How the framework links to How good is our early learning and childcare

The following table shows how our quality framework for children, childminding and school-aged childcare link to Education Scotland’s ‘How good is our early learning and childcare’ quality indicators.

Care Inspectorate quality framework for

daycare of children, childminding and school aged childcare

Links to How Good Is Our Early Learning & Childcare

Quality indicator 1.1 Nurturing Care and Support

2.4 Personalised support

2.6 Transitions

2.7 Partnerships

3.1 Ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion

Quality indicator 1.2 Children are safe and protected

2.1 Safeguarding and child protection

Quality indicator 1.3 Play and learning

2.2 Curriculum

2.3 Learning, teaching and assessment

2.6 Transitions

3.2 Securing children’s progress

3.3 Developing creativity and skills for life and learning

Quality indicator 1.4 Family engagement

2.5 Family learning

2.6 Transitions

2.7 Partnerships

3.1 Ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion

Quality indicator 1.5 Effective transitions

2.5 Family learning

2.6 Transitions

2.7 Partnerships

3.1 Ensuring wellbeing, equality and inclusion

Quality indicator 2.1

Quality of the setting for care, play and learning

1.5 Management of resources to promote equity.

Quality indicator 2.2:  Children experience high quality facilities

1.1 Self-evaluation for self-improvement

1.4 Leadership of management and


1.5 Management of resources to

promote equity

Quality indicator 3.1

Quality assurance and improvement are led well

1.1 Self-evaluation for self-improvement

1.3 Leadership of change

1.5 Management of resources to promote equity

Quality indicator 3.2

Leadership of play and learning

1.2 Leadership of learning

1.3 Leadership of change

1.4 Leadership and management of practitioners

Quality indicator 3.3

Leadership and management of staff and resources

1.5 Management of resources to promote equity

Quality indicator 4.1

Staff skills, knowledge, and values

1.3 Leadership of change

1.4 Leadership and management of practitioners

Quality indicator 4.2

Staff recruitment

1.3 Leadership of change

1.4 Leadership and management of practitioners

Quality indicator 4.3

Staff deployment

1.3 Leadership of change

1.4 Leadership and management of practitioners

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How we do it

Justice social work: inspection of community payback orders 

In our overview report published December 2021, we presented the key findings aggregated across all five inspections.

Between September 2018 and November 2020, we completed five inspections of justice social work services with a particular focus on community payback orders in these areas:

  • Scottish Borders
  • West Dunbartonshire
  • Inverclyde
  • Dumfries and Galloway
  • Aberdeen City.

We produced an inspection guide for this activity. In summary the inspection methodology involved:

  • submission of a self-evaluation by each local authority area
  • review of a representative sample of relevant records of people who were or had been subject to a community payback order
  • interviews with people currently subject to a community payback order
  • focus groups and interviews with members of staff, partner agencies and stakeholders, and senior managers, chief officers, elected members with responsibility for community justice social work
  • verbal feedback to the local authority on findings based on the analysis and evaluation of all aspects of the inspection
  • publication of an inspection report for each participating local authority area that included evidence-based evaluations of key quality indicators using a six-point scale.

Community justice partnerships: supported and validated self-evaluation 

Between 2018 and 2020, we worked in partnership with Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland (HMICS) to support the implementation of the new community justice model through a validated self-evaluation approach. We carried out assurance activities across the following five community justice partnerships, one of which incorporated three local authority areas:

For more information on the supported and validated self-evaluation methodology please refer to our guidance and additional information. In summary our activity included:

  • support and guidance from a strategic inspector for partnership areas to undertake self-evaluation
  • submission of a self-evaluation by the partnership
  • analysis of the submitted documents by the Care Inspectorate/HMICS team
  • follow-up activities with the partnership to explore any areas of uncertainty (these included visits, interviews and focus groups)
  • verbal feedback on the findings to each partnership based on the analysis of all the evidence gathered
  • publication of the validation letter.

Community justice social work: throughcare review 

The Scottish Government established the national criminal justice Recover, Renew, Transform (RRT) programme in response to the ongoing impact of Covid-19 on the justice system in Scotland. One of the tasks of the Recovery of Community Justice and Prevention of Offending sub-group was to explore breach of licence and recall to prison. This was to further understand recall and related processes to reduce the number of people being recalled to custody, where appropriate.

In March 2021, the Care Inspectorate received a request from the sub-group to undertake a focused piece of work relating to breach of licence/recall to custody. The strategic justice team undertook a review of throughcare with a primary focus on community justice social work practice.

The review sought to:

  • identify potential barriers to reintegration; and
  • seek assurance that community justice social work contributions to breach and recall processes were operating as they should.

As part of the review, we also gathered the views of individuals from across Scotland who had been recalled to prison following a breach of their throughcare licence conditions.

We published a report of our findings in September 2021. The report contains more detail on the methods we used.

