Independent review of Scotland's early learning and out of school care workforces

An independent review of the skills and qualifications essential for the Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) and Out of School Care (OSC) workforces in Scotland.

3. Executive Summary and Recommendations

The purpose of this Review is laid out in the Terms of Reference. It is: 'to identify and make recommendations on how the skills, qualifications and training of staff working within the early learning and childcare and out of school care sectors, from birth to age 14, can contribute to improved outcomes for children, help to reduce social inequality and close the attainment gap, based on the evidence gathered in the course of the Review and wider research evidence.' (p2)

The Early Learning and Childcare workforce ( ELC) and Out of School Care ( OSC) workforce have long been recognised as diverse and disparate. In Scotland they include private providers, Gaelic medium settings, local authority schools and settings, voluntary groups and childminders (Scottish Government, 2014a). Within such diverse provision there are major differences in work environments, qualifications, recruitment, retention and staff progression routes.

The Scottish Government has recognised that these workforces are vital for the healthy development and wellbeing of children, and a great deal of work has already been completed in supporting aspects of professional identity, making relevant qualifications available and accessible, and ensuring the rights of the child (Scottish Government, 2014 a,b,c,d).

Most people within these workforces are skilled and dedicated, and Scotland has been proactive in ensuring this. The responses to this Review suggest, however, that it would be possible to enhance the workforces' abilities in providing consistently more high quality experiences for the children and young people with

whom they work. Strengthening the workforces in this way will support Scotland's aspiration for 'Scotland to be the best place in the world to grow up' (Scottish Government, 2015). It will also support and develop the skills of their youngest and most vulnerable children, reduce the effects of poverty and disadvantage, and improve children's outcomes generally (see Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ( OECD), 2012).

The OECD (2012), in a report designed to act as a guide for countries when considering improvement in the quality of their Early Childhood Education and Care ( ECEC) settings, suggested that it is important to consider five main policy levers.

These are:

  • Setting out goals and regulations
  • Designing and implementing curriculum and standards
  • Improving qualifications and working conditions
  • Engaging communities and families
  • Advancing data collection, research and monitoring

This Review has considered each of these levers, and has adapted aspects from them so that they better reflect the services, policies and provision within Scotland. It includes:

  • A consideration of the relevant international and Scottish literature relating to supporting children's learning
  • A description of the Scottish policy context including discussions regarding current goals, indicators and outcome measures
  • An outline of the relevant curricula and guidance frameworks and registration processes
  • A consideration of standards and monitoring processes
  • An analysis of the qualifications, professional development and working conditions within the workforces

This Review is informed by:

  • Evidence gathered during focus groups and discussions with practitioners and key stakeholder institutions and bodies
  • Visits made to schools and ELC and OSC settings
  • Information gathered though two online consultations
  • Meetings with the Early Years Division and other Government officials
  • Consultation with the Core Reference Group of stakeholders

In addition, it has considered, and built upon, previous research, developments and policies both within and beyond Scotland. These provide an evidence base against which comparisons have been made of current Scottish processes and practices related to the workforces.

The full complement of recommendations can be found in Table 1 towards the end of this section. Before turning, however, to the recommendations, please note the principles which underpinned the Review and the major themes which emerged during it.

The principle of children's entitlement to high quality education and care, and the role of ELC and OSC workforces in supporting and enhancing children's outcomes, was fundamental to the Review. This principle underpins all the recommendations - including those linked to policy development, qualifications, inspection and registration processes, recruitment and career progression. The importance of this principle was discussed within meetings and focus groups, and within the hub responses. It was made explicit during discussions about both effective practice and how qualifications, professional development, standards and monitoring procedures should work to ensure that the ELC and OSC workforces have the skills necessary to support and enhance children's learning and development.

The Growing Up In Scotland: Characteristics of pre-school provision and their association with child outcomes (Scottish Government 2014c) report identified the characteristics associated with child outcomes within the Care Inspectorate's theme of Care and Support. It concluded that as it was possible to identify these characteristics it must also be possible to make improvements here. That report suggested that: 'attending high quality pre-school provision will benefit children in terms of their vocabulary ability which may, in turn, help reduce known socioeconomic inequalities in this and other developmental outcomes. However, it will not by itself eradicate these inequalities. As well as early childhood education and care, children's exposure to learning at home is important in helping them achieve better outcomes. Yet with almost universal attendance at statutory pre-school provision amongst eligible children in Scotland, these settings undoubtedly present an important opportunity to make a significant and long term difference to many children's lives.' (Scottish Government 2014c p7).

