitioners working in Highland.

To book your place at one or both of these training sessions, please visit:

This training looks at barriers to physical activity, how these can be overcome and the importance of being active for supporting the healthy development of children. These topics are covered by staff discussion, theory and case studies.

For more information on these training sessions, please download the course flyer by clicking here. 

Dates and Times

Activity & Wellbeing; the first steps – Sat 29th Sep 2018 – 10 am – 12 pm.

Activity & Wellbeing; the next steps – Sat 3rd Nov 2018 – 10 am – 12pm.

Culloden and Balloch Baptist Church, Inverness IV2 7GS