Article in The National Here

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Only 20% of employers in the childcare sector offer the real living wage to all their staff and Argyll-based Stramash is proud to be one of them.

The non-profit social enterprise was established in May 2009, starting as a spin-off from Argyll and Bute Council, to provide outdoor activities to local communities around Oban.  

In 2012, Stramash opened its first outdoor nursery at Oban, followed by Fort William in 2014, Elgin in 2015 and Tornagrain in 2018.  Stramash applied to be registered as an Accredited Scottish Living Wage Employer in 2015 when the organisation was seeking to recruit high-quality candidates to the new team in Elgin.

As well as outdoor nursery provision, Stramash also provides a range of outdoor services to groups of primary school children with the aim of building pupils’ confidence in their learning, raising their attainment and improving their wellbeing and resilience.  

In addition, the organisation provides a small number of training programmes and events on outdoor learning and care, including running a two-year apprenticeship programme for candidates seeking an SVQ Level 3 qualification in professional childcare in the early years.  

“Our vision is to inspire children through outdoor play and learning,” said CEO Maggie Tierney.  “The priority outcomes we seek are embedding child-led play into every aspect of our approach to nurturing our children, so that their creativity, confidence, health, wellbeing, language and communication skills and capacity to form and maintain positive relationships are secured. We also seek to play our part in developing the quality and quantity of outdoor nurseries and other forms of outdoor learning for primary school age children in Scotland. 

“Through our apprentice and other training programmes, and through ‘role modelling’ to local communities how well outdoor provision can work even in Scotland’s dark, chilly, wet winters, we contribute to expanding the pool of qualified and experienced outdoor practitioners.  This is especially the case in support of sustaining good quality employment opportunities in some of Scotland’s rural towns.”

Stramash is governed by a seven-strong board and the nursery services support over 300 families and a number of primary schools.

The organisation currently employs 31 staff including five Modern Apprentices. Stramash also regularly calls on a pool of around 13-15 bank staff and some freelancers for nursery cover when needed or to support delivery of various programmes for schools.  

“Our highly valued staff possess skills and experience which are in rising demand in Scotland, especially with the Scottish Government’s commitment to expand funded childcare to 1140 hours by 2020,” said Stramash chair Robbie Drummond who is also MD of Calmac ferries.

“They are undoubtedly our best asset.  We want to attract and keep, and continue to develop them.  We’re proud, too, to belong within the 20% of employers in the childcare sector who do offer the living wage to all their staff.

“The work we ask our staff to do with the children who attend Stramash and their families demands that they are highly skilled, creative and motivated.  They deserve nothing less than fair pay.

“The benefits for us are that we have an engaged and committed outdoor team working in all four of our settings.  The Care Inspectorate reports we received last year for the quality of our services was never less than ‘Good’ for any category in all our settings and was scored as ‘Excellent’, the highest score, in some.”   

Minister for Children and Young People, Maree Todd, said:

“As part of the expansion in funded Early Learning and Childcare entitlement to 1140 hours, the Scottish Government is committed to promoting and encouraging fair work practices.

“This includes providing, as part of the new Funding Follows the Child approach, investment to enable payment of the ‘real’ Living Wage to all childcare workers delivering the funded hours from 2020.

“I hope other early learning and childcare providers will see the benefits of paying the ‘real’ Living Wage, which evidence shows can lead to increased productivity, better morale and higher retention rates.”


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