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National Review of the Early Years and Childcare Workforce

The UNISON Scotland Submission to the Scottish Executive consultation on the ‘National Review of the Early Years and Childcare Workforce'.

December 2006


UNISON Scotland welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Executive's consultation on their National Review of the Early Years and Childcare Workforce.  

UNISON Scotland represents over 160,000 members working mainly in the public sector including members of the early years and childcare workforce as well as many members who rely on the services provided by this workforce.



Before answering the specific questions asked within the review, there are a number of general points that UNISON Scotland would like to raise. These include UNISON Scotland's general policy on childcare and education which is stated below:

"We believe in universal, flexible services for all children, provided by the public sector, delivering high quality early years education and childcare by appropriately trained professionals receiving appropriate levels of pay".

UNISON Scotland believes that the public sector provides a better service and with more qualified staff than other sectors. However, we dispute the figures given in the report; it states only 58% of the workforce within the public sector hold SVQ level 3 qualifications or above while we believe that this is over 80%. Also, public sector providers are subject to greater scrutiny than those within the private and voluntary sectors and routinely face inspections by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Education and the Care Commission as well as councils' own internal quality assurance procedures.

UNISON Scotland also has concerns regarding the funding of this sector. There are far too many funding streams which are ring-fenced, e.g., Childcare Strategy Funding, Surestart Funding, Free Education for 3 and 4 year olds and Changing Children's Lives Funding etc. These should be amalgamated into one fund to deliver integrated early years education and childcare targeting more money into providing further flexibility for parents by reducing bureaucracy. Employers in the public sector should also be encouraged to access the Working Tax Credit that it available to parents to help pay for childcare.

UNISON Scotland is concerned that despite a ‘national review' which seeks a national framework for qualifications and roles and responsibilities it does not include the issue of a national pay scale for the workforce. It seems strange that the workforce should be subjected to national standards in the services that they provide but unable to access a national payscale.

UNISON Scotland commissioned research which resulted in the Nursery Nurses in Scotland 2005 Report. One of the research objectives was to look at the job content, knowledge base and qualifications of nursery nurses across Scotland. Conclusions failed to reveal any substantive differences in the activities of nursery nurses or in their qualifications and skills profile. The job is defined by national standards with associated regulation and inspection requirements regardless of the setting, e.g., nursery schools/classes or community nurseries providing flexible all day provision. This compelling evidence begs the question - why would national pay levels or a national framework for pay within the workforce hinder flexibility?

The Scottish Executive's response to the Review indicates that the Single Status Agreement for local authorities would determine pay levels for nursery nurses, however, it is important to state that even if each local authority used the same job evaluation scheme and nursery nurses' jobs achieved the same number of points in each council, this would not lead to the same levels of pay. Councils can choose how to divide their individual paybill using job evaluation scores, e.g., 250 points could mean £15,000 in one council but in another it could mean £18,000.

UNISON Scotland is still concerned that the public sector is being asked to stand still while other sectors play catch up. This can be clearly seen where the private and voluntary sectors are being funded to raise the number of qualified staff while the public sector is being denied such funding to increase the level of qualifications of their existing staff.

Questions and Answers


Roles and Responsibilities

  1. What are the barriers to developing a coherent early years and childcare workforce with a shared understanding of roles and responsibilities? How can they be overcome?
  2. There are a number of barriers to the development of a coherent early years and childcare workforce. These include the split in the workforce across different sectors such as the public, private and the voluntary sectors, each with different pressures and aims. For instance, the primary motive of the public sector is to provide a service for all children and young people ensuring that the most vulnerable families have access to these services reducing poverty levels and encouraging social inclusion while those in the private sector aim to maximise their profits from providing a similar service. Differences across these sectors are also enhanced due to differing terms and conditions including pay. Such employment differences often result in a lack of movement of staff between sectors and problems of the perception of what services each other provides.

    Such barriers could be overcome by promoting UNISON's policy which is to support universal, flexible services for all children provided by the public sector.


