New awarding body steps in to certificate 500 of the more than 30,000 paying learners left stranded

A troubled provider which has been struggling to get courses certificated has been approved by a new awarding body to support 500 of the more than 30,000 paying learners affected.

As reported last week, the awarding organisation (AO) NCFE stopped certificating Rotherham-based provider My Distance Learning College (MDLC) claiming it had around £20,000 of “outstanding invoices owing”.

Similarly, the Cache (Council for Awards in Care, Health and Education) AO also withdrew approved status because, it claimed, the provider had been re-selling its qualifications through other firms without permission.

But FE Week can reveal that Training Qualifications UK (TQUK) has today approved MDLC as a provider for its  level three qualification and credit framework (QCF) award and certificate in supporting teaching and learning in schools.

MDLC director Joshua Cole, who disputes the claims made by NCFE and Cache, said this meant that more than 500 students currently awaiting certification from NCFE for equivalent courses could now be certificated by TQUK for no extra charge.

An MDLC spokesperson said: “We are able to announce that we have been approved by one of the most progressive and credible awarding organisations in the UK.

“TQUK is one of only a handful of awarding organisations that have got through the updated (and, arguably, the toughest) Ofqual approval processes in the last couple of years.

“TQUK will pick up and certificate any successful learners on the supporting teaching and learning award and certificate programs that may have fallen into the gap left by NCFEs untimely withdrawal of support, and will take up any slack affected by the fallout.”

TQUK became an approved AO in September 2013 and currently has 74 qualification on the Ofqual register.

The Manchester-based awarding body announced in April that South Cheshire College had become the first FE college to become a TQUK-approved centre, after registering learners for its level three award in education and training.

This came a month after TQUK announced that Richard Dorrance (pictured), former chief executive of Cache and acting chief executive of the Schools Examination and Assessment Council (the precursor of Ofqual), had been appointed as chair of its governing board.

RIchard Dorrance, appointed chair of TQUK in March

RIchard Dorrance, appointed chair of TQUK in March

A spokesperson for TQUK said: “TQUK has, this morning, approved MDLC as a centre. MDLC has completed the centre approval process which all of our centres go through.

“This involves extensive checks on the processes and procedures that are in place at the centre and pays particular attention to the quality assurance arrangements.

“We are absolutely confident in the centre’s ability and commitment to providing these qualifications in line with our requirements and will continue, as we do with all of our centres, to monitor this.”

She added TQUK was fully aware of MDLC’s dispute with NCFE and Cache.

She said: “We spoke to both awarding organisations about their concerns and they confirmed to us that the issues were not around quality of provision or integrity of assessment for QCF qualifications.

“We now have arrangements in place to manage our own working relationship with the centre moving forwards.

“Most important to us is that we are able to play a part in providing certification for candidates where their hard work and dedication has earned it.”

She added the awarding body would not be endorsing any other MDLC courses.

When asked if MDLC would be legally entitled to transfer learners who had originally paid for the equivalent NCFE qualification to the TQUK course, an Ofqual spokesperson said: “Yes, another awarding organisation is allowed to certificate the work carried out by the students, but only providing it meets the requirements of their qualification.

“As part of our conditions of recognition, all awarding organisations are required to make sure that their training providers are delivering their qualifications properly, including all assessments being carried out in accordance with the requirements.”

NCFE and Cache declined to comment.