9. Qualifications, training and working conditions with links to research evidence
The last twenty years have seen an increase in the number, and a reduction in the age, of children who spend a significant amount of time in the care of an adult other than their parents/carers - which is most commonly within ELC and OSC settings in Scotland. As already discussed, there is a growing body of evidence which suggests that the first few years of life build the foundations for good health, intellectual development and social competence, so the adults who provide this out-of-home support play a central role in children's development, probably second only to family.
Although many members of the ECEC and Out of School Care workforces internationally are dedicated and skilled, large numbers of them are poorly trained and badly paid. This is an issue that the Scottish Government has begun to consider in detail, recognising that such variability within the workforce can have serious effects on the quality of learning and care available. In an effort to support the professionalisation and upskilling of these workforces, the key national bodies in Scotland have identified and defined a number of roles and responsibilities which are linked to an associated progression of qualifications ( SSSC, 2015 and the section Registration with SSSC). This section of the Review considers some of the key qualifications available within Scotland, their development and how they might impact on children's outcomes.
9.1. The Common Core
The strong inclusive nature and commitment to collaborative working within Scotland is illustrated within the relatively recently developed Common Core (Scottish Government, 2012). The
Common Core is innovative and describes the essential skills, knowledge, understandings and values that all people working with children and young people and their families, whether paid or unpaid, should have. The Common Core is relevant to all those working with children, young people and families in health, education, social services, justice, community services, cultural and creative industries, the voluntary and private sectors. The Common Core relates to two contexts: relationships with children, young people and families; and relationships between workers. These contexts are to be met through the implementation of four principles: non-discrimination; best interests of the child; right to life, survival and development; and the obligations to consider children's views and a series of essential characteristics.
The Common Core links to other Scottish policy ( e.g. GIRFEC) and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child ( UNCRC). As such, the following common values are promoted:
- Promote the wellbeing of individual children and young people
- Keep children and young people safe
- Put the child at the centre
- Take a whole child approach
- Build on strengths and promote resilience
- Promote opportunities and value diversity
- Provide additional help that is appropriate, proportionate and timely
- Support informed choice
- Work in partnership with families
- Respect confidentiality and share information
- Promote the same values across all working relationships
- Make the most of bringing together each worker's expertise
- Co-ordinate help
- Build a competent workforce to promote children and young people's wellbeing
All education, training and qualifications within Scotland have been tasked with needing to address the Common Core (Scottish Government, 2012). It is interesting to note that the majority of responses to the hub illustrated how well this policy has been embedded in the Scottish workforce. The majority of responses included a discussion of the importance of values and rights.
As part of their role within Scotland, 'the SSSC has worked closely with a range of stakeholders to support registration by collaborating on the development of a range of qualifications and resources for the early years and childcare workforce' ( SSSC response to the first call for evidence). They have supported the development of qualifications which allow the registration of support workers, practitioners and managers/lead practitioners.
This means that support workers are expected to achieve a qualification at SCQF Level 6 ( SVQ2), practitioners are expected to achieve appropriate qualifications at SCQF Level 7 ( SVQ3/ HNC) and managers/lead practitioners at SCQF Level 9 (an ordinary degree or work-based equivalent).
Table 4: A sample of the current qualifications and associated levels accredited by Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA) ( SQA, 2015).
Scottish Vocational Qualifications ( SVQs)
SVQ 2 Social Services (children and young people)
SVQ 3 Social Services (children and young people)
SVQ 4 Social Services (children and young people)
SVQ 2 Playwork
SVQ 3 Playwork
SVQ 4 Playwork
Professional Development Awards ( PDAs)
PDA Children and Young People's Health and Wellbeing
PDA Children and Young People's Health and Wellbeing
PDA Childhood Practice
PDA Childhood Practice
Accreditation of these qualifications is completed by the Scottish Qualifications Authority ( SQA), who were given this remit through the amendment by the Scottish Qualifications Act 2002 of the Education (Scotland) Act 1996. The accreditation and development of degrees such as the BA Childhood Practice are completed by Universities. These are discussed in more detail later.
The SQA has two main roles: accrediting and awarding qualifications. SQA accredits all ELC qualifications apart from the degrees, and approves and quality assures the awarding bodies and their qualifications.
SQA Awarding Body:
- Devises and develops qualifications
- Validates qualifications (makes sure they are well written and meet the needs of learners and tutors)
- Reviews qualifications to ensure they are up to date
- Quality-assures education and training establishments which offer SQA qualifications
- Issues certificates to candidates ( SQA, 2015)
Currently, there are approximately 80 childcare training agencies throughout Scotland which are accredited to provide, assess and validate SQA approved qualifications. Consideration should be given to the development of a national register for training agencies, with a robust registration process and a training framework - as the quality assurance of these agencies is under question (discussed in more depth later).
The SVQs in Social Services (Children and Young People) Levels 3 and 4 form part of a suite of complementary frameworks that were developed with the sector by SSSC. Level 3 is designed as a Modern Apprenticeship, while Level 4 offers the more advanced Technical Apprenticeship. Modern Apprenticeships offer those aged over 16 paid employment combined with the opportunity to train for jobs at craft, technician and management level. The levels build one upon each other supporting career progression. Modern Apprenticeships are recognised as supporting Scotland's Education for All: Commission for Developing Scotland's Young Workforce agenda (Scottish Government, 2014g).
