Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills
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New flexible qualifications and credit framework will widen access to learning

New flexible qualifications and credit framework will widen access to learning

DEPARTMENT FOR INNOVATION, UNIVERSITIES AND SKILLS News Release issued by COI News Distribution Service. 14 November 2008

Learners will be more able to study in 'bite-sized chunks', building up a portfolio of accredited training which suits their individual needs under a new system approved today by Further Education Minister Sion Simon.

The new Qualifications and Credit Framework will enable people to gain qualifications at their own pace, from a number of sources, in a way that suits them - and to carry the modules with them if, for example, they change jobs. Employers will find it easier to find or develop employees with the skills they need for business success. By 2010 all key vocational qualifications will be approved by Sector Skills Councils and readily available to learners in small, credit-based units of learning.
Further Education Minister Sion Simon said:

"The Qualifications and Credit Framework means that, for the first time, all learning counts. The new system will ensure that no learning is ever lost, as qualifications will be flexible enough to incorporate relevant modules of training gained at a pace that suits the learner. In this way, we'll enable people with family, work and other responsibilities to gain the qualifications they need to get on life and develop their careers in a way that makes maximum use of their talents."

This new modular approach to the way vocational qualifications are awarded will make them more relevant to the needs of employers and more flexible and accessible for learners, without compromising quality. Following a two-year pilot, there are now almost 1,000 qualifications on the framework and today's announcement will pave the way for many more.

This week, Network Rail has placed a new qualification in track engineering, which they developed by working with Qualification and Curriculum Authority and the Sector Skills Council GoSkills, on the QCF.

This will enable Network Rail staff to achieve formal, transferable recognition for skills development at Levels 2 (GCSE equivalent) and 3 (A level equivalent), while helping the company develop a world-class workforce that meets its specific skills needs.

By ensuring that units of learning are recorded on an individual learner record, the QCF will also ensure that a wider range of learners' achievements is recognised, which is simple for all learners and employers to understand. The new framework will reduce bureaucracy in accrediting and assessing qualifications.

The reforms will give learners:

* greater choice in the units of study they can take;

* flexibility on how they study and when they complete each unit;

* recognition of their achievements in the learner achievement record -with the potential to remove the need for individual learners to have to give employers, providers or awarding bodies paper records of all their previous achievements.

The key change for employers is:

* a system in which vocational qualifications are developed and approved based on employers' needs.

The Government offered unitised 'bite-sized chunks' of learning in a recent package of support to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) get the training that they need most to stay competitive - and wants to allow people taking whole qualifications to be able to do so in the same bite-sized way. The new system will also be compatible with qualifications frameworks across Europe, ensuring people who work elsewhere in the EU will be able to build a portfolio of qualifications.

Ministers have also agreed that level 2 qualifications (equivalent to five good GCSEs) on the Qualifications and Credit Framework should for now be made up of at least 13 credits - where SSCs agree this meets their sector's skill demands - to be considered as "full". A qualification that is "full" is eligible for state funding. Credits are the building blocks of qualifications on the QCF. 13 credits represents a certificate-level qualification.

Employers and awarding and training bodies welcomed the QCF.

Martin Doel, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC), said:

"AoC welcomes the launch of the Qualifications and Credit Framework. Colleges have a very important role in responding to the needs of learners who wish to study units supporting a change in employment, personal circumstances or gaining new skills. The QCF is a critical enabler for a credit based system allowing colleges to be even more flexible and responsive in meeting the needs of learners, employers and communities in changing times."

Ken Boston, Chief Executive of the QCA said:

"The implementation of the QCF is a significant step in reforming the qualifications landscape for 21st century learners and employers. The QCF will recognise achievements, support progress to more learning and employment, and stimulate the higher levels of achievement required by the global economy. The QCF is fundamental for the delivery of reform in both 14-19 qualifications and skills qualifications for adults. QCA welcomes today's announcement which is the culmination of nearly four years' work and has the support of the awarding body and provider communities, as well as thousands of learners".

Mark Haysom, Chief Executive of the Learning and Skills Council (LSC), said:

"I am delighted by the announcement today that, after two years of tests and trials the new qualifications and credit framework is to be implemented. Against the backdrop of the current economic climate we need now, more than ever an employer-led flexible and responsive qualifications framework where individuals can achieve in smaller steps and where that achievement can lead to reengagement or to upskilling.

I am also delighted that responsibility for implementing the QCF across the sector now transfers to the LSC, this offers us the real opportunity to ensure that we can join up this reform with other changes now taking place.

Isabel Nisbet, Acting Chief Executive, Ofqual said:

"Today's learners need a flexible system to record their learning and build up towards a qualification. Today's launch of the QCF is a welcome step in that direction. Ofqual will make sure that the QCF operates in the best interest of learners and that the quality and standards of qualifications within the framework command the confidence of the public, employers, HE and, most importantly, learners themselves."

Notes to editors:

1. The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) is a simple and rational organising structure for vocational qualifications and the units that make them up. The QCF will support the award, accumulation and transfer of credit achievement over time. It will recognise a wide range of different vocational qualifications, from entry level through to level 8.

2. The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) aims to:

* ensure that a wider range of learners' achievements can be recognised within a more inclusive qualifications framework;

* establish a qualifications system that is more responsive to individuals' and employers' needs;

* establish a simpler qualifications framework that is easier for all users to understand; and

* reduce the burden of bureaucracy in the accreditation and assessment of qualifications.

3. QCF has been tested and trialled over the two years from summer 2006. As a result there are already nearly 1,000 qualifications available to learners on the prototype QCF. The launch of the full QCF means that all qualifications will, in time, be available to learners on the QCF, in a unitised and credit-based way.

4. The Secretary of State has also agreed an interim threshold of 13 credits for Full Level 2 qualifications on the QCF, subject to SSCs being able to vary this threshold.

5. This Press Notice relates to England only. In Wales, the aim is that the QCF will replace the NQF 'pillar' of the wider Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales, as it follows the CQFW principles and supports the CQFW aims. The QCF is also being implemented in Northern Ireland following the approval of the Minister for Employment and Learning. The QCF will also align and, where possible, articulate with the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF), the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications and the developing European Qualifications Framework (EQF).

6. The roll-out of the QCF is part of the Vocational Qualification Reform Programme. Another part of this reform is a programme to enable employers to have their own high-quality training accredited - either by the employer becoming an awarding organisation themselves (such as McDonald's, Network Rail and Flybe) or by an employer working with an existing awarding organisation to have their own in-house training recognised (such as BT). For further details, see http://www.qca.org.uk/qca_15669.aspx. All qualifications developed by these programmes will be accredited onto the QCF.

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