A Flexible Qualification in Regulation and Inspection

In 2016, we were invited to help set up a new regulation qualification for inspectors of health and social care validated by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA). Entitled the Professional Development Award (PDA) in Scrutiny and Improvement Practice, it is set at SQA Level 10, equivalent to honours degree standard.

The principal aim of the PDA in Scrutiny and Improvement Practice is to:

enable learners to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and values needed to ensure positive outcomes for people using services as well as enabling registration with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) (Scottish Qualifications Authority, 2017: p. 4) .

A Flexible Regulation Qualification

The award has flexible forms of delivery designed to meet the needs of a regulatory agency:

  • It is distance learning with face to face contact set by the agency
  • It can be delivered by an academic institution or in-house by the agency
  • The agency appoints Practice Learning assessors from their own staff or externally
  • It is designed to be achieved in one year but this can be modified
  • It is validated by the SQA and is eligible for academic and professional credits.

The Development of the Qualification

We worked with a Qualification Development Team drawn from users and carers in the social care sector as well as inspectors and Care Inspectorate management:

During the development of this qualification, SQA have consulted with the SSSC and employers and user/carers in both the voluntary and private sector who are affected by the work of the Care Inspectorate. Practitioners at all levels have also been involved in the development of the award (Scottish Qualifications Authority, 2017: p. 3).

The Regulation Qualification Consists of the Following Units:

  1. Frameworks for Scrutiny Practice
  2. The Craft of Scrutiny
  3. Supporting Improvement
  4. Scrutiny and Improvement Practice (Social Services)): Graded Unit

The Aims of the Regulation Qualification are That Learners Should:

  1. Demonstrate their knowledge of scrutiny frameworks and the legislative basis for their work

  2. Critically reflect on how their own values and beliefs impact on their practice in supporting services to improve

  3. Critically analyse the wider geopolitical aspects which affect scrutiny and improvement, as well as the inter-relationship between scrutiny, inspection, regulation, audit and improvement

  4. Critically analyse the application of theories and methodologies that apply to the activities of scrutiny and improvement

  5. Demonstrate their knowledge of the different roles and the application of skills required in the range of scrutiny and improvement activity

  6. Critically analyse the concepts and role of risk and responsiveness in scrutiny and improvement

  7. Critically analyse the role of human rights, relationships and leadership in their practice

  8. Critically evaluate improvement models and apply them to scrutiny practice

  9. Demonstrate integration of theory and practice in supporting services to improve (Scottish Qualifications Authority, 2017: p. 5).

The Delivery of the Qualification

From late 2016 Precepts was engaged to supply distance-learning materials for the award. Our method of working is collaborative. We worked alongside Care Inspectorate staff to develop learning materials appropriate to the curriculum, level of the award and the Scottish context. The deadline for this work was January 2017, a tight timescale; acknowledging this, a guided study format was used rather than full distance learning workbooks (Freeman, 2006). In spite of a demanding schedule, the Award was successfully validated in January 2017.

What Makes the Content of this Regulation Qualification Different?

The new award is Pracademic, not restricted to the legal studies/political focus of many similar awards, and has unique features:

  • There is a genuine focus on improvement (Langley et al., 2009)
  • Practice learning is embedded in the curriculum; there are assessed observations of practice as well as written practice analysis
  • Human rights, community, co-production and assets-based approaches are central to the topics covered.

The word cloud below gives a sense of the content.

New SQA regulation qualification 2017

Word Cloud showing frequency of values and principles in the new award

Non-award Learning Resources

Not all regulators have the time or resources for credit-bearing assessed courses. Most need shorter inputs focussing on professional staff development to bring employees up to speed on new developments. With that in mind we also produced for the Care Inspectorate short learning resources introducing inspectors to:

  • Responsive regulation
  • Risk
  • Human Rights-based standards
  • Improvement practice.

Further Information

For more details about the SQA award click here

Contact us to discuss professional staff development – for awards or flexible non-assessed learning resources. Course length is tailored to your specific requirements.


Freeman, R. 2006. Creating Learning Materials for Open and Distance Learning: A Handbook for Authors and Instructional Designers, Commonwealth of Learning.

Langley, G. J., Moen, R., Nolan, K. M., Nolan, T. W., Norman, C. L. & Provost, L. P. 2009. The Improvement Guide: A Practical Approach to Enhancing Organizational Performance, San Francisco, Jossey-Bass.

Scottish Qualifications Authority 2017. Group Award Specification For: Professional Development Award (PDA) in Scrutiny and Improvement Practice (Social Services) Glasgow, SQA,

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