‘Interim Report of the Care of Children Committee’ Chaired by Myra Curtis

Care of Children Committee (Chairman: Myra Curtis) (1946) Training in child care: Interim Report of the Care of Children Committee Cmd 6760 London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office

The Care of Children Committee had been appointed following the publication of the Monckton Report (Home Office, 1945) to take up some of the broader issues relating to the provision of child care highlighted in that report. They had embarked on a programme of visits to children’s facilities and had been appalled by the unsuitability and inadequacy of many of the staff and the attention-seeking behaviour of the children which pointed to a lack of individual care – a point strikingly brought home when they had visited a well-run home where the children just carried on as normal (Care of Children Committee, 1946). So they had appointed a Sub-committee to look at the issue of staff training as a matter of urgency.

Key Points

  • Child care staff need training.
  • Need is greatest in residential child care.
  • There should be a Central Council for Training in Child Care.
  • Training should be provided for heads of residential child care units for up to twelve children. Training should be both theoretical and practical and taken in two parts separated by at least a year in employment.
  • Assessment should be on the basis of examinations and reports from supervisors.
  • Bursaries and maintenance grants should be provided.
  • Arrangements need to be made for holders of existing qualifications.
  • There should be refresher courses and training should also be provided for senior staff.


In the Introduction, the Committee describe how their realisation that staff lack special training led them to set up a Sub-committee to investigate; this in effect is its report. The Sub-committee reviewed the current training and the courses available are set out in the Appendix to the report. This showed that specialist residential staff in children’s homes were the least well covered; though their duties were described as domestic and unspecialised, there was general agreement that training would improve the quality of their work. The voluntary organisations that currently trained staff had found it beneficial and had advised that staff do not become ‘too academic’ if selected carefully. With a continuing need for residential care and its current under-staffing, immediate training provision was required.

In the next three paragraphs they set out the functions of a Central Training Council in Child Care, its constitution, its membership – drawn from central and local government, voluntary organisations, professional bodies, universities and trade unions – and its likely costs.

They then set out the courses in child care which they envisage will be offered to the heads of each unit for up to twelve children. Potential students should have sufficient education to profit from the course and be aged 18-35 but with the possibility that older entrants might he admitted if their circumstances warranted it.

There would be a two-year course leading to a Certificate in Child Care (Part I) followed by at least one year in employment, after which students could be admitted to a one year course leading to the Certificate in Child Care (Part II). Part I would be both theoretical and practical and practical placements could be concurrent or consecutive, the latter being intended mainly for situations where the placements were at some distance from the college. Placements should ideally be in the small units or houses of larger homes. Completion of Part II would indicate suitability for promotion.

The curriculum would cover: household management, care of health, child development, play, social conditions and social services, culture, in particular to enable students to develop their own interests, record keeping including accounts and religious education. Assessment would be on the basis of examinations and reports from supervisors.

There would need to be arrangements for bursaries and maintenance grants and the committee envisaged that the theoretical teaching would take place in teacher training colleges, polytechnics and the training centres of Barnardo’s and National Children’s Homes. They envisaged that teachers, nurses and nursery nurses would be exempted from this training and that 300-400 people would need to be trained each year.

They recognised the need to negotiate new salary scales for trained staff and also to make arrangements for existing holders of Barnardo’s and NCH qualifications and experienced staff. They also saw a need for training for senior staff and for refresher courses. They concluded by arguing that the introduction of training will make a big difference.


This is in many ways a breathtakingly ambitious report. At the time, the head of a unit for up to twelve children could expect to have one, often part-time, assistant. So it is in effect arguing for at least 50% of residential child care staff to be trained. Over half a century later nowhere near that proportion are trained and the idea of three years specialist training plus one year in employment as the basic training for the head of a small unit is still a distant dream in the UK, although it has been achieved elsewhere.

The Central Training Council set up a 15 month course, later reduced to a year, which ran until 1980 when it was superseded by the CQSW and CSS courses, neither of which managed the same staying power, and the current degree courses in social work do not have the sandwich element which was seen as essential because it is only through dealing with real children in real situations that one can develop one’s child care skills (Bettelheim, 1974). The Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (1984) recommended a similar framework except that the two parts would have been separate qualifications with not everyone proceeding to the second qualification whereas the Care of Children Committee saw the two parts as parts of a single qualification.

While the shape of the curriculum has changed, the combination of examinations for the theory and supervisors’ reports for the practical aspects of the course has remained, albeit with significant changes in the ways in which these are carried out.

In retrospect their focus on the heads of units was the right choice (King et al., 1971) but their estimate of the number of trained staff who would be needed was a serious underestimate which could only have been achieved with much lower turnover rates than have actually happened. But it was made in the context of government expectations of a substantial shift away from residential care towards foster care which the Care of Children Committee accepted as part of their considerations.

Their recommendations for refresher courses and courses for senior staff have been followed up sporadically over the last half century.

It is also salutary to realise that they envisaged no ‘therapeutic’ role for staff; this was simply about making them better able to meet children’s needs in a living situation both by understanding the situations from which the children might have come and the needs they might have and by extending their skills in creating and managing a stimulating environment for the children. They also assumed that even trained staff need refresher courses and that those in senior posts, those managing the campus or school-style institutions of the time, would need their own training.

Perhaps the one piece of the jigsaw which one could argue was missing was the recognition of the importance of support and supervision on the job to enable people to make the most of their training after they had completed the course (Anglin, 1993).


Anglin, J (1993) How staff develop FICE Bulletin 6, 18-24
Bettelheim, B (1974) A home for the heart London: Thames & Hudson See also Children Webmag August 2010
Care of Children Committee (1946) Report of the Care of Children Committee Cmd 6922 London: His Majesty’s Stationery Office Chairman: Myra Curtis
Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work (1984) Review of qualifying training policies: final report of Council Working Group Paper 20.2 London: Central Council for Education and Training in Social Work
Home Office (1945) Report by Sir William Monckton KCMG KCVO MC KC on the circumstances which led to the boarding out of Dennis and Terence O’Neill at Bank Farm, Minsterly and the steps taken to supervise their welfare, etc. Cmd 6636 London: Home Office
King, R D, Raynes, N V and Tizard, J (1971) Patterns of residential care: sociological studies in institutions for handicapped children London: Routledge & Kegan Paul See also Children Webmag April 2009

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