On course for a career change?

Jamie Aitchison, Programme Manager for Early Years Expansion at Angus Council, explains how an exciting initiative within early learning and childcare is opening up new opportunities for council staff...

The Scottish Government has committed to increasing the entitlement of funded early learning and childcare (ELC) for all three and four-year-olds, and eligible two-year-olds, from 600 hours a year to 1140 hours a year by August 2020. This commitment means that local authorities must effectively double both the physical space available for ELC and the workforce available to deliver the expanded entitlement.

Angus Council has set up the Early Years Expansion Programme to co-ordinate all of the various activities required to meet this commitment, and to ensure that the four pillars of the national expansion – quality, flexibility, accessibility and affordability – are built into our new ELC services from August 2020. A key part of the programme has been the building of a relationship with Dundee and Angus College as we embark upon a comprehensive training programme for council staff who had expressed an interest in a career change into ELC.

Throughout the early part of 2018, discussions were ongoing between the council and the college regarding the development of a bespoke delivery model for the HNC in Childhood Practice. This course is typically delivered on a full-time basis, involving three days attendance at college and two days out on placement at a local school, private nursery or playgroup, over the course of one academic year. This presented a difficulty for the council as the staff needed to be able to continue with their current jobs while undertaking their qualifications, so daytime attendance at college and two days placement each week was not going to work.

Through our discussions with the college, we were delighted that they were able to offer an evening option for the HNC. The students attend college two evenings per week, with only one placement day per week during term time. The course is stretched out over a longer period – finishing in April 2020 – to compensate for the reduced attendance times and reduced placement days. This also fits in perfectly with the programme’s planned timescales in terms of recruitment; the outcome being that in April 2020 we will have a cohort of newly-qualified ELC assistants and practitioners to recruit into our expanded workforce ahead of the August 2020 implementation.

A small number of council staff – those already working in schools, with older children – have also expressed an interest in moving into ELC. For these staff the council and the college are instead offering the SVQ Level 3 Social Services (Children & Young People), a work-based qualification which sits at the same level as the HNC on the Scottish Credit & Qualifications Framework.

Through the combination of these two tailored courses, we are confident that we will be able to meet our obligations to expand our workforce and ensure that high quality ELC is available to all young children in Angus.