Welcome to your career in Early Learning and Childcare (ELC). You will know that a career in ELC is more than just a job, it is a truly satisfying and rewarding career. Working with children to help nurture their development, and shape and build their worlds, is exceptionally important. As we continue to move towards expanding funded entitlement of ELC to 1140 hours per year, this is a very exciting time to be joining the profession.
The earliest years of life are crucial to a child's development and have a lasting impact on outcomes in health, education and employment opportunities later in life. This is why we are making an unprecedented investment in ELC to support our ambition to give all of our children the best start in life. As well as increasing the entitlement to funded ELC from 600 hours to 1140 hours a year, there is also a renewed emphasis on ensuring that all children have access to a high quality ELC experience which ensures they are supported in all aspects of their early development.
We know that the most important driver of quality in ELC is a dedicated, highly skilled and well-qualified workforce, whose initial training and continued professional learning enables them to fulfil their own potential and equip our young children to do the same. Scotland is already leading the way across the UK in its ambition to have a highly qualified and regulated workforce.
This resource has been developed to support you in your induction to delivering ELC – whether that is funded ELC or ELC that families choose to purchase themselves. It has been developed specifically to support staff working in ELC centres rather than in childminding settings. It sets out how you can expect your employer to support you in your new role and includes links to the range of national resources which are available to support you. It has been developed collaboratively with the range of national organisations supporting the profession.
We hope that this resource helps to demonstrate how much we value our well-trained, professional and skilled ELC workforce, and that it supports you to develop in your vital role in giving our children the best possible start. This is of particular significance at this time due to the considerable changes to all aspects of life as a result of the outbreak of Coronavirus.
Plans for the expansion for funded entitlement to 1140 have necessarily been delayed, and the difficult decision taken to suspend the statutory duty on local authorities to provide 1140 hours of ELC from August 2020. This is in cognisance of the fact that much of the work planned was necessarily put on hold, and to allow us to work with partners to address the more immediate impacts on the childcare sector arising from the pandemic; principally safeguarding the health and wellbeing of our workforce, children and families.
Scotland's routemap through and out of the crisis sets out a phased approach for moving out of lockdown. Alongside that routemap, we have published a Strategic Framework which sets out the high level plans for the reopening of schools, ELC settings and also wider childcare settings including school aged childcare and childminding.
The Care Inspectorate has also developed 'Key Question 5; Operating an Early Learning and Childcare setting (including out of school care and childminders) during COVID-19'. This is a self-evaluation resource and tool which asks settings to evaluate how well they are supporting children and families during COVID-19, and will be a useful tool during the first month in your setting.
To support our workforce during this challenging time, we have worked with Early Years Scotland to develop a new Team ELC Wellbeing Hub; a website which sets out vital information for the sector on maintaining their wellbeing, and creates opportunities for staff to connect with each other.
We are absolutely committed to the benefits of the expansion and the return to universal 1140 provision for all 3 and 4 year olds and eligible 2 year olds as soon as is possible and once Scotland is through, and out, of the COVID-19 crisis. Full and up to date information regarding Covid-19 and the expansion is available from the Scottish Government webpages.
The Purpose Of The Induction Period
There are some fundamental attributes that we expect from staff entering the Early Learning and Childcare sector. Regardless of the extent and nature of your previous experience, you will have been recruited because you:
- are highly motivated and have a commitment to improving outcomes for children and families;
- demonstrate patience, compassion and a sense of fun and enjoyment in working with young children;
- are eager to learn and understand the need to develop your knowledge and skills;
- demonstrate compassion, warmth and kindness in your interactions with children;
- understand the trust afforded to you in safeguarding children and respect the need for confidentiality; and you
- demonstrate strong personal values, both inside and outside of the work place.
For more on the key attributes that everyone working with children, young people and their families should have, see the 'Common Core of skills, knowledge and values'.