Developing high quality ELC and OSC workforces hinges on building effective workforces through their qualifications and professional development processes. Scotland has made some innovative and thoughtful developments here. It has instigated a roles and responsibilities framework with a suite of associated qualifications; and it has recognised the need for a coherent and integrated approach to the initial, further, work-based and ongoing qualifications and professional development for all staff.

This Review, however, points to concern amongst the workforces and key stakeholder institutions regarding the content of some qualifications and professional development. The content needs to be evidence-based and to reflect the specific needs of the workforces for whom they are designed. The qualifications need to include, at the appropriate levels, the skills, experiences and knowledge deemed particularly important to support children and young people's learning and development - as well as family support for early learning.

Further findings from this Review suggest that Scotland could extend and broaden the degree level qualifications, especially initial degrees on offer to the workforces, together with developing further opportunities for learning at postgraduate level.

Many responses to the Review related to the equity of access to high quality ELC and OSC provision. The distribution patterns of highly qualified staff and high quality provision vary across Scotland (Scottish Government, 2014c). This suggests that work remains to be done to ensure that high quality settings are available and accessible to all - particularly for families living within areas of disadvantage or very rural districts.

There are consistent reports that local authority nurseries (in particular, those that maintained a traditional nursery school model) provide a higher standard of quality than settings in partnership with local authorities. In addition, there are reports that some qualifications (and providers of those qualifications) are more 'fit for purpose' than others, and that some staff work under different conditions and requirements to others ( HMIE, 2007a, 2009; Education Scotland, 2012a; Scottish Government, 2014c). Some of these differences appear to be linked to geographical location, with particular concerns for rural areas and areas of disadvantage. Strengthening the integration of services, standards, registration processes and professional development opportunities could serve to reduce some of these inequalities.

The equity of working conditions, including adequate and better remuneration and opportunities for advancement and recognition for all, was commonly discussed during the Review. Although there appears to have been some improvements here, related to the introduction of the new BA Childhood Practice, this continues to warrant attention to ensure that all staff are suitably remunerated and given opportunities for career advancement. Clear links between the status of the workforces and their pay, conditions and career prospects were strongly indicated by all concerned in the Review.

The Scottish Government has already made some major investments within the ELC and OSC workforces. It continues to see the sector as one which could support its policy direction of reducing poverty and the effects of disadvantage, and of supporting the country's future economic growth. The Review highlights the importance of promoting quality through both professional development and the further integration of all ELC and OSC services by local authorities. Further, the Review urges increasing public understanding and goodwill through promoting communication about the importance of Scottish policies and practices that enhance and support children's learning and development.

The entitlement to free ELC is likely to grow and to include younger and more vulnerable children. It is, therefore, imperative that provision is of the highest possible quality and suitable to meet the needs of younger and vulnerable children. This is in the children's best interests, but will also strengthen Scotland's future and ensure a cost-benefit balance. Given the scope, ambition and direction of ELC and OSC, there is a strong probability that the workforce will need to be developed substantially in size and quality. The first recommendation, therefore, seeks to ensure that workforce reform is fit for purpose and achievable, and calls for the development of a strategic group to oversee a 15 year vision and development plan.

Table 1, overleaf, details the recommendations together with the section and page number where they are discussed within the main body of the Review. As the Review proposes a 15 year time span, the list of recommendations is long and some will require significant planning and some revisions to statutes and so on in order to be implemented. The recommendations are also subdivided into short (1-3 years), medium (2-6 years) and longer (5-15 years) term. The intention is that all recommendations are acted on immediately; the short, medium and long term subdivisions merely recognise that all cannot be realised immediately or at the same time. The recommendations may need to be adapted and extended over time, and this would be decided by the strategic group in collaboration with Scottish Government officials and Ministers overseeing the vision and development plan. This might include reducing the time-frame to 10 or 12 years.