While Modern Apprenticeships are recognised as offering clear career pathways and the possibility of 'earning while learning', the money attached to an apprenticeship is often very low. Further, recent studies have highlighted that those undertaking apprenticeship programmes in ELC receive lower rates of remuneration than their counterparts undertaking Modern Apprenticeships in sectors such as engineering.
Hub consultation responses have suggested there may also be other issues to consider; for example, the very low wage while in training can be followed by difficulties in gaining employment with a full salary. Some training providers also suggested that the Level 2 qualification, which is not part of the suite, supported new recruits and prepared them better for learning at Level 3.
The SVQs in Social Services (Children and Young People) were developed for those working in day care services and OSC as well as residential care. In addition, they were planned to link with the frameworks for Social Services Health and Care to provide for additional flexibility in both employment and careers.
As such, the four mandatory units at each level are necessarily generic. They cover similar areas and aspects at different levels:
- Supporting, promoting and maintaining effective communication
- Supporting, promoting and leading health, safety and security in the work place
- Supporting, promoting and leading the safeguarding of children and young people
- Developing their own practice through planning, reflection and learning
Within the SVQs, each of these mandatory units are covered at every level, with increasing responsibility and complexity built into higher levels. Then, depending on the level, these are supplemented by between two to four optional units. The optional units cover the areas of study specific to ELC and OSC, including those which are found in the research literature to link with effective practice. It is not possible, however, to determine which optional units will be chosen by any learner and how they link together. It also appears to be possible that an area of study might be missed due to the amount of choice; e.g. in SVQ 4 there are 28 optional units from which the learner selects only four.
Given the mix of learners studying the awards, a qualification with core units is practical; and it also supports many of the values outlined in the Common Core as well as supporting Scotland's Youth Employment Strategy. Concern was raised, however, during discussions, focus groups and within questionnaire responses, as to some possible negative consequences of this approach.
First, some people said the presence of core units suggests that those units cover the most important areas for the workforce. Second, many maintained that the current core units omit the most important areas for study. This view warrants further consideration as the research literature also suggests that this might be the case. It is also worth noting that 'knowledge and understanding of child development' was the area most cited as important for both the ELC and OSC workforces when describing essential elements of initial courses and continued professional development. And, third, others argued that the core unit approach may lead to important areas of study being neglected or poorly covered - or studied at only a very low level by students who felt that they had already covered the material, found aspects particularly challenging, or who had a particular area of interest.
Responses to the hub showed concern over the content of the mandatory SVQ units:
'The mandatory SVQ units for the Trainee scheme do not include Child Development, and in fact there is no pure Child Development unit. The mandatory units are Health and Safety, Safeguarding, Effective Communication and Reflective Practices.' (Early Education Edinburgh and the Lothians Branch response to the first call for evidence)
There is no intention in this report to detail all the qualifications currently available within Scotland to the workforces. There is a comprehensive list of the main ELC and OSC qualifications suitable for registration with SSSC and all of the teacher qualifications suitable for registration with GTCS available in the report Learning about Play compiled by Audain and Shoolbread (forthcoming). It is, however, worth mentioning that qualifications vary not only in level and content, but also in approach. The PDA, for example, is predominately a taught qualification which covers the knowledge required by learners for a range of job roles. While the SVQs are assessments of learners' competence to perform the job role in the workplace, they are not a taught programme.
The research literature included a discussion about effective qualifications and professional development, and itemised current thinking on effective professional development. It also suggested that the skills of interaction needed to enhance learning and development are rare in early years settings because they are complex. If this is to improve, the research literature advocated the need for modelling and supporting effective adult - child interactions and focusing on pedagogy - presumably by someone who already has those skills: this may have to involve an individual external to the setting where the student learner is working.
In discussions during the Review, ELC and OSC workforces recognised the specific expertise required within their work and appreciated the degree of skill and knowledge required in working across age ranges - especially in child development. Practitioners were generally positive about the courses and qualifications they had undertaken - especially when they were designed for their specific workforce and led by mentors and tutors experienced within their sector. There were, however, many who pointed to the need to consider further aspects of practice, and how these are supported, mentored and assessed within all the different work settings across the full range of qualifications.
In the hub responses, an ELC head teacher wrote about the BA Childhood Practice qualification offered in her area '…does not have any assessments in their place of work or any assessment post qualifying. Some are being offered as online courses. This does not offer students the same learning from discussion of practice with fellow students…'
She then expressed disappointment that '…highly motivated staff are pursuing these opportunities but the structure of the course does not allow sufficient reflective practice within the workplace and implementation of projects that develop the practice or introduce new thinking and pedagogy. Assignments alone cannot be a measure of skill development… All courses need to consider the quality of assessed placements and supervision post qualification, to ensure the theoretical input is linked to and reflected on in practice.' (Head Teacher of ELC setting response to second call)
Subsequent responses extended this idea to other working contexts. See for example:
'Out of school staff are often nursery qualified and have interchangeable jobs at crèches etc. There are few staff that really understand primary school children well enough to provide high quality afterschool provision. The SSSC should require play-work qualifications for this sector.' (Third sector network response to first call)
'We believe that the best support to any staff who are undertaking training irrespective of the level of qualification they are undertaking, is to ensure that the training they receive contains the material necessary to understand what constitutes good, healthy and equitable development in early childhood, to develop the capacity to promote this, and to be able to form the trusted relationships with children and their parents and carers necessary to ensure that parents and practitioners are working together to achieve the best outcomes for children.' (National Network organisation for the children's sector in Scotland response to the first call for evidence)
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 which promote wellbeing, and extend thinking and concept development.