The purpose of induction is for your employer to build on these attributes and to develop your understanding of the following:
- how to develop trusting relationships with children and their families;
- your role as part of a team and how to develop good communication with children, their families and your colleagues;
- your responsibilities in keeping children safe and who to speak to if you have concerns in relation to a child's wellbeing and particularly to child protection;
- the early learning and childcare policy context, including the background to the increased investment and how we expect this to impact on outcomes for children;
- your responsibility in respect of professional registration with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and the associated requirements around continuous professional learning and qualifications;
- how to identify and engage with learning opportunities; and
- the codes of practice for social service workers.
Mentoring within your setting
This National Induction Resource has been designed to support both you and your employer in developing the understanding described above. However, it is not the only induction support that will be available to you. Your employer should assign you a mentor – someone to whom you can turn to for advice and support within your ELC setting. This could be your manager or another experienced colleague working alongside you. Section two of this resource sets out some reflective questions that you might like to explore, together with your mentor, over the months ahead. Each setting will also have its own induction procedures and so this list is by no means exhaustive or mandatory. This research also provides an example of an induction checklist that could be used and adapted as a reminder of some of the practical things that you will need to know and find out about during your induction period.
Further support can be sourced from SSSC's comprehensive Guidance for Mentoring in Childhood Practice which is based on proven, research-based good practice designed to help an organisation's programme to reach its potential and in turn help to support the continuous professional development of its workforce.
Background to our Investment in Early Learning and Childcare
Research shows that attending high quality ELC improves outcomes for children in the early years and gives them important skills and confidence to carry into their schooling. For instance, children who attended high quality settings in Scotland were more likely to show improvements in vocabulary skills between ages 3 and 5. High quality ELC particularly benefits children living in more disadvantaged circumstances and so can make a real difference to closing the poverty-related attainment gap.
Research also shows us that access to high quality, skilled practitioners is strongly associated with the best outcomes for children, both in terms of cognitive development and health/wellbeing. Again, this is particularly the case for children affected by poverty, who have been shown to make more progress in settings where staff and managers were highly qualified.
It is not just formal qualifications that have been shown to make a difference to children's outcomes. By undertaking continuous professional learning (CPL) you can also strengthen your ability to support children with their development. Experienced and well trained staff have the knowledge and ability to engage, instruct and support children's learning from an early age and have the ability to make a real difference.
Access to high quality ELC not only plays an important role in improving outcomes for children, it also has an impact on the wider family. Research shows that affordable and high quality ELC, with an adequate number of hours per week, supports parents in employment. ELC can therefore play an important role in improving the lives of families and lifting them out of poverty. Around one in four children in Scotland lives in poverty, and we are working hard to reduce this through our Child Poverty Delivery Plan.
To ensure that the funded ELC entitlement is delivered in high quality settings, the sector was working towards the introduction of Funding Follows the Child and the underpinning National Standard for all ELC providers, to be delivered alongside the statutory roll-out of the expansion.
Funding Follows the Child is 'provider neutral' and is underpinned by a National Standard that to be a funded provider – regardless of whether they are in the public, private or third sector, or childminders – settings will have to meet. The criteria of the National Standard focuses on what children and their families should expect from their funded entitlement experience. And places choice in parents' and carers' hands. It ensures that families can be reassured that- regardless of where they access their funded entitlement- a high quality service will be delivered.
Important progress has already been made however, due to the impact of COVID-19 delaying the expansion, a new timetable for the full implementation will be set. We have the potential to make a significant impact on outcomes for children. As well as extending the hours of funded ELC, the earlier offer for eligible two year olds will help ensure even more support for those who stand to benefit the most.
'The world in recent months has been extraordinary, with the impact of the pandemic creating unprecedented challenges across the early years sector and beyond. Throughout all these complexities, one aspect that has not changed is our pledge that every child in Scotland has the best start in life.
High quality early learning and childcare is an important part of that promise for Scotland's children and families.
