Jane Haywood, chief executive of the Children’s Workforce Development Council, talks exclusively to 0-19 about her plans for the children’s workforce:
Alison Miller (AM), deputy editor, 0-19 : What are your main priorities?
Jane Haywood (JH), chief executive of the Children’s Workforce Development Council: To get us established as an organisation and get staff appointed. I think we will have around 30 staff, but it will depend on how much we decide to put into the regional structure and how much we work through other regional structures.
In terms of priorities, the key thing is about looking at the local workforce strategies councils are starting on now which have to be in place by next year as part of their Children and Young People’s Plan and looking at what support we can put in to help. We are looking at getting some consultants who can help us with that.
We have also started the work with the Teacher Development Agency for Schools and the Department for Education & Skills on looking at the early years professional and how that will be taken forward and delivered. In addition, we’ve begun work on the review of national occupational standards and looking at an integrated qualifications framework.
The other big bit of our work has been working closely with the DfES at they get responses to the Children’s Workforce Strategy consultation, seeing what our role will be in delivering that and making sure there is a real strong focus on action in it.
AM: I know you have been spending a lot of time travelling around England – what messages are you getting from professionals?
JH: I haven’t been able to spend as much time with frontline people as I would want to, but the main messages is that people are really excited about the agenda. They are, however, worried about losing their professionals skills in all that and becoming part of a mishmash, and clearly that’s not what we want to do. People are worried about pay and conditions and parity of esteem across different professions, and I think people are worried about change and delivering that change when we have still got services to deliver at the same time.
But there is a real strong sense that this is the right thing to be doing and a lot of support across all the sectors for getting there, and that is very apparent in the CWDC board who have a really strong commitment to it.
AM: You mention pay. Estelle Morris, the chair of the CWDC, is quoted as saying: “If bringing up the next generation is important, why aren’t they the best qualified, the best paid?” Give that pay is not part of the council’s remit, how will you be addressing this fundamental issue?
JH: Well, it’s not going to be an easy thing to solve is it? In some ways lots of people have lots of simplistic solutions such as saying that the government should put more money in but, in the real world, the government will never be able to fund everything out there that people want.
What we have to do is do the work on the training and qualifications so we have a highly trained and highly skilled workforce, because when you are that you have a much stronger argument for better pay. So, we need to raise the quality but in a way that takes the workforce with us.
AM: What do you mean by that?
JH: There are lots of people out there who are working at the moment, who might not have the qualifications we want them to have, but actually they are doing a fantastic job working well with children and young people. This should not be about saying: “You are only good enough if you have got a level 4.” What we must be saying is: “We want all our people to be at level 4, and here’s a way that you can, if you are a level 2, get there.” Here’s a way that you can, as a volunteer in the community with no qualifications, join our workforce and work up, so that the learning opportunities that are available are really, really flexible and responsive to community needs.
If you look at programmes like Sure Start and the Children’s Fund, and you look at services like the youth service, many of them do their recruitment from communities and people who, in theory, have no qualifications, but their personal skills to do the job are excellent and you can then put in the training.
You have to then have learning opportunities that are very flexible and responsive to people’s needs. You have to have things available at evenings and weekends and in bite-sized chunks.
AM: This is a related question, but there is a major problem across the workforce with recruitment and retention. How can this be improved?
Some of it is about recruiting in communities as I have just outlined, some of is about investing in people’s training and development so they can see a career path through, and some it of will be about addressing pay and conditions.
JH: It’s also about leadership, because what holds someone to an organisation isn’t just about pay. Working in organisations that have a clear strategy, a clear focus on children and young people, and who really value what you are doing is just as important part of the package as the other factors. We have to focus on learning opportunities, recruiting in communities, stepping stones up through the system, focusing on management and leadership and then help others think about how you tackle the pay and conditions issues.
It is hard if you are working in a private sector day nursery where you are struggling to make ends meet and you are losing your workers to the statutory nursery down the road which possibly offers a good pension or whatever.
Those are the kind of things that are going to be really tough nuts to crack and part of that will be looking at the local workforce strategies and what support can be given to grow opportunities at a local level. But there is no one solution to this – it’s a combination of things.
AM: The children’s workforce strategy talks about six proposed qualification levels within the profession. Is that still the current thinking and could you tell me a little about how it might work?
JH: We are not there yet to be able to talk about it in that way. I have been talking to a lot of people and everyone seems to have a slightly different view of what the qualifications framework looks like, what it does and how it benefits people. I’m hoping the Children’s Workforce Strategy consultation response will give us a much clearer idea of where to go. I think the first task of the CWDC and the Children’s Workforce Network is to describe the integrated qualifications framework, taking on board what was said in the consultation, and how it will make a difference. It’s not yet clear to me how it will work, and I’m not ashamed of saying this as it’s quite complicated and I’d be worried if we had that clarity at this stage. All I do know is that it’s got to be simpler than what we have got now.
AM: Turning to the wider workforce, there’s clearly a drive to deliver effective inter-agency working and remodel the workforce. How do you break down the traditional silos and allay professionals’ fears about the changing climate they find themselves in; and how will the CWDC work with the workforce strategy bodies in health and education?
JH: When you talk to people about this, people actually quite like not being in their silos. They can see that if you are not in a silo and you start from where the child or young person is at you can provide a better service. What drives them into their silos is pressure of work; an unclear strategy and direction from their organisation about the way they are expected to work and the kind of work that is valued; and almost a fear of the unknown and making mistakes.
What we have to do is make sure the training and qualifications that people have within their specialism gets them to understand that to be really really good social worker or early years worker or teacher you have to understand the context in which you are working, the context in which the child or young person is operating and the strengths and the abilities of the other professionals you are working with.