9.3. Current degree level qualifications
One of the roles, responsibilities and associated qualifications outlined earlier is the manager/lead practitioner role (in the National Review, Scottish Executive, 2006). At this level, ELC and OSC practitioners need to be either working towards or already holding a relevant Level 9 qualification. This can be achieved in a number of ways, including within further education colleges and higher education institutions.
As part of the development of the manager/lead practitioner role, and the appropriate degree level qualification, the Standard for Childhood Practice (The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education, 2007) was devised as a benchmark. This was informed and underpinned by a great many standards, as described in the section The Standard for Childhood Practice. It sat within a policy context and was linked to other strategic developments across the Scottish Government - including National Priorities in Education; A Curriculum for Excellence; A Smart, Successful Scotland; Closing the Opportunity Gap; and, Choosing our Future:
Scotland's Sustainable Development Strategy. It also followed five guiding principles informed by the Leitch Review of Skills, Prosperity for all in the global economy - world class skills ( HM Treasury, 2006).
Qualifications/Programmes of learning:
- should be demand led
- should build on existing structures
- should share responsibility between employers, providers and learners
- where possible, knowledge and skills should be portable between sectors and services
- should be able to adapt and respond to developing circumstances
( HM Treasury 2006 p5)
One additional principle was seen as crucial - that, to upskill the current workforce, learning should be work-based. This is important because it supports the current workforce, but it is often difficult for staff working within the private and third sector, in particular, to afford the time needed to achieve a degree. For example, an OSC practitioner wrote:
'Having studied initially for my SVQ3, thereafter SVQ4 and annually choosing to study at some level ( SQA modules, Open University Undergraduate short course etc.), I am committed to professional development but at the age of 48, when I next have to register with the SSSC I will be asked to commit to begin working towards a Level 9 qualification. Having to work two jobs because of the nature of out of school care, I do not have the time to give to studying for a degree nor the inclination to do so for three years. I will, therefore, be forced out of a job that I love and believe I do well.' (Response to the second call for evidence)
Seven universities currently offer the BA Childhood Practice degree across Scotland. They deliver this in a variety of ways to support access, with some (for example: University of Aberdeen and University of Dundee) offering distance learning with most content online. The PDA SCQF Level 9 programmes are also available across the country: these Level 9 Childhood Practice awards are, as previously discussed, underpinned by the Standard for Childhood Practice. The Standard, and accompanying degrees and awards, was developed to achieve a number of aims.
First, to improve quality through supporting leadership within the sector: 'The Standard is an important step in ensuring managers in early education and child care sector have the necessary leadership skills to take forward excellent practice in centres that children and families use' ( SSSC, 2014, p1). Second, to support the status and retention of staff. And third, to professionalise the ELC workforce.
The BA Childhood Practice supports work-based graduate development, builds on previous practice awards, and encourages widening participation policies in universities. Practitioners who have studied for the degree report feeling more professionalised and positive about their roles.
The list of skills and attributes within the Standard for Childhood Practice is extensive and includes 24 main elements, each with between four and eight expected features. Due to the number of elements, and to achieve the depth of discussion, understanding and analysis expected at this level of learning, some providers of the BA Childhood Practice and PDA SCQF Level 9 programmes seem to focus on certain attributes to the detriment of others. In addition, they appear to rely on their student learners mapping the areas which they have already met in previous, lower level, qualifications.
While the intention to have ELC and OSC settings managed by a graduate is laudable, treating everyone the same with such a diverse workforce causes many problems. Consideration of degree course-outlines available online indicates that many programmes follow the inclusive and collaborative culture within Scotland emphasised in many policies. Courses appear to focus more on aspects of leadership, management, collaborative working and the skills necessary to support quality improvement and self-evaluation processes, rather than on the curriculum and on the pedagogy and practice of teaching and learning.
While management and working with others, and so on, are important and necessary, the skills and depth of understanding about supporting children's learning and development at this level appear to be missing within some courses. This is likely to affect the ELC and OSC sector's ability to support and enhance children's outcomes, especially given the reduction of teachers working in ELC (see Dunlop, 2014; Scottish Government, 2014f).
The research literature concluded that, while some evidence suggests that all degree level qualifications impact on quality, more evidence points to the importance of specific 'teacher-like' skills to impact on children's outcomes. It is recognised that children need sufficient face-to-face time with a practitioner knowledgeable in 'teacher-like' skills to support their cognitive, social and emotional development. If, therefore, the leadership of learning is not to be the key element in the manager/lead practitioner's role, an alternative role and associated qualification needs to be considered. The person providing this 'leading learning' role could then gain a different qualification. Alternatively, the BA Childhood Practice could be refocused to include this.
As already discussed, the BA Childhood Practice has been well received, but there were a cluster of responses from the hub which suggested that leading practice warrants further attention.