The vital role of early years staff has been absolutely pivotal during these difficult times, and the sector has clearly demonstrated its unwavering commitment to Scotland's youngest children and their families, despite the challenges many faced themselves.
It is critical that ELC staff continue to be valued and supported in providing care and high quality experiences for young children in the most creative and nurturing ways, ensuring they continue to feel included, valued and respected.'
Jane Brumpton, Chief Executive, Early Years Scotland
To stay up-to-date with progress with policy developments in ELC more generally, you may want to register with the Knowledge Hub (KHub). The KHub group is facilitated by the Scottish Government to provide an online space for all stakeholders and delivery partners to discuss issues and share knowledge relating to ELC in Scotland, with a particular focus on the commitment to increase the ELC entitlement to 1140 hours. To join the group, please sign up to Knowledge Hub and then visit the group's homepage, select "Request to join" and complete the relevant information.
Professional Regulation of the Early Years Workforce
Protecting Vulnerable Groups Scheme
As part of your recruitment process for your role in ELC, you will undergo a Disclosure Scotland criminal record check and will have to be a registered member of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme. When someone applies to join the PVG Scheme, Disclosure Scotland carries out criminal record checks and shares the results with individuals and their employers.
The checks will highlight:
- whether you are barred from regulated work with the workforce that you are seeking to work with
- whether you are under consideration for listing for that type of regulated work
- unspent convictions
- spent convictions for certain offences
- unspent cautions
- if the person is on the sex offenders register
- relevant information from the police force
- prescribed civil orders
A PVG scheme membership lasts forever and is continuously checked unless you decide to leave the scheme. You should keep your record up to date if for example, you change jobs or move house. This means that Disclosure Scotland can contact you quickly if needed and information is sent to the right place.
If Disclosure Scotland are advised of new information which means someone might have become unsuitable to work with children or protected adults, they will tell your employer. More information on the PVG scheme can be found here.
Registering with the Scottish Social Services Council
The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) is the regulatory body for social service workers, this includes those working in the ELC profession in day care of children service settings. Those working in childminding services are not required to register by SSSC but are regulated by the Care Inspectorate. Teachers are registered and regulated by the General Teaching Council for Scotland.
You can register with the SSSC only after you have started in your ELC role, and your registration category will reflect the position (role and responsibilities) to which you have been appointed. You will register in one of the following SSSC categories:
- Support worker in a day care of children service
- Practitioner in a day care of children service
- Lead Practitioner/ manager in a day care of children service
The term 'day care of children service' is the collective name for services where support is provided to children during the day. It includes out of school care but does not include a residential element.
To apply for registration you need to complete an application online through MySSSC. In most cases, once you start a role, you have up to 6 months to register however this has been extended to 12 months on a temporary basis in response to Covid-19. If your application isn't approved before then it could affect your capacity to work. There is an annual fee for registering with the SSSC and registration lasts for five years. Before your period of registration expires the SSSC will contact you with information on how to renew your registration. It is important that you renew your registration in order to remain registered.
It can take up to 60 working days for SSSC to process your application and to add your name to the Register. The annual fees for registering with the SSSC can be accessed here.
As part of the registration process, the SSSC check that applicants are of 'good character' by assessing the information you provide within your application for registration and the PVG scheme. When establishing 'good character' the SSSC take into account a range of matters including any current or previous convictions or police charges as well as disciplinary processes, dismissals, resignations etc. More information about the conditions for registration are available on the SSSC website.
SSSC Codes of Practice
The SSSC have developed the 'Codes of Practice for Social Service Workers and Employers' (the Codes of Practice) which set out clear standards for professional conduct and practice that social service workers, including early year workers, must meet in their everyday work.