3.1 Table 1: Recommendations of the Independent Review of the ELC workforce and the OSC Workforce

Section in Report


Page and subdivision
Short (S) Medium (M) or Long (L)

Initial Implications of the Research Literature for Scotland

1) Given the scope, ambition and policy direction, with its strong Scottish identity; for ELC and Out of School Care, there is a strong probability that the workforce will need to continue to be developed substantially both in size and especially in terms of quality. In order to achieve the necessary workforce reform a reasonable time-frame should be set.

The Scottish Government to convene a strategic group to oversee a maximum 15 year vision and development plan for workforce reform. Specific subgroups to consider and implement changes across aspects of practice and provision such as those outlined in the following recommendations (2-31) could then be supported and steered by the strategic group.


2) Share the international and Scottish research literature in this Review, which summarises relevant literature about effective practice in ELC and OSC, with interested partners, stakeholders and practitioners. Over time, this should be extended, monitored, evaluated and updated.


3) Consider the specific needs of 2, 3 and 4 year olds in relation to their free entitlements (which could be extended to 30 hours in the future), to inform initial training courses, postgraduate courses and continued professional development in relation to both the children and their parents/carers.


National Policy Context:

Current Government initiatives supporting quality improvement

4) Currently a great many services, including representatives from health, social services, education and the third sector, are involved in Early Years Collaborative ( EYC) initiatives and planning across the sector. In some areas, however, stakeholders may have been overlooked, for example representatives from ELC staff within local schools. EYC to redress any omissions so that all could benefit.


5) Develop a national assessment framework system inclusive of the current Curriculum for Excellence ( CfE) for ELC 0-6 which has the potential to be used by a range of early years professionals and is sensitive to the Scottish context regarding assessment. This should be accompanied by a recording system with the potential to follow the child and to support transitions.


6) The pilot of Raising Attainment for All ( RAFA) has involved schools and Local Authorities ( LAs), but has not yet involved the OSC workforce, including childminders. RAFA to involve ELC and OSC workforces in the future, as they would have an important contribution to make to children's wellbeing and their social and academic success.


7) The new Scottish College of Educational Leadership, in collaboration with SSSC, should consider: first, consultation with the ELC and OSC workforces to determine their specific requirements; and second, offer bespoke, focused leadership courses for them, including leadership for learning and family support, as part of the professional learning opportunities available through the Framework for Educational Leadership.


Scotland's curricula, guidance frameworks and registration processes

8) There is a strong feeling within Scotland that the focus should be on early learning as well as childcare, and that the specific skills, attributes, dispositions and knowledge necessary to support early years professionals in improving children's learning and development leading to enhanced children's outcomes within this age group 0-6 is not overlooked.

Include aspects of the Care and Support theme used by the Care Inspectorate (which links to the National Care Standards, 2009) in future inspections as well as in education, training and all qualifications designed to improve quality.


9) Further develop the evidence base of high quality practice relating to the OSC workforce within Scotland, including the production of an up-to-date version of the Schools Out (2003) Framework, which offers further guidance on effective practice.


10) Further discussion at a national level of, and strategic professional development around, the term ELC to support the understanding of the importance of highly qualified, knowledgeable and effective ELC and OSC practitioners.


11) Design and deliver compulsory training for primary head teachers on why ELC is important for Scotland's future, what effective early years pedagogy and practice looks like, and how this sets the foundations for future learning for Curriculum for Excellence.


12) SSSC, in collaboration with associate bodies and other stakeholders, to develop standards for/guidance on the core skills, attributes, dispositions and knowledge that would be appropriate for 'practitioner' and 'support worker' roles within the ELC and OSC workforces to achieve.


13) Make induction or pre-registration training a requirement for registration to provide a childminding service under the Public Services Reform Act.


14) Include childminders on the same register with the same conditions as the majority of the ELC workforce ( i.e. with SSSC), particularly community childminders; those commissioned to deliver the funded hours of ELC; and those providing specialist high quality services, and invest in and build upon these services.