Some practitioners suggested that assessment of practice by a university tutor might be useful, similar to the assessed placements teachers undergo during their initial teacher training. See above and the following response:
'Ensure that the BA Qualification has an assessment of practice as part of the qualification and post qualifying assessment to ensure that all students do have the relevant knowledge, skills and very importantly the experience to lead practice.' ( ELC practitioner response to second call for evidence)
Another ELC practitioner wrote:
'Trainers should come out to playgroup to interact and make suggestions, etc., based on direct observations and/or requests for support.' ( ELC practitioner response to the second call for evidence)
Many ELC hub responses suggested refocusing the BA Childhood Practice with more emphasis on leading learning and on supporting the learning and development of the individuals within the setting would be useful. Other responses proposed developing a new BA (Early Learning and Care) to run alongside the BA Childhood Practice.
A new ELC degree could be work-based - or it could also be offered as a full time undergraduate degree to attract young and mature people who wish to follow a career working with young children. If the degree
could be accompanied by a one year guaranteed position working in an early years setting with a reasonable starting salary, as is currently the case for teachers within Scotland, it would be an attractive proposition for many people. In order to ensure that the educational aspect of leading learning in ELC is central to such degrees, they would need to be developed by - and sit within - the education departments of universities which have a strong history of, and suitable staff to teach, early years education and care.
Colwyn Trevarthan, while discussing the key critical skills, knowledge and experiences, noted that: 'It is essential to be in the hands of lecturers/tutors/teachers/supervisors with expert knowledge and understanding of children.' (Response to the first call for evidence.)
Many people, while commending the work-based degrees, also recognised that there was a need to attract career changers and/or young people who had attained well in their previous careers and school based studies. NDNA noted: 'The need to get more academic high achievers (from school leavers to graduates) in balance with support workers' ( NDNA response to the first call for evidence).
Other related comments included:
'Make a commitment that this early years' workforce will employ a variety of qualifications including teachers directly working with children and planning within the team… There needs to be a clear structure of qualifications so that there is consistency across authorities and schools. There needs to be career opportunities for all, with relevant post qualifying courses that do truly meet the needs of the profession. There needs to be a focus on quality and not just quantity.' (Head of a Family Centre response to second call for evidence)
'Is it time to reconsider the BA Childhood Practice and re-introduce the BA Early Years Practice or similar?… Most of the BA Childhood Practice graduates are early childhood staff.' (University provider response to first call for evidence)
And a Further Education provider noted:
'More creative and new initial graduate degrees would be of huge benefit to the sector - flexible delivery should still include a FE route.' (Further Education provider response to Review)
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 numbers of 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.
9.4. Qualified Teachers in ELC
Currently, teachers generally hold the highest level of qualification at Level 10 ( SCQF) of those working in ELC. This is either a B.Ed. honours degree or a Professional Graduate Diploma of Education ( PGDE) which is open to applicants who already have a first degree. It should also be noted that all PGDE programmes in Scotland now award some credit at SCQF Level 11 as part of the PGDE and one university is developing a first degree teaching qualification which will lead to a SCQF Level 11 award. Qualified teachers are the only group registered to teach in both ELC educational provision and schools: they are qualified to teach across the age range 3-12 years.
The 'teacher induction scheme' guarantees them a year of employment following their degree. This is the national induction programme for newly qualified Scottish teachers and guarantees the offer of a one year teaching post in a Scottish LA - with teachers being allocated to one of five LAs of their choosing. Teachers on the programme have a maximum class commitment of 82%, allowing them a minimum of 18% extra time for their professional development. Everyone on the scheme has access to the services of an experienced mentor, and it is expected that they be able to gain full registration with the GTCS ( GTCS, 2012) by the end of the year.
Until 2002, it was a requirement for LA educational settings to employ qualified teachers to work directly with 3-5 year olds. Teachers would typically work with an early childhood assistant and 20 children with a 1:10 adult to child ratio. An amendment to the Schools (Scotland) Code 1956 passed in 2003 changed this practice following the, then, Scottish Executive's announcement of new roles for teachers (Scottish Executive Education Department, 2002). The current Scottish Government policy position is that the entitlement to pre-school education should also give access to GTCS registered teachers, but it is no longer a requirement for every pre-school setting to have a full-time teacher working daily in the setting. Since this change there has been a decline in the number of teachers working in ELC settings.
An HMIE report (2007a) noted that some LAs had chosen to close or replace traditional Nursery Schools with alternative provision. This impacted on initial teacher education programmes and career prospects for early years teachers.
'Universities are finding it hard to place teacher education students in pre-school settings with experienced teachers. As a result they are not given enough support to establish careers in early years sector.' ( HMIE, 2007a, p22)
The focus of initial teacher education courses across the age range (3-12 years) may be another factor in the reduction of teacher numbers in ELC within Scotland. The Review discussions, focus groups and consultation responses pointed to this as increasingly problematic, with many courses focusing on the older age range. EIS (2010) suggested that there had been a reduction in the emphasis on early years in existing initial teacher training programmes in Scotland. They also noted that placements in ELC can be short and may not include a trained teacher or university tutor visit. Further, they suggested that such experiences may impact on the value students attribute to the early years ( EIS, 2010).