  3. To what extent does the Roles and Responsibilities Framework provide a useful basis for developing a shared professional identity across the early years and childcare workforce, and for driving forward the integrated working agenda?
  4. The framework provided is comprehensive and appropriate as a useful basis for developing a shared professional identity. However, it should be noted that our research revealed that there is convincing evidence that most nursery nurses are actually carrying out the roles and responsibilities envisioned in the roles and responsibilities framework and that they are engaged in significant reflection on the work skills and the nature of the contribution they make.


  5. Does the Roles and Responsibilities Framework reflect what workers in all sectors of the workforce are likely to be doing as services develop over the coming years?
  6. The framework provides a useful basis for identifying the shared tasks that all worker do, e.g., ensuring that every child is safe, however, there is concern that the education component, i.e., the delivery of the 0 - 5 curriculum, which is now encompassed in the 3 - 18 curriculum for excellence, is not adequately considered in the roles and responsibilities framework.

    The Scottish Executive recognises the importance of providing early years education and the impact it has on enhancing future learning for children. This area forms a high percentage of the roles and responsibilities carried out by nursery nurses as well as meeting the national care standards, this would not necessarily be the case for all workers.


  7. Is the Roles and Responsibilities Framework a useful basis for developing professional qualifications in the sector?

It is a useful basis but public sector providers in Scotland are already at this level and the 10 year timescale for implementation is too long. UNISON Scotland is concerned that the framework and the long timescale is more about allowing the private sector to catch up with the public sector.



Career Pathways

5. How accurately does this reflect the career pathways in the early years and childcare sector at the moment?

The report is accurate in terms of the limited opportunities available, especially across the different sectors. There is also concern that senior posts tend to be restricted to teachers although in some areas there are moves to change this. UNISON Scotland is also concerned that there is not enough credit given to experience and training gained on the job and that staff who hold the recognised qualifications required by the Scottish Social Services Council to manage service are still being denied the opportunity by most local authority employers.


6. How effective will these proposals be in promoting career pathways across the different parts of the early years and childcare sector, and more widely?

The main barrier to promoting career pathways across the different parts of the early years and childcare sector is the differing pay and conditions in each sector, particularly within the private sector where lower rates of pay and poorer conditions of service prevail. There is also little evidence to support the view that even if pay levels were more equitable across the sector this would encourage workers to move with older children, children with additional needs or try childminding. Most workers choose a specialism and want to progress within that specialism, therefore the development of more vertical careers opportunities would address the current lack of career opportunities.

Job security is a major concern for any staff moving to voluntary funded projects (due to the uncertainty of how long the funding will last). Another barrier is that to move across to different sectors would mean staff having to enter into new contracts and thus losing any continuity of service (pension rights etc) which they had built up.


7. Are there other ways to promote career pathways?

Identifying the links and developing additional training opportunities which would enable workers to move into related professions, e.g., teaching, social work and health without the necessity to leave their employment, would be welcome.

Establishing a system similar to that of chartered teachers should also be introduced whereby staff who concentrate on specialisms within the sector receive additional pay.


Qualifications, Training and Development

  1. What are your views on a single qualifications framework with a shared base (or "common core") for the whole early years and childcare sector? (this includes early years workers, out of school care workers, playworkers, childminders and others)
  2. UNISON Scotland supports the concept of a common core (or shared base) for qualifications within the sector but also support the right of the workforce to develop specialisms. We also endorse the higher qualifications at each level to enhance the professional status of the workforce but also recognise that our member working in the public sector are more likely to be operating at this professional level already.


  3. The Review proposes that services should be led by SCQF level 9 (ordinary degree or work-based equivalent) qualified professionals? Should it be higher than SCQF level 9? Why?
  4. Although UNISON Scotland would initially agree to the SCQF level proposed in the review we believe that the relevance of the degree course undertaken is of equal importance to the level attained.


  5. Many workers will develop their skills and knowledge through continuing professional development. What are the important features of a CPD framework for the early years and childcare workforce?
  6. Although it is important that there is a CPD framework to enable staff to update their skills and be aware of changes that would affect their work (such as new legislation), UNISON Scotland believe that all staff should hold a relevant qualification (HNC) before they start their employment in the sector. However for CPD to be effective employers must support this and allow staff to enhance their skills during work time. CPD would have to be properly resourced and any courses undertaken should clearly indicate their SCQF level.



