Publication - Advice and guidance

Early learning and childcare qualifications: recognition of prior learning (RPL)

Published: 29 Sep 2020
Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 - see all updates

A tool to illustrate how prior learning, and experiences or qualifications - formal or informal, life or work based - can be used to help obtain ELC qualifications.

29 Sep 2020
Early learning and childcare qualifications: recognition of prior learning (RPL)

There are a number of ways in which to join the Early Learning and Childcare (ELC) sector, even if you have no formal qualifications or experience. The Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework Partnership (SCQFP) recognise the value in prior learning. Recognised prior learning (RPL) is a way of using your skills and knowledge, gained through experience and formal training and learning, towards a recognised qualification. RPL is an effective way of supporting you to make the best use of your experience and training. RPL allows you to actively build on prior learning to support and enhance your development.

Recognising any existing learning you have - be that through life or work experiences, formal or informal - may help you to build confidence, help to prepare for progression within the ELC sector or identify an appropriate, or even advanced, programme entry level. Below is a handy guide which sets out what to expect through the RPL process and where to find further information. The SSSC, Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and SCQFP also offer a range of information, guidance and tailored interactive tools:

RPL process

1. Start of RPL

You should contact your local training provider to discuss the RPL process. The learning provider will discuss this with you, including an initial discussion on evidencing learning from informal prior learning, and the expectations on both parties during this process.

2. Your RPL profile

You will undertake RPL ‘profiling’. This involves setting out your relevant prior experiences, skills and knowledge. This includes how you have applied them in current activity/work practice and relate to your training and learning needs.

3. Initial assessment and planning

You will review and assess your profile with the learning provider who can support you to identify and evidence existing learning. You and the provider will agree what further learning is needed and how you will achieve it.

4. Evidence of prior learning

The training provider must be satisfied that the evidence you have submitted maps to the qualification concerned, has been authenticated and is reliable and valid. Once this is agreed further study required is identified.

5. Develop learning

You will undertake the agreed further learning, and evidence this in line with agreed standards and methods.

6. Final assessment

Once you have completed the learning identified you will complete your studies. 


If you already have an ELC related qualification, there are many different roles that you can take up depending on your qualification. The SSSC have a tool which allows individuals to search the relevant register part in order to find out what qualifications are accepted.

RPL will help determine what entry level is most relatable to you. You will have 5 years in which to achieve the necessary qualification. Existing qualifications that are not directly related to the ELC sector (as per SSSC registerable qualification tool) can be considered by the learning provider using the RPL process. If you are unsure as to whether your existing qualifications count towards RPL, you should contact the SSSC who can advise you further and recommend what your next steps should be to gain any required awards. You should then discuss this with the learning provider directly.

If you hold a non-UK ELC related qualification from within the European Economic Area (EEA) you may be able to have it assessed by the SSSC. This chargeable service determines if the qualification may be accepted or not. Where there is significant evidence of the qualification meeting some, but not all, of the requirements the applicant will be offered the opportunity to undertake further learning or maybe advised to undertake the full benchmark qualification.


You should also discuss RPL with employers at interview. Employers may consider applicants who do not possess the level of qualifications noted in vacancy adverts as any recognised prior qualifications may contribute towards credits for the required qualifications which you can work towards achieving whilst employed through a tailored Continued Professional Learning (CPL) plan.

Employers should have meaningful discussions with potential employees regarding their experience and prior qualifications, and allow learners sufficient time to provide RPL evidence. Employers and training providers will assess any evidence provided, and where accepted, can then create a CPL plan the learner can undertake whilst in post.


Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) telephone: 0345 60 30 891

First published: 29 Sep 2020 Last updated: 19 Jul 2021 -