When you register with the SSSC you must agree to follow the SSSC Codes of Practice for Workers. You are responsible for making sure that your professional practice meets all of the required standards. This includes your practice within work as well as your conduct outside of your work. You should familiarise yourself with the Codes of Practice which can be found here. You should do this as soon as possible. SSSC may take action against registered workers if they fail to meet the standards of character, conduct and competence necessary for them to do their job safely and effectively set out in the Codes of Practice.
The Codes of Practice are part of the wider package of legislation, practice standards and employers' policies and procedures that social service workers must meet.
The SSSC also specify the qualifications you must have or be working towards as you progress through your ELC career.
Staff registered with the SSSC as a support worker will be expected to have or to be working towards a relevant Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) level 6, which is the same level as a Scottish Higher. Staff registered with the SSSC at practitioner level will be expected to have or to be working towards a relevant SCQF level 7 qualification and those registered as manager/lead practitioner will be expected to have or to be working towards a relevant SCQF level 9 qualification (a degree-level qualification).
In response to Covid-19 guidance has been issued for those who are assessing students currently undertaking ELC related qualifications. That guidance, covering SVQs and HNCs, has been posted on the SSSC website.
An overview of the different routes to achieving the qualifications for ELC professionals is provided below, but more detail is available on the relevant section of the SSSC careers website, where you can click on each of the routes and find out more about course content, teaching methods, entry requirements and the relative benefits of each route.
Image: The SSSC careers website has an interactive careers pathway tool, accessible from a range of internet devices.
Each of the qualifications have been developed to reflect the National Occupational Standards (NOS) for working in Social Service (Children and Young People). The NOS describe the knowledge, skills and understanding needed to do a particular job to a nationally recognised level of competence. The NOS have been developed by employers, people who use services and other key stakeholders to define the key functions in a job role. They are benchmarks of good practice required in the social service sector and are used across the UK. This means that regardless of which route you take to achieving each of the benchmark levels, the same core skills and learning will be developed. Qualifications may be available as full time, part time or through open learning.
You may have experiences and learning which might be built upon to support you in your learning journey. Your preferred learning provider will be able to help you determine if your experiences and learning, formal or informal, or if any existing indirect qualifications, may be considered through the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and contribute towards achieving your ELC qualification.
Funding For Tuition
Where qualifications are undertaken via an apprenticeship, the costs of the tuition are met directly by the government. For all of the other qualifications you will be expected either to apply for funding to cover the costs of tuition or to self-fund. In some cases, your employer may be willing to meet these costs and so this is worth exploring in the first instance.
Where costs are not covered by your employer, you may be eligible for a part time funding grant (PTFG) through the Student Awards Agency Scotland. You will be eligible to apply for this provided that:
- Your course is an SCQF level 7-10 (HNC to degree level including PGDE's)
- You are completing between 30 and 119 SCQF credits (120 SCQF credits for Open University)
- You are studying at a registered Scottish learning provider,
- Your personal income is below £25,000,
- You are not receiving any other type of government funding including ITA (see below) and SAAS full time funding at the same time, and;
- You satisfy the residency conditions.
The PTFG will not affect any course of funding you wish to do at a later date and will not affect any benefits you receive.
You need to have a place on the course first before you can apply for PTFG funding. You have 6 months after your course start date to apply. You can find out the cost of courses and how much funding would be available (if you are eligible ) through SAAS from your local college or training provider. A sector specific leaflet setting out full details is available for download here, which includes other helpful hints and tips.
If the PTFG does not cover the full cost of the course, you may be able to apply for funding for the top up fee from your local authority. Please contact your local Early Years Team for more information.
Another source of funding for part-time courses is the Individual Training Account (ITA). Through this route you may be eligible to receive up to £200 towards a single course or training episode per year. You will be eligible for ITA funding if you are:
- Aged 16 or over;
- Not in full time education or involved in any other Skills Development Scotland (SDS) funded programme;
- Unemployed or furloughed and looking to get back into work or employed and earning less than £22,000 per year;
- Resident in Scotland.
