Although some playworkers start work without a qualification all playworkers will be expected to gain one eventually.
Most playwork qualifications require learning through practical experience in a play setting combined with some study. Some written work and reflective practice will be required.
What levels of qualifications are there?
Different levels of qualification are required depending on the nature of the job.
Courses at this level give learners an introduction to the skills and knowledge that a playworker needs. Courses will cover an understanding of play and the playworker's role as a facilitator, as well as health and safety issues, child protection, and working as part of a team. After attending the short course, learners on an induction course are often required to work with children for a very short period (paid or unpaid), and to briefly record and reflect on their thoughts and feelings.
Although they don't provide an accredited qualification, they may be a good place to begin for learners with no experience of working with children in a play setting who would like to find out more and get a taste of what the job requires.
Qualifications at level two provide the knowledge and skills for playworkers working in an assistant role.
Although there are usually no formal entry requirements to courses learners would be expected to be working with children in a play setting. Level two courses are equivalent to GCSE standard and are more substantial than induction level courses, usually taking several months to complete, although many can be achieved in stages.
Courses cover an understanding of play and the role and responsibilities of the assistant playworker when working with children, including facilitating play in the play environment, inclusive practice, and legal requirements including children's welfare.
Level 2 Award in Playwork Practice (L2APP) is available to level 2.
Playwork: Principles into Practice (P3) is available at level 2.
Qualifications at level three are for experienced playworkers who work or wish to work as a senior playworker or supervisor of a play setting. Entry requirements are varied - some courses require learners to have undertaken a level two playwork qualification, while others make no such demand. Level three courses are equivalent to A level standard and may take a year or longer to complete.
Courses cover an understanding of play (in more depth than Level 2) as well as the role and responsibilities of the senior playworker in managing all aspects of the playwork setting.
Managing a Holiday Play Scheme is available at level 3.
Playwork: Principles into Practice (P3) is available at level 3.
Degree (Levels 4, 5, and 6)
Qualifications at level four are appropriate for playworkers working at a developmental or managerial level. Entry requirements are varied but all courses demand a good level of knowledge and experience of play and playwork. Level four qualifications are often strongly work based and may take two or three years to complete.
Level 4 courses cover a wide range of issues in considerable depth including a theoretical understanding of play and playwork practice, professional ethics, policy and children's rights, and management and development.
A new type of qualification available at level 5 is the Foundation Degree. These are flexible work based qualifications focused on practice.
Qualifications at level 6 include BA (hons) in playwork and Graduate Diplomas. These courses require learners to critically review and evaluate knowledge from a range of sources. They can take from around three to five years to complete but can be done part time as well as sometimes via distance learning.
Qualifications at this level are appropriate for playworkers undertaking advanced research or having key responsibilities for other professionals. Courses require learners to demonstrate a mastery of complex knowledge and skills and conduct research or advanced professional activity. Courses include Master's Degrees and Postgraduate Certificates and Diplomas.
Finally, at level eight learners may opt to undertake a Doctoral degree (PhD). Learners at this level are expected to make a significant and new contribution to the field developing new techniques or practices.
Occupational and Vocational Qualifications
There are different ways of achieving playwork qualifications. National Vocational Qualifications (NVQ's) test competence in the workplace. There are no formal exams, but an assessor will regularly observe learners in the workplace. Learners may also need to attend a taught course to cover the knowledge requirements.
Vocational qualifications usually require learners to attend a course and then be assessed. This may include producing an assignment or sitting an exam. Usually, learners are not assessed in the workplace.
The Playwork: Principles into Practice (P3) qualifications blend both approaches and deliver learning through a taught course but also require learners to demonstrate their competence in the workplace.
SkillsActive, the sector skills council for active leisure, learning and wellbeing, has produced an updated list of accepted qualifications for the playwork workforce in Wales (2011- 2012) - for playworkers, playwork employers, the Care and Social Services Inspectorate Wales (CSSIW), the Welsh Government and national organisations.
Play Wales' Playwork: Principles into Practice (P3) level 2 and level 3 are on the list.