CPD in lockdown – an assessor’s point of view

Ilona, an assessor of CACHE qualifications at Oaklands College, found her role completely changed when the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic reached the UK. She was initially concerned about how to support her students, but soon realised the benefits of CACHE CPD qualifications to her college, the learners and her own development.

Ilona tells us about her experience of CPD in lockdown:

I had only been working as an assessor for 6 months before the COVID-19 pandemic hit us here in the UK. Before we knew it we were being told that we could not go into schools to observe students and then we were being asked to work from home. It’s been a massive change to get my head around and my main concerns were for the learners; how was I going to support them? Were they still going to be able to complete their qualifications on time and progress into employment? Would new learners still be able to apply for apprenticeships and work based courses, or would they have to put their ambitions on hold?

Before country went into lockdown I attended two CACHE training events in London, focusing on the Level 2, 3 and 4 Childcare and Supporting Teaching and Learning qualifications hosted by (the incredibly knowledgeable and supportive) Janet Scott. Being new to assessing, these training sessions were invaluable as they allowed me to ask any questions I had. These events also gave me the opportunity to network with other colleges and settings to hear about what they were doing for their learners and get ideas for my own college. At the end of the session Janet mentioned about the new NCFE CACHE Level 2 Award in an Introduction to Neuroscience in Early Years and how it would complement the Supporting Teaching and Learning and Early Years qualifications. I could see the potential the qualification had for schools and colleges who want to do some CPD with their staff and for experienced nursery or teaching staff who may want to learn more about neuroscience to support their practice and progression. To me, it seemed like a really versatile qualification that had so much baring on the way that we teach and support children in early years.

Then lockdown happened!

Whilst working at home I decided that, although this was a difficult and distressing situation to be in, I was going to look at the positives as much as I could. I realised I would not need to commute, I could get an extra hour in bed and, ultimately, have more time and energy to focus my efforts on doing something constructive for the college, the learners and also myself.

My line manager, Nicky, is very supportive in us using our time to do CPD and actively encourages us to do as much or as little as we want. I spent a day during the first week of lockdown looking at and digesting the information on the neuroscience in early years qualification from the CACHE website. As I don’t have a background in neuroscience, I knew that if I wanted to be competent to assess this qualification, I would need to start by doing the Level 2 Award myself. I initially started the award with the sole focus on upskilling so that I could assess it, as I worked my way through the criteria I realised that I really enjoyed learning about neurology and the chemical interactions in the brain, and it really hit home how important the first few years of a child’s life are on their brain development. I found unit 2 especially helpful to my own practice and I thought that everyone who worked with children could benefit from knowing this information.

As the qualification is knowledge only I realised that it had the potential to be offered not only alongside other qualifications that we offer at college, but also as an online course that could be offered nationally or even internationally. This would bring much needed revenue to our college and also reach many more learners and employers who may want to learn more about neuroscience. Nicky has ran with this idea and now our whole childcare department is undertaking the qualification and we’re hoping to start up an online learning platform which will include other CACHE courses that are suitable for distance learning.

Although lockdown has been hard and full of ups and downs, I feel very lucky that I am safe and well. It has certainly given me the opportunity to grow and develop myself professionally and personally. I’ve realised that having this time should be looked at as a blessing, an opportunity, a time for change, after all, if not now, when?


To find out more about the Level 2 Award in an Introduction to Neuroscience in Early Years, visit our website. This qualification’s aim is to provide an introduction to the early development of the brain in babies and young children from birth to 7 years of age. It looks at how the social brain develops, the limbic system and self-regulation.

Progression from the Level 2 Award is offered through our Level 4 Certificate in Neuroscience in Early Years, which is suitable for those who are currently employed in an early years setting as the qualification can be used for evidence of CPD. You can find out more information about this qualification on our website.