No more funding for qualifications, warns SFA

Providers and employers could be set to lose funding for qualifications in a clampdown on awarding organisations that don’t register to an official learner record service.

The Skills Funding Agency wants all Ofqual-recognised awarding organisations to sign the Personal Learning Record (PLR) Awarding Organisation Agreement.

It told them all in September last year they had to sign up, and has now published a list of those yet to do so.

Going forward, we will continue to keep the issue of signing up to the PLR under review.”

The agency warned that if awarding organisations didn’t sign, funding for their qualifications “will cease from August 1”.

The situation would mean there was no agency cash for providers and employers in offering the qualifications of awarding organisations that hadn’t signed.

A statement on the agency website said: “On September 28, 2012, the chief executive of Skills Funding wrote to colleges and training organisations to advise them about the implementation of the PLR.

“This confirmed that Ofqual-recognised awarding organisations that had not signed the PLR Awarding Organisation Agreement and begun to upload achievement data would cease to be funded for new starts on their qualifications with effect from August 1, 2013.”

The PLR, managed by the Learning Records Service, launched in 2008 and enables the sharing of learner and achievement data across the education and skills sector.

The agency said 136 awarding bodies had met the requirement to be on the system by November last year.

But more than 100 qualifications — of those listed in the SFA’s spreadsheet entitled QCF Qualifications confirmed for public funding as part of the single adult skills budget (2012/13) — were identified by FE Week as at risk.

These were run by the 14 awarding bodies the agency named as yet to sign the PLR agreement.

They included the Chartered Insurance Institute (CII), WSET (Wine and Spirit Education) Awards and the Institute of Commercial Management (ICM).

A spokesperson for CII, whose qualifications include a level three certificate in equity release and a level four diploma in regulated financial planning, said: “The vast majority of our students do not fit the standard model of being on FE courses with training providers drawing down government funding.

“Going forward, we will continue to keep the issue of signing up to the PLR under review.”

Nobody from WSET Awards, whose qualifications include a level one award in spirits and a level three award in wines and spirits, was available for comment.

A spokesperson for ICM said: “The majority of our 700-plus approved centres are overseas with less than 10 per cent of centres based in the UK.

“The process of gaining recognition of our courses also involves gaining external support from the university sector rather than from the more traditional sources, for example from Sector Skills Councils.

“And our understanding is that the majority of funding is now available at the lower levels — predominantly levels one and two — and ICM offers the majority of our qualifications at levels four and above.”