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.

4. The Independent Review process

This section outlines the processes the Review followed to gather evidence and to validate findings and issues. It details the questions itemised in the Terms of Reference. It explains how the information was gathered and considered through the following: focus groups and discussions with key practitioners and key stakeholder institutions and bodies; visits to schools and settings; two online consultations; meetings with the Early Years Division and other Scottish Government officials; and consultation with the Core Reference Group of stakeholders.

This Review of the workforce took place from April 2014 to April 2015 and was commissioned by Aileen Campbell (Minister for Children and Young People) through the Early Years Division of the Scottish Government.

4.1. Key Questions for the Review are taken from the Terms of Reference for the Independent Review

  • What are the key critical skills, knowledge and experience necessary to achieve high quality learning and care in early years and out of school care?
  • How best to support staff who are undertaking different levels of qualifications including the higher level qualifications such as teacher training, early years specialism, and the BA Childhood Practice Award or similar?
  • How to provide opportunities for training and up-skilling the teaching workforce in specific early years pedagogy to help improve the delivery of quality experiences for children?
  • How to up-skill the whole workforce in early childhood pedagogy through relevant continuing professional development to help in the delivery of quality experiences for children?
  • Is there scope for any further activity or support for the workforce to increase skills of those working with young children at all levels?
  • How to increase the status of the early years workforce as a profession?
  • How to increase levels of recruitment and retention of the best candidates to build careers within early learning and childcare, to grow a high quality workforce in future?
  • How can staff, including heads and managers (teachers and childhood practitioners), with different skills, training and qualifications, best be deployed to ensure a high quality provision for young children?
  • Is the existing training for all those working within the early years workforce and the out of school care workforce equipping them with the skills and knowledge to provide high quality early learning experiences for young children?

The Review incorporated a number of different methods of gathering information, materials and the views of individual practitioners and representatives from all key stakeholder organisations and institutions.

The Review visited a variety of settings which represented the types of provision found across the Scottish Early Learning and Childcare ( ELC) and Out of School Care ( OSC) sectors. At these settings, practice was observed and discussions held with the staff, children and young people. Early on, this gave the Review an indication of both the collaborative nature and the value that Scotland placed upon its ELC and OSC workforces. It also strengthened the issues and themes which emerged as these were well-informed by interested, experienced and insightful people from across Scotland. The strength of response to the Review by the sector, together with the Scottish Government's current policies and focus, potentially put it in a strong position to lead the way internationally in high quality ELC and OSC.

While engaged with gathering information, the Review became aware of the wealth of policy, materials and information available within Scotland relating particularly to ELC and OSC workforces (though there was less which was specific to OSC). Over time, it became clear that it would not be possible to capture it all in the time available and in a relatively short document. Equally, it would not be possible to include all that was heard, read or learnt, or to address all the smaller issues and ideas people discussed. Instead, the Review identifies the common themes and issues which emerged from the range of observations, information and suggestions gathered.

Throughout the Review, a collaborative approach and process was taken, including: visiting providers; holding group and individual meetings and focus groups; calling for evidence from practitioners and the main organisation stakeholders; consultation with the Core Reference Group ( CRG); and the submission of draft outlines of the Review for comment before submitting the full Review.

Comments and discussion were welcomed around the themes as they emerged. Although there were varying views, the discussions were always informative and shaped the themes and the recommendations as they emerged, ensuring their relevance and validity. This collaborative approach also mirrored the nature of working witnessed in Scotland, which appears to be a particular strength across the Country. It is also an approach which has been promoted in the literature on effective leadership and transformational change. If change is to be successful, it requires the support and co-operation of the key services and organisations ( OECD, 2012). While it is unlikely that everyone will agree with the final conclusions and recommendations, it is important that the process was transparent and seen as constructive, informed by Scottish and international research, and supportive of the 'bigger picture' for Scotland.

With the help and support of the Early Years Division, evidence was gathered using a number of methods, as described in the following sections.

4.2. Initial Exploration

At the outset, a series of informal meetings and discussions were held with a range of people (including representatives from key stakeholder organisations, institutions, the Scottish Government and practitioners within the ELC and OSC workforces). These identified strengths, concerns and issues - and their views and perceptions on possible future directions.

4.3. Research and Information Gathering

Scottish and international research was considered through both web-based searches and discussions with key people and organisations. Scottish researchers summarised their research findings and elaborated on key findings, challenges and issues.

4.4. In-depth Focus Group Meetings and Discussions

As the review progressed, meetings and discussions were undertaken with a wide range of professionals and practitioners across the sectors.

4.5. One-to-one Meetings, Exchanges and Contributions

Through face-to-face meetings, phone conversations, skype and email, a large number of interested individuals were engaged in a stimulating exchange of thoughts, ideas, policy issues and material.

4.6. Online Consultations

Two online consultations took place on the Scottish Government consultation hub. One was for key stakeholder institutions and organisations, and the other was for practitioners within the ELC and OSC settings (Appendices F and G detail the questions asked).

There were 84 responses from stakeholder institutions and bodies (including regulatory bodies, training and qualification providers, networks, local authorities and unions), and 269 from practitioners. 52 of these were from the OSC workforce, 25 from childminders and 185 from those working in ELC centres, schools or group provision - including 46 teachers working in ELC. There were seven responses from parents/carers and young people.

While the first call for evidence was designed for the stakeholder institutions and the second for practitioners, there was, in reality, a mixture of responses in both. In addition, a few responses were received separately.

4.7. Core Reference Group ( CRG) Meetings

Towards the end of the process, a facilitated, intensive and interactive consultation was conducted with the CRG. Its output was captured formally and analysed.

4.8. Methods of Gathering information

  • visits to centres and schools
  • focus groups
  • individual or small group discussions
  • skype or telephone
  • email enquiries

Questionnaires addressing the Review's key questions were published online on the Scottish Government Hub for organisations and individuals. The call for evidence received a strong response, as detailed below:

4.9. Stakeholder institutions:

  • Trade Unions 4
  • Further and Higher Education providers 10
  • Regulatory bodies 4
  • Private training and qualification providers 18
  • Networks 20
  • Local Authorities 28

Total 84

4.10. Workforces:

  • Childminders 25
  • Out of School Care 52
  • Early learning and childcare centre staff 139
  • Early years teachers 46
  • Parents/carers 5
  • Young people 2

Total 269

The hub responses were very helpful in identifying the strongest patterns and experiences within the early learning and childcare and out of school care sectors. They were analysed and the relevant information incorporated in the main text.


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