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The common core of skills and knowledge for the children’s workforce describes the knowledge and skills that people working with children and young people in the United Kingdom are expected to have. There are six areas of expertise involved in the common core of skills, and these six areas offer a single framework aimed at underpinning an integrated multiagency cooperation, training, qualification and professional standards across the children’s workforce. The common core of skills is inclusive of people working with children all the time, as well as those working with the children on a part time basis. It is also inclusive of paid staff as well as those working as volunteers on the children’s workforce.
The common core of skills also sets out common values for childcare professionals, thereby promoting equality and challenging stereotypes, while at the same time respecting diversity. The common core of skills and knowledge was initially launched in 2005, with the goal of enabling professionals and volunteers working in the children’s workforce to carry out their duties more effectively in the interest of the children and young people being cared for. The common core was developed in an effort to underpin successful integration and multiagency cooperation in the United Kingdom.
The Children’s Workforce Development Council identified six areas of expertise that are deemed to be essential for people working with children and their families. These include:
1. Effective communication and engagement with children, young people and families
2. Child and young person development
3. Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child or young person
4. Supporting transitions
5. Multi-agency and integrated working
6. Information sharing
Each of these areas contains information about the required knowledge and skills for childcare workers. These basic requirements enable care providers to do their jobs well. Within the common core of skills, skill is defined as the ability to do something, usually through experience or training, while Knowledge is described as an understanding or awareness gained through learning or experience. (The Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children’s Workforce) The common core of skills also sets out that ‘providers should apply these skills and knowledge in their work and take account of the background and circumstances relevant to a situation.’ (The Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children’s Workforce)
Recently, the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) refreshed and published some new guidance which updates the common core of skills that childcare workers should possess in the United Kingdom. The last update of the common core of skills happened in 2005.
In partnership with some other government organizations, the Children’s Workforce Development Council investigated the relevance of the contents of the common core of skills. Thus, the common core of skills was updated to ensure that childcare professionals possess a common set of basic skills and knowledge that would enable them to do their job in harmony with each other. The common core was also refreshed to ensure that childcare professionals can communicate effectively, so as to be able to support the children and their families better.
Effective communication and engagement with children, young people and their families
Effective communication is vital when working with children, their families, young people and other care providers. Good communication will help in building trust and encourages children in need of childcare services to seek advice and to utilize the care services provided. Appropriate communication is important for the establishment and maintenance of relationships, as well as being an active process which involves listening, asking questions, understanding issues and responding.
‘Effective communication extends to involving children, young people, their parents and caregivers in the design and delivery of services and decisions that affect them. It is important to consult the people affected and consider opinions and perspectives from the outset. Another crucial element of effective communication is developing trust between the workforce and children, young people, parents and care providers as well as within different sectors of the workforce itself.’ (The Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children’s Workforce)
Child and young person development
This area of the common core of skills and knowledge deals with the intellectual, social, linguistic, physical and emotional growth and development of the children and young people receiving care services, it is important to understand the changes that occur during development in children and young people, and how these changes affect the behavior of the children.
Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child or young person
People in the children’s workforce are responsible for promoting and safeguarding the welfare of these young ones. This is a very important responsibility which requires paying close attention to the needs of the children. It involves the ability to recognize situations in which a child or young person is failing to reach his or her developmental potential, or when a child’s mental or physical health is impaired. Childcare workers are also required to b able to recognize when a child is displaying harmful or risky or behavior, or when a child is being abused or neglected. Care providers should also be able to identify sources of help for these children and their families. It is important to identify concerns and where appropriate take action as early as possible so that children, young people, their families and caregivers can get the help they need.
It is expected that the use of the common core of skills may vary according to the roles of childcare professionals and the sector involved. Thus, different organizations should be able to find the most appropriate ways of expressing the various areas of expertise indicated in the common core of skills. ‘Those who work with children and young people all the time will use the common core in different contexts and to different levels of depth from those who come into contact with children and young people as only part of their job’ (The Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children’s Workforce.) It is also expected that certain roles in the children’s workforce will focus more on certain areas of the common core. Childcare professionals who interact with children on a regular basis will utilize the common core to a different level of depth and in a different context from part-time or voluntary workers who work with the children and young people less frequently.
It should be noted that not every practitioner will be regularly involved in supporting transitions, although all practitioners will have to understand at least the most important aspects of the sections of the common core of skills in a manner that is relevant to their work.
Multi-agency and integrated working
It has been observed that the common core of skills should be more clearly positioned to work in conjunction with the every child matters initiative, the National Occupational Standards and the common assessment framework, although there should be adjustments in order to take care of any future change in laws or programs related to the common core of skills.
There is also the issue of initial training as relates to the common core of skills. This is because currently, the common core of skills applies only in England, and accredited qualifications are based on standards in the United Kingdom. A lot of people believe that the common core of skills should be incorporated into regulation and inspection in order for it to be accepted and embraced by everyone. This is evident in the responses and feedback from questionnaires, and studies carried out about the efficacy of the common core of skills.
In order to be able to deliver quality childcare services to children in the United Kingdom, it is essential to share information in a timely and accurate manner. Accurate sharing of information can actually help in saving lives, so childcare professionals should be able to work together and share information in a proper manner for the safety and wellbeing of the children. Information sharing also enables childcare workers to understand situations better, and more quickly. When interviewed, most parents were happy about the information sharing requirement of the common core of skills. They responded that information sharing among childcare professionals ensured that the caregivers and the parents did not have to keep repeating information many times over.
‘Sharing information in a timely and accurate way is an essential part of delivering better services to children, young people, their families and care providers. Sometimes it can help to save lives. Practitioners at different agencies should work together and share information appropriately for the safety and well-being of children. It is important to understand and respect legislation and ethics surrounding the confidentiality and security of information. It is crucial to build trust with the child or young person and their family from the outset by clarifying issues and procedures surrounding confidentiality, consent and information sharing. Practitioners should adhere to the correct principles, policies and procedures for information sharing, ensuring that the child or young person, parent or caregiver understands the process.’ (The Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children’s Workforce)
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