Meeting the ECM agenda in HE: some issues for CPD

Author/Producer Dr Mike Calvert and Dr Steve Coombs
Published in Summmer Newsletter 2008
Date Published 21 July 2008
Pages 3


This ESCalate-funded project helped research issues faced by HE and CPD managers arising from the Every Child Matters agenda


The Every Child Matters (ECM) initiative of the UK government represents arguably the biggest change to the organisation of provision for children since the 1944 Education Act. The changes of structure, culture and working practices affect all those who work with young people from 0-19. The Climbié case exposed many weaknesses in the system through the fragmented support of Children’s Services (see Kirk and Broadhead in UCET, 2007).

The Green Paper (DfES, 2003) set out a wider picture of deprivation and inequality resulting, amongst other things, in growing gaps in achievement, disengagement with education, social exclusion and an increased risk of offending. The Every Child Matters policy considered the potential social and economic benefits of bringing convergence across all of the organisations that make up Children’s Services across the Local Authorities (LA) in England and has required them to restructure so as to enable the integration of education and social services provision linked to the ‘five year strategy’ (DfES, 2004). The emphasis was on working together and making early interventions to ensure the five aspects of child development and protection were being met: being healthy; staying safe; enjoying and achieving; making a positive contribution; economic wellbeing.

A newly created major agency responsible for developing Children’s Services is the Children’s Workforce Development Council (CWDC) ( The CWDC has pioneered the goal of achieving an Integrated Qualifications Framework (IQF), so as to provide clear progression career routes across existing professional barriers in Children’s Services.

ECM: Staff Development and HE

In order to examine some of the issues facing HE and CPD managers more specifically, ESCalate-funded research via telephone interviews was carried out with key members of the CWDC and this has identified a range of aspects of which institutions need to be aware (Coombs & Calvert, 2007).

The following summary of key issues is offered although a fuller version is available elsewhere (Coombs & Calvert, 2008):

  • How to provide a smooth transition across the current vocational and academic qualifications divide, i.e. between the academic degree levels and the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) (Coombs, 2006). Whilst there is rough equivalency between these levels, there is as yet no automatic progression and straightforward universally accepted accreditation of prior learning (APL) across this education and training philosophical divide.
  • Possibly linked to this is the perennial relationship between vocational courses (e.g. NVQs) with their levels of competency and practical feel, compared to the more critical models of participant engagement that are commonly expected in most HE postgraduate provision.
  • The need for an Integrated Qualifications Framework (IQF) to rationalise the multiplicity of qualifications, ease progression, and transfer in and across the various professional sectors and lead to recognition for both generic and specific skills at a range of levels.
  • Linked to the above is the creation of ‘transfer courses’ to enable parts of the workforce to be equally recognised in other professions and to provide ‘joined up training’.
  • One of the main challenges is to reduce the plethora of diverse qualifications and ‘encourage awarding bodies to seek mutual recognition of prior learning and/or experience’ (CWDC, 2006).
  • A further factor which might affect HE is the likelihood that the primary focus of the IQF may well be to prioritise developing the lower levels of qualifications initially where the processes ‘are more straightforward’ according to Emma Westcott of the GTCE.
  • A number of issues relate to training provision. Ennals (Chair of Children’s Workforce Network) notes that there is “too much variability at all levels of training and not enough of a strategic overview of what there is in order to make more sense of it".
  • The pressing issues would appear to be: a) that new skills and knowledge (particularly leadership and management in relation to inter-agency working) are required; b) that appropriate trainers/educators might be difficult to find (and who trains the trainers?); c) there is the issue of the needs of ‘Phase 1’ training (for those in direct contact) and ‘Phase 2’, for those who are in intermittent contact; and, d) a lack of clarity as to what the wider workforce requires and the difficulty of knowing what courses will be funded (and by whom) and adopted by whom and in what way.
  • In relation to Phase 2, according to Cairns Nursing and Midwifery Council), there is still some lack of clarity as to exactly who comprises the children’s workforce. She identifies an acute problem with intermittent workers who obtain “a qualification which is not child-specific and for all workers whose qualification leads to registration with a regulatory body"
  • A particular bone of contention is the fact that funding “is not very joined up at the moment"(Monica Farthing, TDA). A clear example of this is the TDA funding of PPD, which is additional funding to promote MA-level engagement to support the drive for school improvement (DCSF, 2007). This funding can only be drawn down for state recognised qualified teachers in England registered on ‘PPD approved’ courses. Clearly, we need a common CPD funding platform for inter-professional development and multi-agency working that enables the institutional convergence of professional training opportunities.
  • Recognising relevant qualifications and experience (APL/APEL) is clearly going to be a further challenge to HE. As new professionals and their roles become more diverse and complex, this too might make calibration more difficult to achieve. APL/APEL are central to the notion of workforce mobility.

Conclusions and recommendations

At this stage the poor reader can be forgiven for thinking that the challenges of ECM are overwhelming. It is true that there will be pressure at every level and in every sector to arrive at ‘joined up’ provision, whether it be the providing of services or training. It is; however, important that we remind ourselves that it is the Government that has embarked on this ten-year strategy, which is still very much in its infancy. Such a radical shake-up requires new approaches and new understandings and it is important that those charged with providing training are aware of some of the important issues raised in this article.


Coombs, S. (2006) Designing Higher Education CPD for the Integrated Qualifications Framework: Being bold, virtuous and pragmatic. Paper presented at the annual conference of the International Professional Development Association at the University of Stirling Management Centre in Stirling, Scotland, 1-2 Dec., 2006.

Coombs, S. & Calvert, M. (2007) Developing higher education professional development for the new children’s services integrated qualifications framework. Paper presented at the annual international conference of the International Professional Development Association (IPDA) at the Ramada Hotel, in Belfast, N. Ireland, 30th Nov – 1st Dec., 2007.

Coombs, S. & Calvert, M. (2008) Reviewing every child matters initiatives: CPD opportunities for schools and higher education. CPD Update Issue 104 March 2008.

CWDC (2006) Clear Progression: Towards an integrated qualifications framework, CWDC implementation plan 1st November, 2006. (

DCSF (2007) The Children’s Plan: Building brighter futures – Summary, UK government TSO.

DfES (2003) Every Child Matters, DfES, UK government, HMSO cm 5860.

DfES (2004) Five year strategy for children and learners, DfES, UK government, HMSO cm 6272.

UCET (2007) Every child matters and teacher education: A Universities Council for the Education of Teachers (UCET) position paper (No. 17), edited by Kirk, G. & Broadhead, P.

Acknowledgements We would like to acknowledge the support of ESCalate for funding the research and particularly Janie McKie, ESCalate Project Researcher, University of Stirling.