There is a massive sea change taking place in England, Scotland and Wales with regard to training and qualifications for work with children and young people. Previously, qualifications were offered through various Awarding Bodies (organisations responsible for the creation of qualifications for national use from a foundation or level one through to degree level). Training organisations could choose which qualifications to deliver to their candidates or students and each Awarding Body would use a number of assessment and examination strategies to gauge whether individual candidates had knowledge and competence to become professionals.
This meant that some awarding bodies expected more detail and had a more rigorous assessment schedule than others and the various training organisations would, in part, select that Awarding Body with the least complicated structure or the most user-friendly paperwork.
This has evolved over the last five years to the point where for every sector of industry e.g. the children and young people’s workforce, there is one sector lead organisation and all awarding body representatives have worked together to produce single qualifications. This means, in effect, that each Awarding Body offers the same packages with the same credits attached for the same qualification. The difference lies in the paperwork and the support offered.
The idea for these homogenous qualifications came from a study of other European and Scandinavian countries and their training. It was clear that a more unified approach was necessary so that the status of each level of qualification was universally recognised and standards remain constant. It had been mooted for some considerable time that in this country, if an individual professional, for example a teacher, wished to begin training to become a social worker, they were more or less obliged to start again from the beginning. This meant that people already on salary spines had to sacrifice this and become a student again, with little or no chance to remain at the same level of living. It has always been seen as unfair when the bulk of knowledge gained is not subject specific. These new qualifications allow for everyone to begin at the beginning. The core units cover those aspects of working with children and young people which informs candidates of the importance of safeguarding and prevention of harm, to the children and themselves as well as clear guidance for other aspects of health and safety.
It is useful at this stage to visualise the qualifications as concentric circles, where the larger the circle, the more knowledge and demonstration of practice will be required. Candidates can specialise by choosing one type of circle, but can now add to their knowledge in a way and with timing to suit their individual requirements.
There are a number of Awarding Body web sites to provide further information about this and some of them are listed below. Each qualification accrues a number of credits which indicate the approximate number of hours’ study required. Each unit is worth in general 10 hours. So a Level 2 qualification could indicate that the candidate has studies for up to 340 hours for example. As Level 2 is for assistants only, you get some idea of the length of study required at each level.
Assessments are both practical and carried out in the workplace or more academic in the form of assignments, projects or tests. The qualifications have to be accredited by the QCF (Qualifications and Credit Framework). If they do meet their standard, they are not accepted and must be replaced.
It will take a long time for the ‘new’ qualifications to be accepted. As always, everything is running behind schedule. Some training organisations are holding on to the older qualifications, but the previous Government stated that there would be no funding available for training of anything other than the new qualifications and we wait and see the outcome to that threat.
From my perspective, I think change of this magnitude has been a long time coming. There will be teething problems and I suspect initially a lowering of standards, but it will come through eventually. It must for the sake of all our children.