15) Support and develop the role of appropriately qualified teachers working within ELC settings, moving their professional relationships with the rest of the ELC in positive directions. If the role of the teacher working face-to-face with children under 5 years is to continue, there will need to be additional agreements regarding flexibility of working conditions (so that they suit working conditions in settings which are not schools) and better career opportunities and progression.

Scottish Government to take the lead in collaboration with relevant stakeholders, including the Scottish Negotiating Committee for Teachers ( SNCT), and begin discussions and debate around teachers working in ELC.


Standards and monitoring processes in Scotland:

Inspections within ELC and Out of School Care

16) This recommendation relates to Recommendation 8 and the recurrent theme within Scotland of concern about a lack of focus on supporting the learning and development of young children. The recent Growing Up in Scotland report (Scottish Government 2014c) showed links between the Care and Support theme used within Care Inspections and children's outcomes. Analysis of the standards underpinning those inspections highlighted the content of section 4 of the current National Care Standards (2009) as fundamental to the Care and Support theme.

Retain the content of section 4 during any revision to the National Care Standards.


17) In order to better articulate the Scottish policy thrust that care and education are inseparable and cannot be viewed separately:

Formalise and simplify the current inspections position. Currently ELC settings can receive one shared inspection from two different bodies visiting together. In future, either a joint education and care inspection or one inspection conducted by one single inspectorate body for ELC should be standard.


Qualifications, training and working conditions: Qualifications

18) SQA and SSSC, together with associated bodies and stakeholders, to review the structure of all qualifications for ELC and OSC that they quality assure and accredit.

The core units and assessments of the awards, as appropriate, should better reflect the main business of the settings in which the student learners work. This should improve their ability to support learners in developing high quality relationships and interactions with children that promote wellbeing, and extend thinking and concept development.


19) If children's outcomes are to be supported and enhanced, it is important to ensure that there are highly qualified and knowledgeable practitioners in all ELC settings who lead learning and sensitively support families in developing a stimulating home learning environment.

Every strong profession has good initial, graduate entry route/s. More new and creative, initial graduate degrees designed for practitioners leading learning in ELC should be developed.

This could arrest the decline in teachers working face-to-face with young children, and should not threaten the work-based childhood practice degree programme or discourage further and higher educational institutions from offering their initial degree programmes to work-based practitioners through more creative, flexible delivery options.


20) Introduce an early years specific teacher training in universities at both initial (0-6, with specialisms in 0-3 and 3-6) and postgraduate levels which are resourced and supported on a par with primary school courses.


21) Offer conversion and upskilling courses (such as the well-known Froebel training) for current primary trained teachers who have the existing 3-12 teaching award, but who do not feel confident to teach younger children. These courses should be linked to available vacancies.


22) Universities and other Higher Education Institutions should consider the range of courses they offer for ELC: as well as offering initial graduate routes of high quality such as the one at Stirling University, they should increase Masters routes which include a strong research component.


Qualifications, training and working conditions: Quality Assurance

23) SQA and SSSC to introduce further checks on the effectiveness of training, assessment and qualifications providers to ensure standards and comparability. Emphasis should be placed on ensuring diversity of experiences within good and excellent settings and time given for reflection, planning and reading.


24) Qualifications bodies should engage in more collaborative working, including increased communication, which would ensure better understanding of each other's course content, core training needs and would develop continuity and progression within and across courses, both initial and postgraduate.

A key stakeholder group should be established by the Scottish Government to facilitate such communication and advise on future directions: it should include representation from relevant bodies such as SSSC.


Qualifications, training and working conditions: Status, Pay and Conditions

25) All practitioners should receive the living wage, or above, rather than the minimum wage.

Develop and recommend a national pay scale for ELC and OSC which should be adopted by all local authority provision and highly recommended to the third and private sector who serve funded children. This is likely to necessitate a review of funding of children's entitlement in ELC within the private and third sector.


26) Review remuneration over time for those who have worked to achieve their BA in Childhood Practice or those who, in the future, enter the profession with appropriate degree level qualifications.


27) Language is powerful in influencing people's attitudes and views. For this reason, the term practitioner should be reviewed as it is unlikely to be associated by a lay person with a professional or an expert in their sector. The Early Years Division should consult the sector and find a more suitable term.


