This research has demonstrated that in a reasonably good cross section of 20 children’s homes with a good or outstanding Ofsted rating, there was a wide array of training and development being undertaken. To a large degree this appeared to be meeting the basic needs of staff working in these homes, even though there was a clear recognition of how the quality and coverage could be improved.
Whilst this research has highlighted the importance of formal training and the acquisition of qualifications, it was very evident that experience and ‘learning on the job’ is believed to be key to developing and equipping staff with the requisite skills to work in a children’s home. It appeared that the in-house training provision was judged as being more helpful than the Level 3 Diploma, principally because it seemed to be more directly relevant and applicable to the work being carried out in a children’s home. As a consequence it was seen as helping to develop staff practice, in a way that the Level 3 Diploma typically was not.
Views varied about whether there was a need to do more to meet the needs of the workforce and improve the training that staff received within their home. Discussion about the ‘ideal’ training programme generated a long list of topics. These covered theoretical and specialist knowledge about child development and disability; techniques for improving practice and ways of working with children and young people; as well as procedures for working in a children’s home.
Equally, it was clear that any discussion about reforming the qualifications and training of staff needed to be set in the broader context of professionalising the workforce and raising the profile, status and pay of staff who work in children’s residential care.
Finally, it was suggested that any future qualifications developed for the workforce should offer different access and training routes to cater for different learning preferences and abilities including: an apprenticeship, diploma, degree and access courses. This would enable people to engage with training and qualifications at different points in their lives and avoid narrowing the range of people pursuing a career in residential care for children.