For more information, you can visit the My World of Work which provides a search function for all approved ITA courses, or the SSSC's careers website which has information about funding in its Frequently Asked Questions page. This source of funding also applies to continuous professional learning (CPL).
Continuous Professional Learning
In addition to staff qualifications, CPL is an essential component of ELC quality. Evidence suggests that good quality CPL helps ensure staff are aware of best practice and continually supported in the workplace. This reduces staff turnover and there is even some evidence that this can have a greater impact on quality than practitioners' initial training and education.
The SSSC Code of Practice for Social Service Workers requires workers to take responsibility for maintaining and improving their knowledge and skills. During every 5 year registration period the SSSC requires practitioners to complete 60 hours or 10 days of CPL. The amount of training and learning is in days and hours to show that the time does not have to be made up of full days of activity. For the purpose of CPL one day equals six hours.
The SSSC is developing a new system for CPL which they formally referred to as Post Registration Training and Learning (PRTL). Through the new system you will be able to record learning in a way which suits you, and a MyLearning App will also be available to support this. Whilst it is important that you tell the SSSC about any learning and development you have undertaken, it is equally important that you tell them what you have learned and how this has impacted on your work.
ELC settings have a statutory requirement to ensure that staff engage in appropriate induction and training to undertake their role and this is something that the Care Inspectorate monitor in inspections. Your employers will therefore be able to advise you on relevant CPL for your role and of courses that should be available to you locally.
The Scottish Government, in partnership with the Care Inspectorate, has developed a Directory of CPL for ELC opportunities to help you to identify and plan your professional learning throughout your career; before, after and while pursuing formal qualifications. The directory is designed to simplify the process for you to identify the full range of flexible, and part-time, learning and development opportunities available, and allow you to search for opportunities by theme and locality.
We have also developed and launched a suite of free online CPL modules with support from leading partners, with more under development. The courses aim to support learning through the use of forums, interactive video clips, podcasts, online quizzes and live webinars. They are accessible as virtual and distance models, providing flexible and affordable learning for all practitioners. The full suite on modules can be found in the directory or on the Scottish Government website.
In addition, because we know of the benefits of outdoor learning, exercise and play for young children, Scotland's Outdoor Learning Directory coordinates a number of partners – including Scottish Forestry, Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, Historic Environment Scotland and national parks - to provide a single portal to services supporting outdoor learning. This includes access to a wide range of training opportunities and events. Another particularly useful resource to support more use of the outdoors is Out To Play; a How to Guide which builds on the range of existing publications and provides the important step-by-step, practical advice, designed to be used by childminders, schools and out of school care settings who are looking to utilise local greenspace to enhance children's learning.
Leading Partner Resources
National resources to support your professional learning have also been produced by a range of professional bodies that support the sector.
The SSSC hosts a learning zone which provides a wide range of free learning resources for ELC practitioners. This includes a learning app to help build your understanding of child development, with a mix of essential reference material, information and real world activities to support your practice. Another useful learning app focuses on observing and recording of children's development. Both of these resources can be accessed via your phone or a tablet.
In addition the SSSC has developed 23 Things Leadership, designed to help you engage in your own leadership development through bite-size pieces of learning and customise your learning experience according to your needs and interests.
The Care Inspectorate Hub provides a 'one-stop-shop' access to a range of resources aimed at supporting improvement in the social care and social work sectors. This includes:
- A library of good practice guidance
- Information on the latest developments in policy and legislation
- Video based examples of innovative practice
- Toolkits and resources aimed at supporting improvement
There have been a number of resources produced by the Care Inspectorate to support effective practice in early learning and childcare settings. This includes: 'My World Outdoors'; 'Out To Play'; 'Getting Ready to Read'; 'Our Creative Journey'; 'Space to Grow'; 'Animal Magic'; 'Food Matters' and 'Gender Equal Play in Early Learning and Childcare'.
