People are an organisation’s greatest asset and for an organisation to succeed and achieve its objectives everyone has to perform well. To help achieve this aim, staff and volunteers (the workforce) need to develop.

Workforce development refers to the mechanism used to equip staff and volunteers with the skills and knowledge they require to allow them to effectively deliver and improve services to children and young people. Workforce development can include: training; formal qualifications; induction; work shadowing; supervision; appraisals; reading and mentoring.

Playwork A Skilled & Qualified Workforce

Playwork Within The Children’s Workforce

There is growing recognition and understanding of the importance of investing in children and young people. In recent times the interest and understanding of the value of play has gained momentum with play increasingly being seen as a key driver in terms of meeting outcomes.

This is evidenced in the emergence of policy frameworks that support integrated children’s services. This new vision of integrated services throughout childhood requires a programme of reform and sustained investment across the age range. Consistent with ‘Success Through Skills’ this means that thousands of qualified workers will be required to create a children’s profession based on a more unified qualifications and skills framework. This will support a more coordinated approach between professions, more flexible career paths and less fragmented services for children and families.

This section of the website provides a range of information and resources related to workforce development. Information on playwork and play training is available in the relevant sections on this website.

Where Do Playworkers Work?

Playwork takes place in a variety of settings including childcare, daycare and youth work settings. Playwork can also be facilitated in specialist settings such as hospitals, extended school provision, children’s homes and prisons. Playwork can be taken to outdoor environments e.g. via play rangers and mobile play provision. Play is also a fundamental part of out-of-school provision.

Playwork is an exciting and rewarding career option, with many different job roles and training and qualifications from entry to degree level.

Some playworkers are volunteers, others work part-time or seasonally, combining playwork with other jobs. Many playwork settings will have a mix of full-time, part-time and volunteer staff. You can build a career in playwork, whether by working as a Playworker or play leader in an out-of-school club, as a play ranger on play projects such as adventure playgrounds, or working for a local authority as a play development officer or manager.

Where Qualifications Do Playworkers Need?

There are a range of qualifications available for those working with children and young people. The first thing to check is what is required by the registering authority. If you want to work in a registered childcare provision then this is the Childminding and Day Care for Children Under Age 12 – Minimum Standards document. A copy of this is available by clicking here.

The Minimum Standards identifies Playwork as the most appropriate qualification for out of school club staff. Playwork qualifications equip practitioners for working with a broad age range of children in a broad range of settings. Playwork qualifications are underpinned by the Playwork Principles and delivered to equip practitioners to deliver playwork practice.

What Qualification Is Best For Me?

A number of factors need to be taken into account when determining which qualification is best for you:

Purpose of setting:

The focus of the setting is a key element in determining what a relevant qualification might be. The aim and focus of the setting will guide what staff do. For example a setting with a focus on education may ask for a childcare qualification while a setting that focuses on play and promoting play is likely to ask for a playwork qualification.

Age range:

Another important factor is the age range of children attending the setting. Childcare qualifications cover a broad age range of 0 to 16, but you may focus on one age range when completing course work in order to provide evidence for the qualification. This may not provide the relevant experience or knowledge for the older age range and therefore not be suitable for a play or out of school setting.

What is an employer looking for?:

There are a number of things that an employer is looking for including relevant qualifications, suitable experience of working with children and young people, an ability to work alone and as part of a team, good interpersonal skills, an ability to communicate with parents and someone who understands the challenges that come with working with children and young people.

For more information download ‘An introduction to playwork qualifications and careers in Northern Ireland’

National Occupational Standards (NOS)

National occupational standards establish the benchmark of competence required in the sector and form the key component of many qualifications.

NOS form the basis of qualifications and training programmes. The standards also help define job roles, measure staff performance and identify and develop routes for progression and professional development. This means that playwork qualifications cover the areas identified as areas required to work as playworkers. PlayBoard worked closely with SkillsActive and stakeholders across the UK to ensure that the NOS accurately represented the role of playworkers in Northern Ireland.

SkillsActive, as the sector skills council for playwork, work with employers, partner organisations and experts to develop national occupational standards across the Active Leisure, Learning and Well-being Sector. For more information on NOS for playwork visit the SkillsActive website.

Playwork Qualifications

Playwork qualifications are available at level 2, 3 and 5 in Northern Ireland.

Examples of playwork qualifications:

  • NVQ Playwork level 2

  • NVQ Playwork level 3

  • NVQ Playwork level 4

  • Award/ Certificate / Diploma in Playwork – Level 2

  • Award/ Certificate / Diploma in Playwork – Level 3

  • Award/ Certificate / Diploma in Playwork – Level 5

  • Level 3 Award in Playwork for Early Years and Childcare Workers (Transitional Modules)

  • Honours degree in Playwork

The Playwork Education and Training Council for Northern Ireland (PETC.NI)

SkillsActive established PETC.UK as a forum to discuss playwork education and training issues across the four nations. To ensure a four nation input each nation formed its own PETC grouping that feeds back into PETC.UK. The primary role of PETC.NI is to ensure a co-ordinated approach in implementing the UK Strategy for Playwork Education, Training and Qualifications.

Over the years PETC.NI has been involved in a range of strategic projects aimed at supporting and promoting playwork education and training. This has included:

  • Tailoring the UK Playwork strategy for a NI audience
  • Hosting seminars and conferences
  • The development of resources, including a showcasing DVD
  • Information booklets providing information on playwork qualifications and career pathways in NI
  • Research projects to assist our lobbying for recognition of playwork qualifications

‘Quality Training, Quality Play 2006-2011’ was the first ever Strategy for Playwork Education, Training and Qualifications and was launched and endorsed at the All Party Parliamentary Group on Children’s Play in the House of Commons. The latest UK Play and Playwork Education and Skills Strategy for 2011 – 2016 replaces the current UK strategy, ‘Quality Training, Quality Play’.

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