What is the Common Core?
The “Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Children’s Workforce” is (as the name suggests) a description of the skills and knowledge required by everyone whose work routinely brings them into contact with children, young people and families. It was published as non-statutory guidance in 2005 following an extensive period of consultation. Use of the Common Core is not mandatory, but it is increasingly used across all sectors to describe the skills needed for work with children. It is intended to be relevant to all workers at all levels, whether qualified or not, paid or unpaid.
Why is the Common Core important?
The Common Core is one of a range of initiatives introduced following the Laming enquiry into the death of Victoria Climbie. Lord Laming’s recommendations led to the Children Act of 2004, which required Directors of Children’s Services in every local authority area to improve the integration of services to children and families, through the development of Children’s Trusts and wide-ranging reform of the workforce. Over the past few years, local authorities have received additional funding from central government and support from bodies such as the Children’s Workforce Development council to introduce the necessary changes.
The fundamental aim of the Common Core is to provide a shared language across all professions and all sectors about the skills necessary to provide effective support to children, young people and families.
The Common Core can be used to support workforce development and training activities, and as a framework for workforce development strategies. This may mean that funding is limited to activities that have a clear link to the Common Core. As the Integrated Qualifications Framework (IQF – see separate briefing paper) for the children’s workforce is developed, all qualifications will need to show how they meet the requirements of the Common Core.
What does the Common Core cover?
The Common Core is divided into six areas of expertise. The following is a brief summary of the skills and knowledge outlined in each:
1. Effective communication and engagement
Workers should be able to listen effectively and build empathy. They should have effective skills in consultation and negotiation, and be able to summarise and explain information or choices to children, young people and their carers. They need to understand how effective communication works and be aware of confidentiality, ethics and respect. They should know where to find further information and support.
2. Child and young person development
This section describes the skills of observing and making judgements about the child’s behaviour and development. It highlights the need to apply empathy and understanding to the individual. Workers should understand how children and young people develop and be able to apply this knowledge in a specific context. This section also requires workers to understand their own role, the wider environment and how to reflect on their practice.
Read more about children's development
3. Safeguarding and promoting the welfare of the child
Workers must be able to recognise potential problems and take suitable action. They should be able to communicate and record information appropriately, with awareness of when to involve others. They should understand the legal and procedural context related to their work.
Read more about Safeguarding
4. Supporting transitions
This section outlines the need to understand the various stages in a child’s life and the ability to provide appropriate support at those relevant to the worker’s role.
Read more about those Toddler years
Read more about separations and changes in the early years
Read more about a child's experience of starting primary school
Read more about supporting teenagers
Read more about helping children and parents cope with divorce and separation
Read more about supporting children cope with breavement
5. Multi-agency working
Workers should be able to communicate and work effectively in a team, understanding their own role and how it relates to others’.
Read more about the benefits of multi-agency working
6. Sharing information
This section describes skills related to collecting, assessing, handling and passing on information, particularly in complex situations. This includes the need to establish trust with service users and colleagues, and respect legal and procedural frameworks.
What are the implications for the third sector?
There is no distinction in the Common Core between workers in the statutory, private and third sectors; the framework applies to all those who work with children, young people and families.
Use of the Common Core is not mandatory, but is seen as good practice. Some funders may already seek compliance with it when allocating grants or contracts related to children and young people’s services.
Third sector organisations may find the Common Core helpful in explaining the value of their work and the quality of their staff or volunteers to partners and funders. Third sector organisations seeking funding for workforce development should refer to the Common Core to justify their needs. Organisations providing training should use it to assess and explain the purpose and value of their activities.