SFA to fund non-QCF quals as Ofqual begins to remove controversial framework

The Skills Funding Agency (SFA) has announced it will fund courses which do not fit with the qualifications and credit framework (QCF) as regulator Ofqual begins to dismantle the controversial system.

In guidance issued to awarding organisations, which have welcomed the move to change “bureaucratic” rules, the Agency said its new system would be “framework neutral”.

It comes after Ofqual decided to scrap the QCF following a consultation on its future. It will be removed from this summer.

In its guidance, the SFA said: “Business rules are now ‘framework neutral’.

“We have removed our rule that we will only consider QCF qualifications outside of automatic approvals. This means we will accept submissions for QCF and non-QCF qualifications.”

OCR head of FE policy Gemma Gathercole said: “We were very pleased to see that SFA had dropped the requirement for qualifications to be on the QCF in order to gain adult funding.

“It has been an anomaly for too long that GCSEs, A Levels and Functional Skills qualifications have been able to be funded outside the QCF, but other valuable qualifications have been excluded for a bureaucratic rule.

“We believe that all learners should have access to qualifications that would help them progress in learning or into work. The QCF is a well-meaning but ill-conceived project which has not always served learners well or delivered the skills and competences that businesses need.”

A spokesperson for NCFE said: “The changes have been in the pipeline for a while and it’s good to see some progress so we can move our qualification development in the right direction.

“We’re currently analysing the impact of these new rules on the future of public funding for adult learners, of which the ‘framework neutral’ business rules is just one part.

“Employability and getting learners into work is and always has been high on our agenda so the business rules of size, purpose and recognition will really help qualification development be steered in that direction across all Awarding Organisations which will hopefully, in the long term, be what’s best for the learner and getting more people into employment.”

Chris Kirk, director of products and services at City & Guilds, said: “We fully welcome the review of the QCF. For some time, we have spoken openly about how the current QCF rules do not always support the development of the highest-quality vocational qualifications.

“In too many areas it is too restrictive, making it difficult to design relevant and rigorous qualifications and assessment strategies that really meet the needs of employers – and of course the needs of individual learners and those delivering the training.

“At the same time, it’s vital that we maintain unitised flexibility where needed – but with a simple and consistent naming and branding that learners and employers can understand. Not being forced to adhere to one, single, strict framework is a step forward, but more needs to be done around qualification naming if vocational education is to get the appreciation it deserves.”