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.

8. Standards and monitoring processes in Scotland

In this section, the monitoring or inspection processes for ELC and OSC settings within Scotland are discussed, together with the Standards that underpin those processes. Only the main underpinning Standards are discussed, as the other professional Standards, benchmarks and wider policy context and frameworks within Scotland are outlined in other sections of the Report - although these will, of course, also impact on the inspection processes.

8.1. Inspections within ELC and OSC

ELC currently has two inspection systems and institutions: The Care Inspectorate and Education Scotland. They focus on different people working within ELC and on different aspects of provision. The Care Inspectorate's inspections are underpinned by the National Care Standards (Donnelly, 2009) and Education Scotland's by the National Quality Indicators from Child at the Centre 2 ( HMIE 2007b).

8.2. The Care Inspectorate

The Care Inspectorate regulates a wide range of services which provide early learning and childcare, including local authority and private nurseries, playgroups, childminders, childcare agencies, OSC and children/family centres. Any service that cares for children for more than two hours per day and five days per year is regulated by the Care Inspectorate. In 2012, 10,099 childcare services registered with them (Childcare Statistics, 2013).

The Care Inspectors look at how ELC and OSC services support the health and wellbeing of children through regulation and supported improvement activities.

Their functions include registration, inspection, investigation of complaints and taking enforcement action where required in terms of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010, Scottish Statutory Instruments and the National Care Standards for Early Education and Childcare up to the age of 16 (Donnelley, 2009). The Standards set out that children and young people should: receive support and care from staff who are competent and confident and have gone through a careful selection procedure (Standard 12); be confident that the service will evaluate what it does and make improvements (Standard 13); and be confident that the service is well-managed and demonstrates effective leadership (Standard 14). These input Standards are inspected against the outcomes for children and the difference that makes to their learning and care experience.

As indicated earlier, the National Care Standards: Early Education and Childcare up to the age of 16 (last revised by Donnelley, 2009) are wide reaching and comprehensive. They cover important universal skills, attributes, dispositions and knowledge which are important for all staff working within this age range; they also focus on aspects which link to the evidence base of high quality ECEC (see International and Scottish research literature). The attributes in standard 4 (overleaf) seem particularly pertinent to this Review, and they were highlighted by the majority of responses to the questionnaires, and during focus group discussions, as essential for both ELC and OSC workforces.

Engaging young children Standard 4

Each child or young person will be supported by staff who interact effectively and enthusiastically with him or her.

1 You can expect staff to have a good understanding of the stages of children and young people's development and learning.

2 Children and young people receive support and care from staff who understand the significance of high quality interaction. This develops the quality of all activities, including play and leisure.

3 You can be confident that staff will interact with children and young people in a way that builds confidence, extends learning and encourages and values their contributions.

4 You can be confident that the staff will:

  • Regularly assess the development and learning of each child and young person
  • Use this assessment information to plan the next steps in the child or young person's development and learning
  • Share this information with the child or young person and, as appropriate, with parents and carers and others professionally involved in the child or young person's development

(Donnelley, 2009, p16)

The Care Inspectorate have a strong focus on understanding the experiences of children and families, and the ways in which the practitioners/teachers can improve outcomes for them based on their rights, needs and choices. They inspect the settings using four themes:

  • Quality of Care & Support
  • Quality of Environment
  • Quality of Staffing
  • Quality of Management & Leadership

It is interesting to note the link between the Care and Support theme to children's outcomes discussed in more detail in Quality and Outcomes section found by the recent Growing Up in Scotland study (Scottish Government, 2014c).

The Social Care and Social Work Improvement Scotland (Requirements for Care Services) Regulations 2011 (regulation 4) sets out that a provider must 'make proper provision for the health, welfare and safety of service users'. The regulations also state that a provider 'must ensure that at all times suitably qualified and competent persons are working in the care service and receive training appropriate to the work they are to perform' ( SSI 210 regulation 9).

As well as registering, inspecting and grading these services, the Care Inspectorate have a duty to investigate complaints and take enforcement action when there is a serious risk to children's health and wellbeing. Enforcement action can be a condition notice, improvement notice or emergency cancellation. They also have an important role in helping to support improvement in services - giving advice, signposting good practice and highlighting services that they grade as 'excellent' during inspections. In addition, they have recently launched an online resource called The Hub, which provides 'one-stop-shop' access to a range of resources to support improvement through using and sharing intelligence and research-led practice.

Between April 2013 and 31st March 2014, the Care Inspectorate inspected 1,902 day care of children services. This represented 50.5% of the services registered with them on 31st March 2014. In the same period, they inspected 1,746 childminders - which represented 28.5% of the services registered. They also investigated 353 complaints against day care of children services and 168 against childminders.

Finally, it is important to note that the current National Care Standards (2009) (which inform inspections and qualifications) are under review. The international and Scottish research evidence, and the research detailed in the Quality and Outcomes section of this report, suggest that the level of detail re the pedagogy of learning and teaching and in particular section 4 of the current National Care Standards should be retained if the aspirations of supporting children's outcomes (in terms of their social, emotional and cognitive development) through the quality of ELC settings is to be realised.

