national cares tandards early education and childcare up to the age of 16

national cares tandards early education and childcare up to the age of 16Edition


Childcare up to age 16 early education and childminders

The national care standards for childcare cover services for children and young people up to the age of 16 years which are to be regulated under the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 ('the Act'). They apply equally to services operating in the public, private and voluntary sectors, and in domestic or non-domestic premises which provide services for over two hours a day and for six days or more each year. The range of services covered include:

  • nursery classes;
  • crèches;
  • childminders;
  • after school clubs; and
  • playgroups.

The national care standards

Scottish Ministers set up the National Care Standards Committee ( NCSC) to develop national standards. The NCSC carried out this work with the help of a number of working groups. These groups included people who use services, their families and carers, along with staff, professional associations, regulators from health and social care, local authorities, health boards and independent providers. Many others were also involved in the consultation process.

The starting point for the working group for early education and childcare was a review commissioned by the Scottish Executive. This outlined standards and guidelines used by local authorities to regulate childcare.

The working group also took account of quality assurance schemes operated by the Scottish Childminding Association, the Scottish Pre-School Play Association, the Scottish Independent Nurseries Association and the Scottish Out of School Care Network. The standards are also underpinned by The Child at the Centre, which is already well established as a tool for self-evaluation in the pre-school centres.

The standards have been developed from the point of view of the user of the services - whether that is the child or young person, the parent or carer. They focus on the quality of life that everyone using the service actually experiences.

Using the national care standards

If you are thinking about using early education or childcare services, you will want to refer to the standards to help you decide about them.

Providers will use the standards to find out what is expected of them in offering childcare and early education services. The standards make it clear that everything about the service should lead to you and your child enjoying good quality services. They should guide the provider over who to employ and how they should manage the service.

These national care standards provide the framework for assessing the service as a whole. They cover a wide range of care services from babies to teenagers. The way in which the standards are to be met in a particular case will depend on the type of provision being inspected. The Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care ('the Care Commission') has discretion to apply the standards flexibly, taking into account the nature of the service.

Where centres are funded for pre-school education, the quality indicators of The Child at the Centre and the Early Level of Curriculum for Excellence also help to describe national expectations. In particular, these provide advice about the curriculum, children's progress, assessment, support for learning and quality assurance.

The principles behind the standards

The standards reflect the rights of children and young people, as set down in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. They also reflect the general principles applying to all the standards developed by the National Care Standards Committee. The principles themselves are not standards but reflect the recognised rights which children, young people, parents and carers enjoy as citizens. These principles are the result of all the contributions made by the National Care Standards Committee, its working groups and everyone else who responded to the consultations on the standards as they were being written. They recognise that services must be accessible and suitable for everyone who needs them, including people from black and ethnic minority communities and children with disabilities. They reflect the strong agreement that children and young people's experience of the services is very important and should be positive.

The main principles are dignity, privacy, choice, safety, realising potential and equality and diversity. Users of the service have a right to:


  • be treated with dignity and respect at all times; and
  • enjoy a full range of social relationships.


  • have your privacy and property respected; and
  • be free from unnecessary intrusion.


  • make informed choices, while recognising the rights of other people to do the same; and
  • know about the range of choices.


  • feel safe and secure in all aspects of life, including health and wellbeing;
  • enjoy safety but not be over-protected; and
  • be free from exploitation and abuse.

Realising potential

  • achieve all you can;
  • make full use of the resources that are available to you; and
  • make the most of your life.

Equality and diversity

  • live an independent life, rich in purpose, meaning and personal fulfilment;
  • be valued for your ethnic background, language, culture and faith;
  • be treated equally and to live in an environment which is free from bullying, harassment and discrimination; and
  • be able to complain effectively without fear of victimisation.

The Scottish Commission for the Regulation of Care

The Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001 ('the Act') set up the Care Commission, which registers and inspects all the services regulated under the Act, taking account of the national care standards issued by Scottish Ministers. The Care Commission has its headquarters in Dundee, with regional offices across the country. It will assess applications from people who want to provide early education and childcare services. It will inspect the services to make sure that they are meeting the regulations and in doing so will take account of the national care standards. You can find out more about the Care Commission and what it does from its website (

The Scottish Social Services Council

The Act created the Scottish Social Services Council ('the Council') which was established on 1 October 2001. It also has its headquarters in Dundee. The Council has the duty of promoting high standards of conduct and practice among social services workers, and in their education and training. To deliver its overall aims of protecting service users and carers and securing the confidence of the public in social services, the Council has been given five main tasks. These are: to establish registers of key groups of social services staff; to publish codes of practice for all social services staff and their employers; to regulate the conduct of registered workers; to regulate the training and education of the workforce; to undertake the functions of the National Training Organisation for the Personal Social Services. The Council has issued codes of practice for social service workers and employers of social service workers. These describe the standards of conduct and practice within which they should work. The codes are available from the Council website (

How standards and regulations work together

The Act gives Scottish Ministers the power to publish standards which the Care Commission must take into account when making its decisions. It also gives Scottish Ministers the power to make regulations imposing requirements in relation to early education and childcare services.

The standards will be taken into account by the Care Commission in making any decision about applications for registration (including varying or removing a condition that may have been imposed on the registration of the service). All providers must provide a statement of function and purpose when they are applying to register their service. On the basis of that statement, the Care Commission will determine which standards will apply to the service that the provider is offering.

The standards will be used to monitor the quality of services and their compliance with the Act and the regulations. If, at inspection, or at other times, for example, as a result of the Care Commission looking into a complaint, there are concerns about the service, the Care Commission will take the standards into account in any decision on whether to take enforcement action and what action to take.

If the standards were not being fully met, the Care Commission would note this in the inspection report and require the service manager to address this. The Care Commission could impose an additional condition on the service's registration if the provider persistently, substantially or seriously failed to meet the standards or breached a regulation. If the provider does not then meet the condition, the Care Commission could issue an improvement notice detailing the required improvement to be made and the timescale for this. Alternatively, the Care Commission could move straight to an improvement notice. The Care Commission would move to cancel the registration of any service if the improvement notice does not achieve the desired result. In extreme cases (i.e. where there is serious risk to a person's life, health or wellbeing) the Care Commission could take immediate steps to cancel the registration of any service without issuing an improvement notice.

Regulations are mandatory. In some cases not meeting a regulation will be an offence. This means a provider may be subject to prosecution. Not meeting or breaching any regulation is a serious matter.

Decisions by the Care Commission on what to do when standards or regulations are not met will take into account all the relevant circumstances and be proportionate.

You can get information on these regulations from the Regulation of Care (Scotland) Act 2001, which is available from the Stationery Office Bookshop at a cost of £7.95 a copy. You can also see the Act on-line ( see Annex B for the address).

You can also see the Scottish Statutory Instruments for the Regulation of Care Regulations 2002 on-line ( see Annex B for the address).

Terms used

To help you understand the standards, here is an explanation of some of the terms used:

  • staff includes any person caring for children and young people, including childminders and managers, whether volunteers, self-employed or paid employees;
  • manager is the person responsible for the daily management of the service;
  • person in charge is the person who provides the service and has overall responsibility for it; and
  • you is used to refer to parents, carers and/or children and young people as appropriate. It reflects the rights of children and young people to be at the centre of the care provided but also acknowledges parents' and carers' rights, particularly in respect of young children.


If you would like to comment on these standards you can visit our website and send a message through our mailbox:

You can also contact us at:

Care Standards and Sponsorship Branch
Community Care Division
Health Department
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh EH1 3AG

Tel: 0131 244 3520
Fax: 0131 244 4005

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