GTCS registration used to prohibit newly qualified teachers, in their guaranteed probationary year, from carrying out their probationary period wholly in a nursery class or school. Although this has now changed and teachers can undertake their induction wholly in a nursery, the practice is not widespread. The Core Reference Group for this Review felt that the change was positive, but there might remain some challenges '…. with diminishing numbers of experienced nursery teachers it may be a challenge to make appropriate arrangements for mentoring the probationer. Such induction would improve the status of early years and teacher aspiration to work there.' (Minutes of the Core reference group, 2015)
Most early years specialists who responded to the hub call for evidence suggested that there is still a significant amount of work to do to ensure that the early years is given the value it deserves within the teaching profession, and beyond, to ensure that specialising in the early years does not limit teachers' career opportunities.
There is currently one primary initial teaching qualification programme which offers an early years specialism. This is provided by the University of Stirling. Student teachers study psychology, social work and family health - as well as primary literacy, primary numeracy and a module designed to support them in making the most effective use of their specialism in a primary school. In addition, some universities have developed additional qualifications for teachers in employment who are working in the early years (usually 3-8 years). These are
typically offered at SCQF Level 11 leading to certificates and diplomas with the possibility of progression to a Masters degree.
Responses to the Review that considered the depth of understanding of early years pedagogy and practice needed to be effective early years practitioners said:
'The Early Years Specialism at Strathclyde also now looks to offer this depth to practice.' (Teacher working in ELC response to the second call for evidence)
'The Edinburgh Froebel course offers staff opportunities to learn about Froebel principles and to reflect on their own practice and plan initiatives to deliver quality experiences for children.' ( ELC practitioner response to the second call for evidence)
The City of Edinburgh Council is one example of the best early learning focuses within Scotland. This is based on the professional development they provide for early years staff, much of which follows the Froebel model. This model is child-centred with a play-based pedagogy, and is underpinned by a knowledge and understanding of child development which supports assessment, evaluation and planning.
The Core Reference Group discussions suggested other examples of good early learning focuses; one of the ADES representatives advised that: 'Stirling Council… as have Angus Council…developed a comprehensive approach to Pedagogical Documentation.'
During the Review process, many people stressed both that primary school teachers should be well versed in supporting children in the early years through their initial teacher training courses, and that further professional development to support a move from primary to ELC and working with younger children would be useful.
'If teachers are moving from Primary to Nursery they need opportunities to reflect on the holistic nature of play and how children learn in a nursery environment.' (Teacher working in ELC response to the second call for evidence)
There has been debate about the possible demand for such specialist courses, especially given the reduction in teachers and diminished career opportunities within ELC for qualified teachers. The Review recognises this, but sees the recommendations regarding teachers as interlinked. If recommendation 15 is enacted, all the other related recommendations are likely to be considered.
20) Introduce 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.
9.5. Quality Assurance
The universities have their own quality assurance checks, and SQA are responsible for the quality assurance of the providers of the qualifications they validate. They have systems of quality assurance which consider both the management structure of the qualification providers and their ability to deliver the qualifications. They conduct verification checks on the system and the qualifications. The qualification verification procedure includes considering: the validity of assessment instruments; verifying the reliability of assessment decisions; verifying that assessment instruments are being used correctly and in line with any assessment specification; and ensuring that the appropriate resources are in place to support the delivery of the qualification.
Despite these systems, both the discussions and the consultation responses during the Review suggested that: the quality of the providers' training and qualifications is variable; that, particularly with lower level qualifications, some learners are being accepted for study and supported to pass assessments unreasonably; and that some learners are not given sufficient time to reflect upon and complete their studies outside the work environment. They need time both for this and for gaining experience within a variety of excellent work environments.
A selection of responses to the hub illustrate these points:
'Students training for a HNC have often come into placement with a very limited knowledge of the Curriculum for Excellence.' (Local Authority response to the first Call for evidence)
'Many staff in the early years sector undertake "on-the-job" training and they are dependent upon in-house training. Current training is patchy and determined in many cases by the quality of the training providers… The SVQ depends so much on the placement: the quality of the overall provision/appropriate role models etc. The quality of the training can be poor and can be achieved too quickly; without establishing a rich underpinning knowledge base. If a candidate is in a good setting, the training provided could be excellent. There is maybe a strong role for remaining nursery schools here.' (Third sector network response to the first call for evidence)
'There is too much of a patchwork with inconsistent standards of training. Often a very low standard of training is provided by trainers whose own level of qualifications is inadequate. Standards at the lower levels are very variable and often young apprentices get a very bad deal in this respect working for long hours for little remuneration with poor guidance, little encouragement and low expectations.' (University response to the first call for evidence)
The feedback gleaned during the Review supports the notion of more rigorous quality assurance processes - especially in relation to early qualifications. The number and diversity of qualifications and providers of those qualifications also suggests that further collaboration and communication is desirable. SQA and SSSC have worked in collaboration with representatives from FEs, HEIs, private providers and employers etc. in previous qualification mapping and development exercises, so this will be familiar to them.
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.
9.6. Status, Pay and Conditions
In a comprehensive review of what is known about how young children learn and develop, and of the implications of this knowledge for the care and education of children, the Committee on Early Childhood Pedagogy concluded, 'There is a serious mismatch between the preparation (and compensation) of the average early childhood professional and the growing expectations of parents and policy makers' (National Research Council 2001, p. 261).
