New courses bypass the regulator

The government has allowed new adult English and maths qualifications to be funded without the usual approval of an independent regulatory body because “gaps in provision were causing issues”.

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) said new qualifications were due to be available from August, but that the timescales for their development and accreditation had been “challenging”.

“We have been alerted to gaps in provision as a result of the Qualification Credit Framework offer not being available and we understand that this is beginning to pose issues for a small number of colleges and training organisations,” said a statement from the agency. “Therefore, in order that learners are not disadvantaged, and that colleges and training organisations can respond to demand, we are putting an interim arrangement in place.”

From October 24 to December 31, English and maths qualifications already submitted to Ofqual to help adults progress to GCSE or level 2 functional skills standard can be funded without final approval from the regulatory body.

We have put in place these interim arrangements so that colleges and training organisations can continue to respond to the needs of learners and employers,” said an agency spokesperson.”

The SFA said the plans had been agreed with Ofqual and were made under the government’s Innovation Code. The code, available from April this year, was a key recommendation of last year’s Colleges in their Communities inquiry, led by Lady Sharp.

“We have put in place these interim arrangements so that colleges and training organisations can continue to respond to the needs of learners and employers,” said an agency spokesperson.

Ofqual said that it knew that the qualifications were important to learners and providers, and had ensured “swift” accreditation processes. The regulatory body said it approved proposals as soon as they were “of the right quality”.

A spokesperson said: “We think that regulated qualifications are a good way to assess and reward learners’ achievements, but recognise there are times when this may not be what learners and centres are looking for.

“We are happy that the SFA has clearly set out its expectations that funding through the Innovation Code will in many cases lead to the development of new regulated qualifications.”

Carol Taylor, the director of research and development at the National Institute of Adult Continuing Education, said: “We note that this is a short-term contingency plan and would urge regulating bodies to move swiftly, to enable providers to use these new qualifications to best support learners.”

She added that the adult education charity would “keep a close eye” on developments.

The SFA said that only qualifications from the following awarding organisations would be funded: OCR, City and Guilds, and Ascentis.

OCR said its proposals were in the final stages of accreditation at Ofqual. It was “excellent news” that measures had been put in place to immediately fund qualifications given the “great demand”.

A spokesperson said: “Ofqual has put these replacement qualifications under high scrutiny and OCR is positively working with the regulator to get these qualifications accredited at the earliest opportunity.”