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Ofqual Consultations: Our Future In Their Hands?

IQ 's Head of Quality & Compliance Bernie Zakary takes us through some of qualification regulator Ofqual's proposed changes to the QCF and to the way that Guided Learning Hours are calculated.

Qualifications in England are regulated by Ofqual, and it is their stated intention (Ofqual Corporate Plan, 2014-2017) to have a greater focus on vocational education. Right now they are consulting on two major changes to the qualifications system in England that have the potential to have a massive impact on the work of centres and awarding organisations (AOs) alike.

The consultations are live until 16th October so after you have read this, you may like to register your views directly with Ofqual.

The two proposals are (1) to remove the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) and (2) to standardise the way that qualification size (GLH) is calculated. Both of these proposals, if approved, will cause an incredible amount of work for AOs, but the main purpose of this article is to highlight some of the potential consequences for centres.

So, what about the QCF? Most existing work based qualifications are built upon units from the QCF. So what will you be faced with if the QCF is removed?

The answer is that AOs will be allowed to do what they want, subject to the requirement that what they do is valid and has been informed by the sector. This means that sector skills councils and other bodies that currently ‘own’ and submit QCF units will no longer carry out that function. AOs may choose to carry on with unitised qualifications, but if they are based on shared units that are owned by another organisation, they may not get permission to carry on using them. In effect Ofqual’s proposal closes the QCF unit bank on 2nd January 2015. This is a very tight timescale: the reality is that AOs will be working hard just to maintain a stable position with existing qualifications, and may not be able to do so if they are not granted permission to carry on with shared units. Centres will need to keep a careful eye on what their AOs are able to offer, as this may change drastically after the New Year.

Going forward, you will have to look closely at any new qualifications you are thinking of offering; you won’t be able to assume they work the same way as the ‘old QCF’ qualifications.

Another consequence of the change is that the naming convention for QCF qualifications will no longer be enforced. In future, one man’s “certificate” may be the same size as another man’s “diploma”. You may well find qualifications with completely new names – look out for the new Extended Higher Supersize Award in something or other. Again, something for centres and employers to be aware of.

On the face of it the consultation on GLH is less problematic for centres. Until you remember that a lot of the funding rules used by the Skills Funding Agency are based on size as measured by the existing GLH measures. Now it might be possible that there is a nice smooth transition as the new measures are introduced, but I would not necessarily bet on it, and this is another area that centres and AOs alike will have to keep a close eye on.

These are interesting times for vocational and work-based education and training; these two consultations are just part of the changing picture. You can have a closer look at the proposals on line, and also make your voice heard. Go here for the QCF consultation and here for the GLH consultation.

You can also contact us directly at or 01952 457 452 if you want to discuss any part of these proposals.

Sep 26, 2014 02:38 PM