Many responses to the hub echoed these ideas. Consider, for example, one early years network's response below:
'It is now very clear not only that a child's earliest years see the most rapid development in the human brain than at any other period in the life course, but that a child's experiences during this critical period influence, for good or ill, the course of her or his future life. We therefore consider that it is an anomaly that those who work with children at this critical and formative stage generally have the lowest level of qualification and the worst pay and conditions in the children and young people's workforce.' (Children in Scotland's response to the first call for evidence)
And an ELC practitioner wrote:
'It is also important to help people understand that the process of starting Playgroup or Nursery (the transition from home to setting) can affect a child's entire school history, and can either help prevent or lead to anti-social behaviour and depression in adolescents and adults. Playgroups are a vital intermediate step between home and the more formal setting of nursery. They should be recognised formally by the council/government, and early years' professionals should be paid on par with nursery and school teachers.'
( ELC practitioner response to the second call for evidence)
Despite the upskilling of the workforce, unequal rates of pay remain within ELC - with the largest inequalities in the private and third sector. This is, however, not unique to Scotland. In her review of the early years workforce in England, Nutbrown (2012) noted that the majority of the English early years workforce remains under-qualified, under-paid and overwhelmingly female (Miller and Cable, 2008). Low wages and high expectations are also found in the OSC sector.
Rate of pay is inextricably linked to status, and early childhood teaching is often considered to have lower status than teaching older children (King, 1998). In addition, there remains a deep divide between partnership settings and LA settings - as there is elsewhere ( e.g. England, Wales and Northern Ireland) with the PVI and the maintained sector (Moss, 2006).
Most responses to the hub and discussions included comments on pay, together with the importance of terms and conditions of employment and the inequalities within the workforces.
Feedback from a Core Reference Group member during the Review suggested that: 'Annual leave, sick pay, maternity leave, health and safety legislation, access to personal development and additional training, agreeing career paths, all have their place in negotiating improvements in pay and conditions in the whole sector. Whilst teachers are currently covered by national terms and conditions, there is huge variation in nursery nurse and playworker wages, terms and conditions'
More than 75% of practitioners' and stakeholder institutions' responses to the hub mentioned the rate of pay as being important for raising the status of the workforce. For example, in their response to the call for evidence, SSSC wrote:
'Our workforce data confirms that a substantial proportion of the childcare workforce is employed by the private and voluntary sector ( SSSC, 2013). A number of these workers may be paid a rate that is below the living wage. We welcome the Scottish Government's commitment to promote the living wage… We are working with COSLA, Scottish Government and other stakeholders on a project which aims to work towards a minimum of the living wage for all adult care workers. We need to ensure that similar work is underway in the early years and OSC sector. Ultimately we need to ensure that the professional early years and OSC workforce is receiving a professional wage. The pay disparities within the public, private and voluntary sectors also need to be tackled.'( SSSC response to second call for evidence)
And the Scottish Out of School Care Network wrote:
' SOSCN is a living wage accredited employer and recommends this level at the very least for OSC.' ( SOSCN response to the call for evidence)
People consistently voiced their concerns over low pay; however, some of the private and third sector settings and their networks pointed to some of the complexities here. One consistent issue was linked to the funding afforded to the private and third sector to cover the costs of children's free entitlements by Local Authorities.
'For the early workforce to feel valued for the important job they undertake, we feel as a private provider they are not being rewarded with salaries that reflect their value and worth. We are unable to pay the 'Living Wage' because what are paid through partnership does not enable employers to do so.' ( ELC practitioner response to the second call)
While the NDNA pointed out:
'Funding levels to partner providers need to be at a level conducive to supporting high quality early learning and childcare. NDNA Scotland's 2014 Nursery Survey showed that nurseries are making a big loss on local authority funded childcare places…' ( NDNA response to the first call for evidence)
This is a complex issue which requires careful consideration. It is not only about workers within local authority control but also those outside and those in partnership with local authorities. It is likely to require a deal of trust and reorganisation of funding including funding for children's entitlement to ELC. Despite this, however, both practitioners and stakeholder institutions acknowledge that raising the minimum wage to at least the living wage is fundamental to improvement within the sectors. This Review, therefore, considers this a key recommendation, whilst understanding that it is aspirational to the extent that it is not enforceable in the private and third sectors unless accompanied by statutory change mandated by the UK Government. It does, however, represent the majority view of the ELC and OSC workforces within Scotland - and reflects the current policy direction of the Scottish Government in this area.
The Scottish Government has a fair work agenda, and has established a Cabinet level post to lead on fair work. They are establishing a Fair Work Convention, and the Living Wage has been a key feature of Scottish Government Public Sector Pay Policy since 2011.
Despite the difficulties this may cause for those who are self-employed (such as childminders) and/or working in the private or third sector, the move towards a national pay scale may be useful.
A Core Reference Group member suggested, during discussions as the report was being developed:
'There are other sectors where rates of pay for skilled workers are nationally agreed and negotiated, which then allows self-employed workers to set their rates and fees against a national scale.'
This aspirational recommendation could be considered and encouraged in all settings and enforced in all those under local government control or partnership.
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
The view that members of the workforce who have achieved qualifications should have them recognised and receive suitable remuneration was a consistent theme in discussions and hub responses.
Unfortunately, there were anomalies here too. Some providers reported that, following the Modern Apprenticeship scheme, some young people were unable to gain jobs due to the increase in wages they expected. Others said that having a degree meant little in terms of remuneration - especially in the private and third sector.
