Fears remain as quals list published

Further concerns that valuable qualifications could fall victim to a government cull have been raised after a leading awarding organisation saved nine of its qualifications from the public funding axe, but lost three.

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) has published its first list of qualifications eligible for funding in 2014/15.

The list includes 6,558 qualifications — almost half the 13,011 on the final list for the current academic year.

But NCFE, which managed to save nine of its qualifications after appeal in the SFA’s “exception” process, has raised concerns about the cuts.

Chief executive David Grailey said: “We feel that many of the qualifications in danger of losing funding actually do have real value to learners and what’s more, they’re held in high regard by employers.

“For these qualifications within NCFE’s portfolio, we are working hard to secure their funding for the 2014/15 session.

“For example, we proactively put in an appeal with the SFA for a number of qualifications to be considered as exceptions.”

The nine NCFE qualifications saved, all level two certificates, include areas such as customer service, business and health.

Mr Grailey said: “We felt that there were qualifications on the list in the health and social care sector such as ‘working in mental health’ and ‘end of life care’ which fill a skills gap and are integral to those who work in this incredibly worthwhile profession.

“Therefore, we’re pleased that the SFA is treating these qualifications as exceptions and granting them public funding.”

The news comes after Skills Minister Matthew Hancock announced that the axe would fall on upwards of 5,000 qualifications, leading, it was claimed, to savings of almost £200m. But the minister faced criticisms for seeming to belittle some qualifications which help vulnerable people into work.

However, other organisations have welcomed the clarity of new funding criteria, but questioned the need for some of the rules, including a 15-credit threshold.

Charlotte Bosworth, skills and employment director for Oxford Cambridge and RSA (OCR) Examinations, said: “Some of the rules do feel a bit arbitrary — particularly around size and where 16-19 performance table criteria have been adopted.

“It seems more about ‘system tidiness’ than considering what is needed to support adults into sustainable employment. It is just as important to develop the values, habits and characteristics needed in work as to foster direct technical knowledge about an occupation.”

Under the SFA’s exceptions scheme, providers can make submissions to the government of qualifications they think should be included on the 2014/15 list. Submissions for 2013/14 are also still being accepted until early May.