If you talk to professionals they will always be able to tell you when they have run into a problem that they can’t deal with and so need to involve another professional. That’s a judgement call they are used to making, and what we are trying to do is to get them to do that more naturally and easily. A key part of that will be training together, so when the common assessment framework is operating different professionals feel comfortable about operating it.
It’s about building trust and painting a picture of the future that shows that their professional skills are valued alongside other sets of professional skills and that one kind of worker is not better than another.
The proposed information sharing index will be a hugely positive move in helping professionals work together and will allow them to see that someone else is working with that child or family and to have a chat about the issues.
AM: The CWDC has said that it wants the single qualification framework to provide a “climbing frame” of opportunity. How will this work and how, what will that mean for someone who perhaps has been a foster carer with lots of experience but no formal qualifications who decides they want to move to a different role within the workforce?
JH: In an ideal world they should, as a foster carer for example, have had some accreditation of their skills and training and be able to see how that maps into the framework. Then, if they think: I want to get to there, how do I get there, what path do I take and what qualifications do I need to add to the experience I have already got, it should be simple.
You should be able to look at the framework and say: where am I in this, where do I want to get to what do I need to do to get there?
Then, alongside that, we must have really accessible qualifications and really accessible learning opportunities that make it easy for people to do, and to look after their families and to do all the other things they need to do at the same time.
Child care workers
AM: The government has said that the CWDC has a crucial role in boosting the workforce and helping to deliver on the government’s child care strategy. What are your priorities for child care workers who are by and large low paid and have low status. Currently, almost 40% of workers in early years settings are not qualified to level 2 and just 12% are qualified to level 4. There’s a big challenge there, and will skilling up the workforce have an inevitable impact on the cost of child care?
JH: The investment in training development and moving the qualifications level up will impact on pay and conditions. But we have to get away from the idea that child care is something you can get on the cheap. People who work with our children are working with our most precious asset, and the skills that they need are very important. All the evidence shows that when you have a qualified workforce, the quality of the childcare is so much better.
We have to do that in all the ways we have talked about. If you are a childminder who wants to get to NVQ level 3 but you have kids all day, how are you going to do it? Training needs to be available in bite-sized chunks and flexibly delivered at evenings and weekends.
I believe all this will impact on the cost of child care and the big issue for all of us sector is how that will be funded. I don’t think there are any easy answers to this, but it’s not just about looking at the sources of funding. It’s also about looking at the way that work is organised, the ratios that you require in different settings, and how you manage all of that. It’s all got to be thought through.
AM: The government is keen to encourage more men to work in the child care. Is that something you welcome, and do you have any early thought on how that can be achieved?
JH: I welcome it, but I think it will be quite hard to get there. I hope that the local workforce strategies will have an element within them of increasing the diversity of their workforce – not just by encouraging more men in, but also bringing in people from minority ethnic groups as it is still a very white female working class occupation.
We need to build men’s confidence that it’s a good place to be and a good job to do, and that work needs to start in schools in terms of careers education to get boys and girls to think more imaginatively about their career options. But, it’s very hard and if you live in a very traditional community it’s very hard for boys to move into those kinds of professions.
Role of pedagogues
AM: Is there a role for a pedagogue in the children’s workforce and, if so, how might that be shaped?
JH: This has certainly provoked debate, and I think people feel a little uncomfortable with the word. They don’t quite know what it means and also wonder what fits within our cultural settings. So we almost have to move away from that and think about where we are now. I think we need people in the children’s workforce who offer that educare model so are focused on education and development and see the two as going hand in hand.
What we want in our workforce right the way through, but starting in early years, is people who see the child or young person as a whole person who needs to achieve their five outcomes. Some of that you will do in formal settings, and some of that you will do in informal settings, but we need our workers to understand the developmental needs of children and young people at different stages of development and how the different settings can help them achieve that.
So teachers perhaps need to focus more on the whole child model, as the best teachers do. Just as someone who is teaching a child rock climbing to build their self confidence will be taking the chance to emphasise the importance of formal qualifications. So we need people to think across the piece which might not be the pedagogue described in the workforce strategy but, actually, if we could get there it would be a very good step along the way.
AM: Are there any early themes or messages coming out of the consultation which the DfES is due to respond to at the end of October?
JH: Not at this stage. The department is in the process of pulling that together but nothing is public at the moment. I can say though that the strategy has been broadly welcomed.
AM: Some in the sector have expressed concerns about the resources the government has allocated both in terms of the transformation fund of £125m and the £45m funding for the CWDC from 2006-8. Is your funding enough to meet the challenges you face?
JH: There is never enough money. However, what I have to do is to make sure the money is spent very wisely and that it is linked up to other sources of funding. The way that you get more money is to use the money you have wisely and then make the case for why you need more in certain areas. You really, really, have to build your case from the bottom up.
In fairness to the government, it has invested a significant amount in child care and early years since 1997. People will say it’s not enough but, compared to what we had before, it is significant.
AM: You are reviewing the national occupational standards. This sounds like a big piece of work, so how is it going?
JH: We have started this work within the Children’s Workforce Network, and each member of the network has been asked to review their occupational standards. A sub group of the network is going to produce a process to help people do this. We will need to make sure each of the standards is compliant with the common core.
AM: Youth work is not covered by the council which has been a little controversial. How do you plan to ensure that the agenda and ambitions of the youth service chimes with the work of the CWDC?
JH: In any kind of structure wherever you draw the line it will never be right.
If we had included every group of people who work with children and young people in the council it would have been enormous and impossible to manage. There are very, very strong links with youth work in to community learning and that’s why it sits within Lifelong Learning UK.
So my view is it sits there – as play work sits with Skills Active – but what that allows me to do is to take the children and young people’s influence and needs into a wider sector. So we have people that understand young people’s issues working in the sector skills council that is also responsible for further and higher education. That can only be right.