    Recruitment and Retention

  7. How accurately does the report reflect the issues that affect the status of work in early years and childcare sector at the moment?
  8. The report generally reflects the current situation within the sector although UNISON Scotland are concerned that the figures given in relation to the number of qualified staff within the public sector is too low. There is a concern that the statistics given tend to reflect the situation in both the private and voluntary sector more than the public sector.


  9. Are there factors other than status that affect recruitment and retention of staff?
  10. The main issues include pay, lack of a career structure and job security. The omission of the word education from the review tends to diminish the role of the workforce. As the workforce are required to meet national initiatives which includes a national curriculum, this omission seems strange. There is still a perception that this is seen as ‘women's work' and that is reflected in the low pay.


  11. To what extent do you think that the proposals in the Review improve the status of the early years and childcare workforce?
  12. Improving the level of qualifications required and standardising the qualifications can only help improve the status of the workforce but the time it has taken to reach this stage plus further delays in implementing this for practitioners can only serve to further delay any improvement in the status of the workforce. UNISON Scotland also believes that it would help to improve the status of the workforce if the Scottish Executive recognised the role of the workforce in educating young children.


  13. How do we ensure the sharing of good practice on recruitment and retention?
  14. UNISON Scotland believes that having robust policies and procedures, as well as pay and conditions, in place across the whole sector would help in the recruitment and retention of the workforce. Campaigns to improve the status of the workforce and better links to both the Careers Service and colleges would also help to promote the recruitment and retention of staff.


  15. How do you think we can attract men and other under represented groups into the sector?
  16. To achieve this it would be necessary to promote the sector as a career with prospects and with professional status. This would include promoting the diversity, skills and knowledge required as well as removing the stigma that this workforce is only seen as a ‘care profession' by highlighting the educational role of the workforce. UNISON Scotland also believes that improving the pay and conditions of all staff would help to raise its professional status and make it more attractive to under-represented groups.



    Workforce Planning

  17. How accurately does this analysis capture the key challenges that face the early years and childcare sector regarding workforce planning?
  18. The review recognises the potential problems arising from a shrinking workforce and the competition for staff from other employers/ sectors. Improving the professional status of the workforce could go some way to making it a more desirable career path and could help offset recruitment issues. Increased terms and conditions, which should reflect the professional status of the workforce, would also assist recruitment.


  19. Considering each of the attributes of workforce planning described in this section, what activities are you aware of that currently take place to help achieve each of them? Do different activities occur at an individual (business) level, local level and national level?
  20. UNISON Scotland believes that workforce planning is a national issue and that devolving this to local or individual level will result in a disjointed workforce.


  21. What needs to happen at a local level for effective workforce planning to take place? What needs to happen at a national level? Why?
  22. UNISON Scotland is concerned that despite being a ‘national' review the concept of a national wage structure is missing from the review and this in turn could lead to differences in how each local level may implement any workforce planning.



    Early Years and Childcare - A Developing Profession

  23. The Review sets out proposals intended to create a single, coherent profession for all those working in early years and childcare. Are there other actions which would support the development of a single profession?
  24. UNISON Scotland believes that the main action that would support the development of a single profession would be the implementation of a national pay scale as well as supporting UNISON's policy to provide universal flexible services for all children provided by the public sector.


  25. What are your views on the title "pedagogue" within a Scottish context?
  26. UNISON Scotland does not think that the title ‘pedagogue' is suitable within a Scottish context and would prefer a title that reflected the actual post.


  27. How would you like to see the early years and childcare workforce named?

UNISON Scotland believes that any name for the workforce must include the word education to reflect a key element of all the posts, currently this is missing throughout the review. The suggested general name for the overall workforce would be the national Early Year Education and Childcare Workforce. This could apply to the whole sector while still allowing individual titles for each separate post. For instance, one suggestion could be nursery nurses be renamed as Early Years Educators.


For further information please contact:

Matt Smith, Scottish Secretary
UNISON Scotland
14, West Campbell Street,
Glasgow G2 6RX
Tel 0845 355 0845 Fax 0141 342 2835

e-mail matt.smith@unison.co.uk



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