Qualifications, training and working conditions: Inequality

28) LAs should bring LA and partnership settings together to support planning and management of the ELC and OSC workforces in a more integrated way.


Qualifications, training and working conditions: Recruitment

29) Guidance needs to be prepared and disseminated to career service advisors, and those responsible in secondary schools for supporting young people with career choices, to ensure that they understand the importance of the work and rigours of the qualifications and day-to-day challenges in professions related to ELC and OSC.


Qualifications, training and working conditions: Impact of education, training and qualifications

30) Further evaluation and research is needed to consider the impact of OSC and childminding on children's outcomes in Scotland.

In addition, further research considering the impact of ELC and OSC for children from disadvantaged backgrounds and/or with additional learning needs is needed in Scotland.


31) Further research is needed to consider the inspection process and how this links to children's outcomes. This would support the further development of inspection indicators, as well as ensure that inspections support improvement and continue to inform future policy direction.


3.2. Concluding Comments

The current policy context in Scotland has focused strongly on the early years of children's lives, their family contexts and the importance of the best possible start in life. A free part-time place for all 3 and 4 year olds has become a reality in the early years. This provided 'universal' pre-school education, and led to calls for staffing increases; and then, in turn, to calls for ensuring not just access but also higher quality provision. Staff retention across the early years and out of school care workforces has been an abiding issue, often linked with unequal pay and conditions across the sectors.

It is critical to focus on children's entitlement to high quality early learning and care. They and their families are central to what the workforce does and could do, and this is the main thrust of the Review. The current need to review the workforce is predicated on the belief that it is the prime agent for change and Scotland's main tool for ensuring that policy becomes practice.

There is evidence that improved training and higher qualifications benefit the workforce, and that a more developed workforce improves children's experiences and developmental processes and in the long term this benefits the economy (see Section 10). There is, however, still a lack of data in Scotland on the impact of those qualifications on children's outcomes. The workforce must be 'fit-for-purpose'; and its purpose is to improve children's wellbeing and learning outcomes, and to support parents and communities in raising their children as well as providing time to study or work.

This Review's proposals are radical and wide-ranging. They are inter-related and should be seen as an integrated set - and not separately. They build on the many existing strengths of the ELC and OSC sector within Scotland. They aim to support both a vision for the future and a coherent and manageable means for realising that vision.

The Review offers proposals for implementation which build on an existing Scottish tradition of collaborative and joint strategic planning; and this should serve to secure the sustained and active participation of key stakeholder bodies and institutions, as well as practitioners and the wider community.

Scotland should be proud of the ambition it has set as a country for children in the early years and later life. It is a vision worth pursuing. The realisation of the ambition is not without tension, however, as historically parts of the sector remain fragmented, has many stakeholders and has traditionally been under less policy scrutiny, and subject to lower levels of funding, than other sectors of public education.

The recommendations are embedded within three strong emergent themes emanating from Scottish Government legislation and policies to promote a more cohesive approach - and from the research evidence base and the Review's consultation process. These are:

  • From the child's perspective, the integration of early learning and care is inseparable: this is now enshrined in many Government policy documents and the Children and Young People (Scotland) Act (2014). The Review recognises the strength of this integrated focus, but notes the uneven realisation of the aim and calls for a particular emphasis on appropriate, core training in early learning across the sector to improve children's outcomes and transitions.
  • The nature of working with young children requires complex skills around supporting their development and working with carers/parents. The Review recognises the integrated working required of early learning and childcare and out of school care staff, and stresses the need for good data, well-educated and responsive staff and multi-agency working.
  • While recognising and valuing the diversity of the workforce, the Review stresses the importance of, and calls for, greater coherence in career progression, better conditions and more advancement of the workforce through an entitlement to appropriate ongoing professional development, initial and higher qualifications; and greater parity of remuneration and service conditions.

Finally, the Review recognises that building the public's understanding and goodwill is vital. This can be achieved through the three themes outlined above, which are designed to enhance the quality of the workforces and promote the development and further integration of practices, services and so on.

Although the recommendations might be achieved earlier than the 15 year time-span suggested for the strategic group, experience suggests that implementing change takes considerable time and that reasonable time scales aid consultation, dialogue, trial and error, and fluctuating budgets over electoral cycles.


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