Many practitioners' responses to the hub showed that they recognised the importance of a true understanding of early years pedagogy and practice as indicated earlier as well as below:

'Staff need support within their teams for reflection and discussion of pedagogy, staff with a deep understanding of the pedagogy and the critical higher order thinking skills to truly support their colleagues.' ( ELC practitioner response to the second call for evidence)

'Provide support and guidance within the workplace and time for reflection, planning and preparation. Value the early years' pedagogy and ensure new developments come from this understanding.' (Teacher in ELC response to the second call for evidence)

It was also considered fundamental to quality by many stakeholder institutions. Early Years Scotland described the following content as important to include in qualifications and professional development:

'The content would be evidence-based and informed by local and national needs and policy priorities, including a stronger focus on areas such as: prevention and early intervention, pedagogical approaches, bonding and attachment, parental involvement and engagement, Curriculum for Excellence, GIRFEC, Early Years Collaborative improvement methodology, The Children and Young People Act, the role of technology, language and literacy, pre-birth to three, brain development. and so forth…The key skills, values, knowledge and experience could connect theory and practice clearly and meaningfully so that learners see and understand the relevance for the role.' (Early Years Scotland's response to the first call for evidence)

Others called for a change in focus to ensure that aspects of early years teaching and learning were not lost, as they felt the emphasis had been more general and emphasised aspects of practice such as management rather than pedagogy.

'It may be time to redress this balance by focusing much more specifically and explicitly on pedagogy and the critical role of the practitioner and how they plan, scaffold, interact, promote shared thinking and learning, encourage and support parental engagement and involvement, observe, record, assess, evaluate and so forth.' (University provider response to the first call)

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.

8.3. Education Scotland

In February 2011, the Scottish Government formed Education Scotland, a new national body designed to support quality and improvement in Scottish Education. It brought together Learning and Teaching Scotland, Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education ( HMIE), the National Continuing Professional Development Team and Scottish Government's Positive Behaviour Team. Education Scotland's remit includes:

  • Leading and supporting successful implementation of the curriculum
  • Building the capacity of educational providers and practitioner to improve their own performance
  • Promoting high quality professional learning and leadership
  • Stimulating creativity and innovation
  • Providing independent evaluation of the quality of educational programmes
  • Providing evidence based advice to inform national policy

Within the ELC sector, Education Scotland inspects private, voluntary and local authority provisions. Local authority provisions include primary schools with nursery classes.

Education Scotland evaluate settings against five quality indicators ( QIs) linked to the Child at the Centre used by HMI during inspections ( HMIE, 2007b)

The quality indicators ( QIs) are:

  • Improvements in performance
  • Learners experiences
  • Meeting learning needs
  • The curriculum
  • Improvement through self-evaluation

Each QI can be graded as: unsatisfactory; weak; satisfactory; good; very good; or excellent.

The Child at the Centre 2 framework is a guide to self-evaluation for ECEC settings, and its core quality indicators are used during the inspection process to evaluate the settings and schools. It both supports the process of self-evaluation and provides a framework of quality indicators against which settings can judge their progress and plan for improvement. The framework of quality indicators is focused on ECEC and is comprehensive. It covers the statutory requirements and duties of ECEC settings, aspects of health, safety and wellbeing for children, partnership with parents, aspects of leadership and management, development of policy and planning - together with one section (section 5) dedicated to the provision of early education. Education Scotland supports this self-evaluation process in a number of ways including offering training, seconding staff on a rolling basis to act as associate assessors, and publishing a website which provides information, video clips and opportunities to share experiences and projects.

Conducting inspections is only one aspect of Education Scotland's role. Education Scotland has a very wide improvement brief and feeds into the national policy direction, yet, annually conduct a very limited number of inspections. Between September 2013 and June 2014 it undertook 189 inspections. This is a small percentage of the ELC settings providing education - which in September 2014 was estimated to be 2,449 centres (Scottish Government, 2014f). The settings inspected were chosen using a stratified random sample process which is linked to the National Performance Framework. Previously, settings which achieved a positive inspection were not revisited by Education Scotland, but, more recently, 8-10 % are revisited in an 'impact' visit about one year after the inspection to ascertain improvements made as a result of inspection and the difference this has made to the children and their families.

The improvement strand of Education Scotland is currently supporting CPPs and staff to enhance their pedagogical skills.

8.4. Shared Inspections

Previous to August 2013, an ELC setting could be inspected by both organisations separately. Now, however, they visit together and complete a shared inspection. The aim is to provide a more coherent set of messages for the setting and stakeholders. This approach is being developed to minimise unnecessary scrutiny and provide external assurance to stakeholders about the quality of provision and information about what they need to do to improve. It has not yet been evaluated in terms of how effective its use of time and resources is.

Reconsidering the current inspection process may help to ensure that all inspectors are familiar and confident with early years pedagogy and practice, and that the focus of the inspections reflects current knowledge about what works for young children. The Review suggested that there might be a capacity issue in recruiting sufficient numbers of experts in early years across both inspectorate teams.

The section on Quality and Outcomes considered some of the reports and research allied to inspections and both

inspection teams are working to review their inspection processes. While sharing an inspection will undoubtedly be considered an improvement for ELC providers, further joining together seems appropriate given Scotland's wish to consider education and care as seamless (see section: Using policy to build understanding, a united identity and support professionalisation).

As the inspections are being reviewed an interesting suggestion from one university provider is worth noting:

'More specific emphasis on evidence-based approaches may also be stressed through inspection processes as this would help practitioners to accept that this is valued and therefore to adopt such approaches and develop more 'practitioner as researcher' habits.' (University provider response to first call)

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.


Back to top