Education Scotland is the Scottish Government executive agency that supports quality and improvement in Scottish education. The National Improvement Hub is a gateway to support resources, Curriculum for Excellence and examples of best practice, relating to early learning and childcare. It aims to support all ELC practitioners, leaders and policy makers with an interest in, or responsibility for, early learning and childcare.
This includes the new national practice guidance for early years in Scotland; Realising the Ambition: Being Me (2020). This key document refreshes and reflects the original principles of the Building the Ambition (2014), incorporating and updating relevant aspects of the previous Pre-Birth to Three guidance. Realising the Ambition: Being Me complements the current policy direction of ELC and early primary education by extending across the child's learning journey into the early years of primary school.
Early Years Scotland (EYS) is a national membership organisation that offers a range of professional learning opportunities for members and non-members.
The Early Years Scotland Professional Learning Academy (EYS PLA) provides a diverse range of opportunities for CPL. Professional Learning Masterclasses are offered regularly and provide a focused input on a dedicated subject that reflects current professional learning needs within the sector. EYS Professional Learning sessions are accessible to all within the sector, and attendance at all EYS Professional Learning opportunities can be recorded as CPL/ PRTL. Details of all professional learning opportunities can be found on the EYS website within the EYS Professional Learning area. EYS members can access all free/low cost EYS Professional Learning opportunities on their professional learning platform at a discounted rate. More details can be found online.
National Day Nurseries Association (NDNA) is the UK's national membership organisation for day nurseries. NDNA provide online, face to face and open training opportunities to members to support with professional learning and development. NDNA offer courses in business and management, early years best practice, safeguarding and child protection. There are also a range of course designed specifically for practice in Scotland.
Care and Learning Alliance (CALA)
Care and Learning Alliance (CALA) is the largest third sector childcare organisation in Highland and Moray. CALA develop and delivers face to face training for practitioners/parents/carers and volunteers in Highland and other areas in Scotland.
CALA learning and development offers a range of online learning including practitioner networking and free or low cost e-modules, for example a suite of Child Protection and Healthy Eating related certificated courses. All e-learning courses are open to members and non-members, as is the Practitioner Portal packed with information updates, CPL opportunities and guidance.
In addition to the professional bodies that support the ELC sector, there are other organisations that provide relevant training. The national training directory mentioned above will help you to identify what is available in your area.
Trade Union Membership
The early years profession is supported by a number of trade unions who will look after their members employed in the sector. Trade union members benefit from the strength and security that comes from people working together to tackle problems. Trade unions negotiate with employers on behalf of union members to agree: wages; work rules; complaint procedures; workplace safety; the rules governing hiring and firing; and promotion of workers benefits.
For a small membership fee, unions offer a variety of support to members, for example:
- Providing advice on a range of workplace matters;
- Opportunities to undertake a range of extra learning and training related to the jobs that members do;
- Listening to concerns that members may have at work and providing appropriate advice on how best to resolve them;
- Supporting members to raise concerns with employers and sometimes doing this on their behalf;
- Supporting members through disciplinary and grievance processes should they arise;
- Negotiating agreements with employers on pay and conditions on behalf of members;
- Acting on behalf of and supporting members in the unusual event of redundancy;
- Legal services for you at work and at home, this includes support around professional registration via SSSC;
- Financial assistance and debt advice in times of need;
- Compensation for accidents and injuries at work.
UNISON is Scotland's largest trade union representing workers in the public, private and third sectors including early learning and childcare, schools, colleges and universities.
Voice represent anyone working in education including Early Years Practitioners.
The EIS union represents teachers in all sectors of education in Scotland. You can join this union if you have a teaching qualification and are employed in ELC as a teacher.
NASWUT, The Teachers Union represents teachers in Scotland. You can join this union if you have a teaching qualification and are employed in ELC as a teacher.
AHDS is a trade union dedicated to providing a distinct voice for promoted teachers from Scotland's primary, nursery and ASN schools.