More debate is needed about the future of the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) in the face of plans by Ofqual to abolish it, says Graham Hasting-Evans.

we agree that change is necessary, but reliance on the General Conditions of Recognition (GCoR) as a replacement for an employer-recognised framework is inadequate to meet the needs of our economy and will, in our view, undermine public confidence.

We believe what’s needed is a robust and consistent national qualifications framework for England, in effect an ‘ENQF’ (or revised QCF) for all vocational qualifications, including apprenticeships, which has the support of employers from all sectors of the economy.

Employers we’ve spoken with were completely unaware of these proposals. Employers, employees and also learners looking for employment, are the real ‘clients’ and therefore must have an input in any changes.

The case to withdraw the QCF is not evidenced by Ofqual’s research and appears to misunderstand the QCF in several places

Employers have told us they want a robust national framework that they, their employees and learners can have confidence in. They don’t see or understand the relevance of using the GCoR, or its place in apprenticeships.

Reliance solely on the GCoR could mean multiple ‘Qualification Frameworks’, which will further confuse and bewilder employers, employees, learners and training providers and result in a lack of confidence.

Employers value unit learning, as do learners, who have difficulty with or cannot commit the time for large qualifications. The consultation fails to understand the value of unit/modular/credit learning from the ‘real’ client’s point of view.

Further concern is that the QCF proposals and the guided learning hours (GLH) proposals for 16 to 17-years-olds don’t provide clear measurement for the size of qualification that covers all age groups — despite the fact that many essential qualifications such as employability skills, including literacy and numeracy, cover a wide age range from school aged learners to adults.

The current ‘common measure’ of the size of a qualification is taken as ‘credit’ and used for adult funding. With some awarding organisations electing to stay with ‘credit’ and others not, it’s unclear what will happen to adult funding if ‘credit’ is no longer the universal common measure. GLH proposals only cover 16 to 17-year-olds and don’t give a comprehensive answer for all age groups.

A common measure is an essential component of a national framework. An agreed ‘size’ of qualifications and units/modules which can be applied regardless of whether they’re delivered by traditional classroom techniques or by e-learning is what’s needed.

We believe the case to withdraw the QCF is not evidenced by Ofqual’s research and appears to misunderstand the QCF in several places.

For example, there’s no evidence to show that the large number of qualifications on the QCF is due to the design. In our view, this problem stems from the large number of awarding organisations recognised by Ofqual.

There are international concerns too. Many developed and developing countries have established or are establishing their ‘NQF’ based on many of the current UK principles. The changes will mean we’ll be out of step with many other major economies.

UK learner qualifications may not be recognised outside the UK, which could have a detrimental effect on people with UK qualifications just when they’re trying to compete internationally for jobs. It would also be a major step backwards and potentially discredit the UK’s technical and vocational education and training (TVet) system and qualifications.

The lack of a UK framework could disadvantage UK awarding organisations in bidding for international work. Without an ‘ENQF’/revised ‘QCF’, other countries could consider that the UK system is ‘second rate’, therefore undermining the UK government’s aim of encouraging UK awarding organisations to work internationally.

Under Europe’s EQF the UK has an obligation to be able to relate its national qualification framework to the EQF structure. It’s not clear in the proposals how Ofqual intends this to work, nor if the proposals in fact contravene the UK’s treaty obligations.

What is clear is that a full debate is needed with employers, across all sectors, employees and learners on what is the best way forward.