An ELC practitioner wrote: 'I am now required to complete a BA in Childhood Practice or leave my job. I will have spent approximately seven years training (initially… to SVQ Level 4…). I only earn £7.20 per hour (less than the living wage and less than council cleaners etc.). The playgroup receives NO council support and rely solely on children's fees and parent fundraising to continue. My wages are set by the voluntary Parent Committee and dictated by a need to pay rent etc. and a need to keep fees low.' (Response to second call for evidence)
Responses from university providers:
'It is time that graduates of the BA Childhood Practice courses see salaries reflect the qualification.' (University response to first call for evidence)
'Remuneration would need to reflect that at the moment this is an ordinary degree….and provide incentive for people to progress to or choose honours options.' (University response to first call for evidence)
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.
The public view of the early years workforce is critical to its status. There is a strong awareness in Scotland of the power of language, and this was a driver in developing the terminology of ELC. One term which appears to have persisted within the Scottish culture, and which may now be worth reconsidering, is 'practitioner'. This term is typically associated with someone junior supporting a more professional superior, such as nurse practitioner supporting a doctor - that is, someone with technical experience and knowledge, but not a leader with expertise.
In addition, some childminders mentioned feeling dissatisfied with their title and the associations they thought it had. Several suggested the term 'Early Years Educators' as a replacement.
Many ELC settings do refer to their staff as 'practitioner' and 'lead practitioner', while some describe themselves as 'Early Years Professional' and 'Early Years Teacher'. Interestingly, within some LAs the term 'Early Years Officers' has already become established, and, during discussions had as part of the Review process, it was suggested that this could be adopted across the sector.
One union, while commenting on the recommendation below, as part of the Review process, suggested that further consideration of the language and terminology used within ELC and OSC might open recruitment to others in addition to young workers/school leavers.
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 Scottish Government's Early Years Division should consult the sector and find a more suitable term.
9.7. Inequality across different ELC settings
In the section Quality and Outcomes some research, aligned to inspections, was considered in relation to the type of qualification held by practitioners/teachers and the impact this had on children's outcomes. While it remains impossible at this stage to decide whether a qualified teacher or an early years practitioner with a BA Childhood Practice or similar supports quality and children's outcomes better, it is possible to recognise inequalities in opportunities across the sector. GUS (Scottish Government, 2014c) noted a lower level of quality in partner provider settings, particularly within private sector provision, in Scotland.
Dickens et al. (2005, cited in EIS, 2010) suggested that the tax system in England promoted an inequity in early years provision, and GUS (Scottish Government, 2014c) noted differences in the mix of children attending settings in Scotland. Care needs to be given to ensuring that the funding systems in Scotland do not inadvertently encourage segregation and risk the future educational success of all children.
It is well known that marketisation and inter-setting competition, often viewed uncritically as parent choice, is likely to exacerbate educational inequality (Cambridge Primary Review, 2010). Adams (2008 in EIS, 2010) points to the negative effects of entrepreneurs in the provision of ELC. They may open settings which flexibly meet the needs of parents for full-time and extended day care, keeping their costs low by training staff on the job, which can increase the number of staff with low or no qualifications.
The recent changes in entitlement hours in Scotland were accompanied by a shift in the workforce in ELC. Many practitioners took the opportunity to move from the lower paid private sector to the better conditions of service provided by Local Authorities. The proposed additional entitlements and support for vulnerable two year olds in coming years could cause a further shift and unrest. It could bring further challenges around the quality of service in the private sector. It therefore seems important that local authorities and childcare partnerships plan and manage the ELC workforce in a more integrated way. For example, they could commission joint training, placements, secondments and other exchanges across different settings and sectors. Integrated working would also be useful to ensure the quality and accessibility of OSC provision.
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.
It is well known that there is a general international problem about recruiting and retaining staff within ELC and OSC sectors (Rolfe, 2005). The reasons include pay and working conditions e.g. short working hours, low status and competition from other sectors. Rate of pay is discussed in the section headed Status, Pay and Conditions and Recommendation 25.
The discussions and hub responses pointed to a lack of suitable recruits entering the profession. Currently, there appears to be a popular misconception, discussed earlier, that working in ELC does not require academic skills and that there is little career progression. There are reports of young women who are unlikely to make the academic grades for other professions being steered towards hairdressing or childcare (the hair or care syndrome).
This was reflected in some of the responses to the hub:
Comments such as this '…Careers advice in school - don't suggest pupils with low academic ability work with young children - we need more than just a basic grasp of literacy and numeracy.' (Teacher in ELC response to second call) were common.
'Change school careers advice that those who have performed poorly in exams should be the only ones who consider childcare as a career.' ( ELC practitioner response to second call for evidence)
People need to realise that the care and education of young children requires a professional and suitably qualified workforce in the same way as for those working with older children.
Many hub responses and discussions during the Review mentioned the qualities practitioners need as a basic requirement for the work: a recurrent theme was being enthusiastic and motivated to work with children and their families/carers.
It was highlighted that prospective ELC and OSC workers need to understand that the job is important and demanding, and that they would be required to gain the relevant knowledge and qualifications. Many people commented on the need for new recruits to have good literacy and numeracy skills, and to be willing to learn and develop as the settings changed and respond to the diverse needs of the children and young people within them.
