Skip to main content
Two women smiling at the camera

30 Jun 2021

Your learning Social service workforce

HNC Social Services and HNC Childhood Practice – placement update

The Scottish Social Services Council, Scottish Qualifications Authority, Scottish Government and the Care Inspectorate continue to work together to support students undertaking work placements to allow completion of full HNC qualifications this academic year 2020-21.

The HNC qualifications in social services and childhood practice are work-based awards and a practice placement is required. This is supported widely across the sector with organisations and employers regularly welcoming students to support achievement of the qualification. This gives individuals the necessary practice experience and enables future employment in the sector.

Placement providers and centres working together

COVID-19 has meant some placement providers have been understandably anxious about having students in the workplace. However, without a placement, assessment requirements cannot be completed for these awards. We are hugely grateful to employers across the childcare and social care sector for the commitment shown to accommodating students wherever possible throughout what has been a challenging academic year.

For some students it has not been possible to secure placements during the academic year 2020-21. This means some centres and employers will be working together into the next academic year to support those students to complete placements. We understand this may not allow for the usual period where employers do not have students in their settings early in the academic year but the additional efforts are greatly appreciated to support the future of a highly skilled and qualified workforce.


Settings that are continuing to support student placements throughout the COVID-19 pandemic period should make sure they adhere to the Scottish Government’s safe operating guidance for early learning and childcare settings, to accommodate those students safely within wider staffing teams.  

Employers should note that additional flexibility has been put in place around placement completion giving students the opportunity to show occupational competence and evidence they are ready for employment. Traditionally students would complete 60 days on placement, however, assessors will now work with students and placement providers to ensure occupational competence is achieved rather than a prescriptive number of days.

A toolkit is available for employers, to support the safe accommodation of students within work settings. It includes resources, current guidance and FAQs.

Routes for completion of awards

The following routes were developed and agreed between centres, SQA and the SSSC for students experiencing challenges completing placements.

Route 1 — certification as usual

The normal, traditional route through which learners achieve nine HN units and three SVQ units and are awarded the group award.

Route 2 — certification of nine HN units only, supported by SQA case studies

Where placements are not possible, candidates can use their awards towards SSSC registration.

This route will lead to certification of the group award when the SVQ units are completed. This should be within two years to ensure the currency of the skills and knowledge. SQA certificates for completed units will not be required for SSSC registration but will be required to evidence completion of the full award.

Route 3 — theory-only certification

Route 3 has been created to help learners who intend to progress their learning. Learners should complete 12 HN units from the list of available units. Learners will automatically receive a certificate for the theory-only group award when they complete it. Learners may plan to complete the three mandatory practical SVQ units later, meaning they will receive a certificate for the group award when they complete these units.

More information

We are aware of the continuously changing situation due to the pandemic. We will provide an additional update for employers and centres for students beginning or continuing HNC programmes before academic year 2021-22 begins. We anticipate that centres and employers may want to adopt a flexible approach to the timing of starting placements for 2021-22 HNC cohorts, where arrangements still require to be made to enable students from the 2020-21 cohort to complete their placements.

If you have any questions about student placements please use the web form on our Contact us page. You can also contact the SQA at

Contact information

Sandra Wilson
Communications Officer
Scottish Social Services Council