National Occupational Standards

What are National Occupational Standards?

National Occupational Standards (NOS) are nationally agreed statements of competence* which describe what an effective and competent worker does and needs to know to deliver quality in their job.
*Competence is defined as "the ability to perform to the standard required in employment across a range of circumstances and to meet changing needs" (QCA).The Standards can bring everyone into the "learning cycle". Unlike the qualifications which are based on them, the NOS themselves are not set at levels. They define the competence, skills, knowledge and understanding required by those who work with parents and can be used to develop and monitor these requirements in individuals and services.

For example, by using the National Occupational Standards a set of skills and learning objectives can be drawn up, which is agreed between the individual, their supervisor and training specialists as a "prescription" for a development programme. 

  • The Work with Parents National Occupational Standards [download PDF]

Overview of the National Occupational Standards for Work with Parents

The National Occupational Standards for Work with Parents were developed in consultation with the sector and originally approved by the UK Regulatory bodies (QCA, SQA, ACCAC and QCA NI) in April 2005. In 2010 the NOS were developed and reviewed against the Functional Map for Work with Parents (2010) and the draft Functional Map for Keyworking (2010). 

They are intended as a high level strategic overview of the competancies required to fulfil the tasks required in the work with parents sector. The NOS are not designed to describe specific roles; role definitions are normally based on a number of the functions, as defined within the functional map, and therefore a number of the standards. There is no expectation, therefore, that a job role would encompass all the performance requirements across every standard, rather that specific jobs utilise appropriate standards.

The standards do not equate directly to qualifications, but are used to derive relevant competancy-based qualifications for the work with parents sector.

The standards have been devised based on best practice for the definition of NOS. Each comprises a number of performance criteria which an individual should demonstrate to be competant in the sector. Each standard also has underpinning knowledge and understanding, although in the NOS there is not an immediate and direct relationship between an individual performance criterion and a knowledge and/or understanding statement; the latter underpin the whole of the standard.

National Context 

It should be noted that the approach to working with parents differs across the four nations of the UK. The NOS have been written to enable the differences to be accomodated and to enable different terminology to be applied as appropriate.

Benefits of using National Occupational Standards

The standards can be used to:

  • Recognise previously acquired competences
  • Identify knowledge and skills gaps
  • Benchmark practice against the standards
  • Ensure training is relevant to job roles
  • Facilitate self assessment
  • Help to develop and retain a more effective workforce
  • Support organisational review and planning
  • Improve recruitment
  • Enable staff to achieve through the workplace

For Organisations:

National Occupational Standards form a ready made, nationally agreed set of competencies. They can be used to support any organisation to:

  • Improve recruitment and the composition of teams through job descriptions, person specifications and effective interviewing
  • Ensure staff are clear about their responsibilities and work activities
  • Help to develop and retain a skilled, motivated and flexible work force
  • Appraise individual performance and provide focused feedback to staff
  • Identify knowledge and skills gaps
  • Reduce training costs through effective design of learning and development programmes and work based assessment
  • Encourage staff to acquire skills and knowledge for enhanced job prospects
  • Ensure staff comply with legal and organisational requirements
  • Measure performance against clear benchmarks
  • Identify priorities for development and improve organisational planning
  • Inform discussion about practice
  • Use common standards when working in partnership
  • Provide evidence for national quality standards, such as Investors in People and Matrix
  • Improve customer care

For Individuals:

The benefits for workers include:

  • Clearly defined job descriptions and responsibility levels
  • A benchmark to measure own skills against nationally recognised standards
  • Guidance on best practice
  • Appraisals which recognise and reward their true levels of skills and competency
  • Identifying skills and knowledge gaps
  • Training to meet the needs of the individual
  • Encouragement to acquire skills and knowledge for enhanced job prospects
  • Ability to use the National Occupational Standards to gain recognised qualifications
  • Undertake work based assessment, which does not involve extensive time away on courses
  • Job satisfaction, which comes from confidence in one's own standards of performance

*Throughout these National Occupational Standards, the term 'parents' has been used to mean mothers, fathers, carers and other adults with responsibility for caring for a child. A range of parenting services which meet the National Occupational Standards should be available for all those in a parenting role, including step parents, adoptive parents, foster parents, grandparents or other family carers, gay and lesbian parents and their partners, residential care workers, and carers of young offenders in secure units.