One ELC practitioner wrote:
'Children leaving school are not made aware of the importance of the early years workforce, they think it is an easy option, we are not getting the higher achieving school students applying as the wage is not good and there is no great career route.' ( ELC practitioner response to the second call for evidence)
On a more practical note, it was highlighted that career advisors should know the clear career pathways within ELC and OSC, and that students can gain qualifications at a number of different levels and in different ways - from work-based apprenticeships through to initial full time degrees at university.
The challenges regarding ensuring that knowledge and understanding of careers in OSC provision and the importance and complexity of the work there are equally as evident as within ELC. There are further complications in OSC, due to the often part-time nature of the work and the smaller number of centre based settings. The need for high quality settings and suitable qualified staff is indisputable for both ELC and OSC.
Interestingly, the Scottish Out of School Care Network wrote:
'We can only improve the recruitment and retention of the best candidates by improving the status, pay and conditions of the workforce and promoting this as a valuable career path. We find in our workforce surveys that there is an increasing view that working in out of school care is a career.' (Response to the first call for evidence)
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.
9.9. Impact of education, training and qualifications
As yet, the evidence base regarding the impact of the new roles, responsibilities and associated qualifications within Scotland is incomplete. This is likely to be due to the short time scales in which the qualifications have been running, and further research will be important here in the future. If the impact of ELC and OSC services on children's outcomes - in terms of their socio-emotional and cognitive development - is to be fully realised, not only will the qualifications and professional development need to have the right focus, but also the inspections. Further, there will need to be a national system put in place to monitor young children's developmental progress. These all form part of the set of recommendations outlined in this Review.
The research literature suggests that many recommendations here, if implemented, are likely to impact positively on children's outcomes - and will be particularly supportive for those children living in areas of disadvantage and/or with additional learning needs. Many people, in response to the hub call for evidence and in discussions which informed the recommendations, felt that the need for improved services for children with additional learning needs warranted particular attention. The training and qualifications of workforces were seen as pertinent and fundamental to ensuring the safety, nurture and socio-emotional and cognitive development of vulnerable children such as these.
The Learning Disability Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service Scotland Network wrote 'Our experience is that Out of School clubs, even when run in Special Schools do not always provide suitably trained staff and cannot manage some of the more challenging/complex children and young people. Those with the highest needs (and whose parents most need support and respite) can therefore have difficulty accessing services.'
They noted that '…respite/social opportunities are offered on a transient basis with local authority short term contracts with voluntary/third sector organisations. Particularly for our population of children/young people with complex needs, there needs to be consistency of access to services. Short term projects serve them and their families poorly and the staff who contribute to those projects inevitably are transient with little or poor opportunities to build any kind of sustained expertise.'
They suggested that access to suitable high quality OSC for children with learning disabilities '…is particularly crucial for their development as well as to offer much-needed respite to families.'
These are important criticisms and should not be overlooked, and they link to the research literature and key themes which suggest that high quality education and care is imperative to support children with learning disabilities. It is important to note, however, that the majority of OSC is provided by the third and private sector and is typically neither statutory nor grant funded. Local Authorities are key for children with disabilities, as they can support staff and settings with relevant training, experiences and even premises/resources which better meet the needs of their communities. Responses to the hub and from the Scottish Out of School Care Network suggest a strong desire within the OSC workforce to be trained and resourced appropriately, and to be able to include all children.
Discussions around ensuring that the training and qualifications available are suitable and supportive of the workforce and their particular working context can be found in the section headed Qualifications and Recommendation 18.
In their consultation response, one ELC practitioner wrote: 'As well as learning how to support children who develop as usual…useful to know what to expect… planning support for children with special needs.' (Response to the first call for evidence)
The workforces' knowledge and understanding of child development, learning and assessment are vital and, in addition, professional development and training around the specific needs and attributes of children with more common identified medical issues and learning difficulties may be useful, e.g. supporting children with eczema, asthma, hearing loss, autistic spectrum disorder and speech and language delay. However, further work considering the developments necessary to ensure the ELC and OSC workforces are equipped to support the needs of children with complex needs and disabilities is recommended.
Research is the final element warranting consideration to ensure that Scotland continues to move forward with its transformational change. There is a demand for further high quality research in all areas of ELC and OSC, but - as the research literature suggests - this is particularly important for childminders and OSC services, where generally there is a much smaller evidence base looking at quality.
As part of the discussions with the Core Reference Group on the recommendations, a Higher Education representative stated:
'Childminders are important… and it is essential that we know more about their contribution to continuity, stability, emotional wellbeing and learning for the children in their care.'
And the Scottish Out of School Care Network pointed to: '… a shortage of this higher level of research to inform the development of the school age childcare workforce in terms of research around out of school care.'
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 in needed in Scotland.
Importantly for Scotland, research making further links between inspection processes and indicators which impact on children's outcomes would also be valuable. The bodies which currently undertake ELC and OSC inspections are also those that support improvement generally and inform policy direction - so this is key for Scotland. Currently, inspection processes are under review and the GUS report (Scottish Government, 2014c), though inconclusive due to the small sample of Education Scotland inspections, found only one link between the Care and Support theme of the Care Inspectorate and children's outcomes.
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.
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