Quality Assurance

Achieving Quality Scotland

A framework and assessment for quality improvement in school-age childcare

What is Achieving Quality Scotland?

Achieving Quality Scotland is the Scottish Out of School Care Network's new resource which is designed to help out of school care services in Scotland improve their practice and ultimately give children and young people within their care, the best possible opportunities in terms of play, care and informal learning. Achieving Quality Scotland builds upon and expands SOSCN's previous quality development resource, Aiming High Scotland Quality Assurance Scheme. (Services do not have to have achieved Aiming High Scotland to undertake Achieving Quality Scotland. Aiming High is currently being phased out, and is only available to those currently undertaking it.)

Achieving Quality Scotland is designed to support services through processes of change and development and show how they implement the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC); Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC); Safe Healthy Achieving Nurtured Active Respected Responsible Included (SHANARRI) Wellbeing Indicators, and the Playwork Principles- the key criteria against which services should be measuring themselves. The resource has been designed in anticipation of evidence which may be required and requested by the Care Inspectorate, as well as other bodies or agencies.

Achieving Quality Scotland provides services with a framework for quality improvement and requires services to build a portfolio of evidence for objective external assessment against a clear set of criteria. Services will have to achieve all the criteria in order to gain the Achieving Quality Scotland mark; for excellent services which exceed the criteria there is an opportunity to be "star rated" over and above the quality mark. Services wishing to gain the additional quality stars must show evidence from the "star indicators" which are within each quality area.

Why undertake Achieving Quality Scotland?

For those services which gain the Achieving Quality Scotland mark they will have further external objective verification of the quality delivered by their service in terms of practice, management and ultimately the best experiences and opportunities for children, and families using their service. Whilst this is the ultimate goal, it is the process of undertaking the scheme which is of the greatest importance and value- it requires services to evaluate themselves and look at opportunities for change and development.

Quality improvement is an ongoing commitment to simply be the best service possible.

How much does Achieving Quality Scotland cost?

Registration and electronic (pdf) workbook per service site - £30

Assessment costs per service site - £660

Improvement Quality Scotland capacity building (6 sessions)* - £3,960

*Total cost for 6 sessions. Sessions can be delivered to a cluster of services (maximum 20 participants) within a local area over a 12 month period. Sessions relate to the quality improvement areas and provide practical advice and support on practice development within services. Sessions are optional but will provide services with invaluable support throughout the quality improvement process.


To register for AQS you must be a SOSCN member. SOSCN membership is free, so if you do not already have membership, you can join for free today.

Please send an email to finlay@soscn.org to reqest registration to AQS.

Conditions of Registration

In the past Aiming High Quality Scheme, some services registered for many years or re-registered without completing the next stage. Where they had awards at Level 2 or 3, they lost their award if, within 3 years of the previous award, they had not resubmitted and been reassessed.

Achieving Quality Scotland registration and re-registration implies a commitment to working towards submission of a portfolio of evidence for external assessment against the award criteria. We appreciate it may take services some time to raise funds for the mentoring and assessment fees for the award, nevertheless, we do not want the mere fact of registering and receiving our guidance materials to be taken as “evidence” of taking part in a quality improvement award. This is why services who have not submitted evidence within two years of first registration will be removed from the register and would need to re-join the register and pay a further fee. SOSCN reserves the right to refuse registration to any service constantly re-registering without portfolio submission.

Services who gain Achieving Quality Scotland awards receive certificates valid for two years and a further certificate valid for the third year once they have re-registered on their due date, with 12 months to resubmit for the award. All registrations and re-registrations will then have a £30 charge, as we will always require services to use the latest quality workbook updated to reflect an recent policy and practice changes.

AQS Quality Areas

  1. Overarching commitment to quality, the UNCRC, GIRFEC and the Playwork Principles
  2. Equality and Inclusion
  3. Partnership and Collaboration
  4. Play and Care Practice, and Principles
  5. Premises, Resources and Community
  6. Getting It Right For Every Child (GIRFEC)
  7. Health and Wellbeing
  8. Leadership, Management, Planning and Administration
  9. Staffing and Volunteers
  10. Holidays and all day care*

*Where applicable.

Additional Documents

How does AQS Work?

Each quality improvement area clearly describes and discusses the issues associated with the topic- the workbook provides advice and guidance on what is expected for each area, and how services can demonstrate practice in terms of the evidence requested. Although much of the evidence is requested only once, there are instances where evidence is used in other quality areas; where this is the case, the cross-referencing is clearly stated.

To assist services with the collation of evidence and information, there is a preparatory section which clearly states all the policies, procedures and documents the service will need to have in order to successfully undertake the process. There is also comprehensive guidance on how to create a portfolio of evidence.

Once services have gathered evidence for all quality indicators within each quality area and completed their portfolio, this will then be assessed by an external and objective assessor appointed by SOSCN who will assess the service through the portfolio and a site visit. The Achieving Quality Scotland Mark is valid for three years; after such time, services will have to undertake the process again if they wish to maintain the mark.

“Thank you for our AQS report we were all thrilled.

We all learned a lot about ourselves and found out a lot about others.

We did a great spring clean of our policies, our procedures, our practice and our premises. Working towards the award was a great way for everyone, children, new staff and parents to become more involved, to gain a better understanding of what we do and what we are trying to achieve.

There is always room for improvement and when we reviewed our practice with a more critical eye and combined this with the AQS criteria we added and changed things in our service. The children did the bits they wanted to do and to them it was just fun.

I would again like to thank you for the experience that was AQS.”

Broomhill Out School Care Association - AQS Gold Star Award

“Doing AQS gave us the focus we needed to revise our policies and ensure we had all our 'essential' documents up to date and relevant. Staff, parents and children became more aware of what we do and began to understand that evidencing what we do can have a positive and worthwhile outcome. We know we are doing a good job, but to have our service put under scrutiny and then come out with the award is the perfect affirmation. Also, undertaking AQS also made us realise how important it is to get involved in projects out with our service.

We are very proud to have achieved this at long last and, to get the 'Gold Award' on this our 25th Anniversary year was a bonus!

Hyndland After School Club, “The Afty” - AQS Gold Star Award

“We found the AQS experience challenging to begin with but as we started to work together and work closely with our AQS assessor, it helped us to realise our strengths and to celebrate our achievements!”

Steph Grant, Indigo Childcare (Castleton) - AQS Gold Star Award

“We are delighted with our AQS Award! Our Out of School Care team do a fantastic job and the children thoroughly enjoy the experiences on offer through our holistic approach.  The quality improvement framework process proved invaluable allowing us to reflect on and improve our approaches as we prepared and collated our portfolio over several months.  As we aim for continuous improvement we look forward to working towards the gold star.”

Sarah Chapman, Childcare Manager: Milton of Leys Primary School - AQS Bronze Star Award

last updated: 29/11/2023