Our collaborative work with scrutiny and improvement partners 

We have a long-standing commitment to contribute to inspections of prisons and other institutions led by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons in Scotland (HMIPS). Over the past three years, our contribution has been led by the strategic justice team with support from other strategic colleagues as appropriate. Throughout 2020/2021, we contributed to HMIPS Covid-19 liaison activities through on-site visits and remote contact with community agencies.

Throughout 2021/2022, we will continue to work with scrutiny and justice partners to contribute to the thematic prison review of risk management, progression and early release.  

A separate piece of collaborative work will focus on the extent to which community justice partners are delivering on national priorities relating to early intervention and prevention.


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Quality framework for daycare of children, childminding and school-aged childcare

We published our new quality framework for daycare of children, childminding and school-aged childcare in March this year, informing the sector that we would use the framework in our inspections from 1 June 2022.  We want to take this opportunity to provide you with some additional materials to support understanding and use of the framework as a self-evaluation tool.

The framework focuses on children’s wellbeing and sets out the elements that will help us answer key questions about the impact care and learning is making to outcomes for children. The primary use of the framework is as a tool for self-evaluation to assist settings self-evaluate their own performance in delivering good care and learning for children. What influences good outcomes for children has not changed but we hope the way in which the framework is set out will reassure practitioners of how this will apply in their particular setting. This framework should support settings to showcase their strengths and identify improvement, where required.

You can read across the new key questions to the previous quality themes:

New key questions

Previous quality themes

1: How good is our care, play and learning?

Quality of care and support

2: How good is our setting?

Quality of environment

3: How good is our leadership?

Quality of management and leadership

4: How good is our staff team?

Quality of staffing

Our inspectors will use the framework to provide independent assurance about the quality of care, play and learning. In March 2022 we informed providers that when using the framework at inspections, we will select a small number of core quality indicators. We have taken account of what has been happening in some settings alongside recovery from the pandemic, imbedding of the expansion programme and staffing. We have therefore updated the list of core indicators and included deployment of staff.  The core quality indicators that will be evaluated at inspection will be:

1.1 Nurturing care and support

1.3 Play and learning

2.2 Children experience high quality facilities

3.1 Quality assurance and improvement are led well

4.3 Staff deployment

      *4.1 Staff skills, knowledge, and values. (For childminders without assistants)

Useful links

We also want to share some good practice examples of how the framework is supporting improvement in settings and inspectors will be keen to hear from you on inspection about the improvements you have made since the introduction of the framework.  We are excited to use the framework as our methodology will be transparent on how inspectors evaluate practice and supports settings deliver high quality play and learning experiences for children.  We look forward to seeing how the framework is used across the ELC sector to enhance the quality of care, play and learning provided to our children in Scotland. 

Pleased be assured when your inspector undertakes the first quality framework inspection of your setting, they will use the same approaches as previously used and at the beginning and throughout the inspection we will share information to ensure settings are fully informed and involved in the process.

Following the publication of Putting Learners at the Centre: Towards a Future Vision for Scottish Education, including the recommendation, put forward by Professor Muir, to create a shared inspection framework for early learning and childcare settings, Scottish Government will undertake a consultation on approaches to scrutiny of early learning and childcare in the coming months. We are fully committed to working with the sector, other inspectorates and partner organisations to implement the findings of the consultation.

In the meantime this framework provides the sector with a framework that reflects national policy and best practice and will support settings moving forward and supporting good outcomes for children and their families.

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Our support to local partnerships

Our support to local partnerships

Each strategic inspector acts as link inspector to one or more local authority areas across the country. The key purpose of the link inspector role is to fulfil the Care Inspectorate’s ‘general duty of furthering improvement in the quality of social services’ in relation to local authority social work services. This duty is set out at section 44(1)(b) of the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010.

The link inspector role has a degree of complexity because few social work services are now provided on a standalone basis. Most are now planned, delivered and monitored through partnership arrangements. Regardless of their specialist area, link inspectors engage across the broad spectrum of social work and care services for adults and older people, children and young people and justice services in their link areas.

The key areas of activity for link inspector work are:

  • monitoring the performance and quality of social work services
  • monitoring the performance of partnership public protection arrangements
  • identifying factors which are supporting social work services to deliver good or improved outcomes, and any barriers
  • highlighting risks to the delivery of positive outcomes by social work services, and the potential impact of those risks
  • identifying good practice within social work service and disseminating this more widely
  • supporting the efforts of local authorities and partnerships to build capacity for continuous improvement.

The Care Inspectorate also provides relationship managers for each council area, with responsibility for assurance and improvement work in relation to regulated services. There is a relationship manager for adult services and one for ELC. The link inspector and relationship managers work closely together.

More information about the relationship manager role can be found here.

You can get information about the link inspector for a particular local authority area by e-mailing the strategic support team at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Information on the link inspector role for local authorities and partnerships can be found here.


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