City & Guilds leaves flagship free digital skills scheme

City & Guilds confirms it has switched focus from essential digital skills qualifications to functional digital skills instead

City & Guilds confirms it has switched focus from essential digital skills qualifications to functional digital skills instead

Another awarding body has pulled out of a flagship government programme to help adults develop key digital skills. 

City & Guilds has confirmed it has stopped pursuing work to deliver entry level and level 1 essential digital skills qualifications (EDSQs) – fully-funded qualifications for adults with no or low-level digital skills. 

That is despite having completed most of the work needed – it reached stage four of five, which is resubmission to Ofqual for technical evaluation – in November last year. 

The organisation confirmed it has now switched focus to developing the revamped digital functional skills qualification, from 2023 onwards.  

A spokesperson said: “This decision was based on the announcement from the Department for Education and Ofqual that the reform of functional skills ICT qualifications has commenced. 

“City & Guilds will be focusing on the new digital functional skills qualifications [DFSQs], to be launched in August 2023.” The spokesperson refused to say why digital functional skills were more preferable. 

However, a number accredited for EDSQs have confirmed they plan to deliver both qualifications, including BCS, Gateway Qualifications, OCN London and NOCN. 

EDSQs endured a difficult birth because of Covid-19 disruption and delays in awarding organisations securing the green light from Ofqual. In fact, several awarding bodies opted to walk away from the process or failed to gain approval for accreditation, while others faced delays. 

Despite the slow start, awarding bodies which did secure accreditation have said take-up is improving. 

Ofqual data indicated there had been just under 6,000 certificates issued in the 12 months to the end of quarter one in 2022. 

Gateway Qualifications launched EDSQs in September 2020. A spokesperson said: “We had an understandably slow start, with just 270 registrations in 2020/21. But, in 2021/22 we had substantially increased the number to more than 10,000 registrations. 

“Based on the feedback we’ve had from our centres, we’d say a resounding ‘yes’ they have been positively received. The growth in centre take-up speaks volumes – there are now 146 centres across the country that have registered EDSQ learners with Gateway Qualifications.” 

OCN London said it has had 5,435 students registered since August 2021, with chief executive Carlos Cubillo-Barsi saying that “interest in the qualification appears to be growing”. 

But NOCN said it had seen relatively low numbers, likely due to centres struggling to recruit learners. It also warned that there is a danger DFSQs will displace learners undertaking EDSQs. 

“The major issue with EDSQ and digital FSQs is that they are both derived from the same standards so they will actually be relatively similar qualifications,” a spokesperson said. 

“We originally intended to offer a much more flexible qualification in EDSQs but the DfE and Ofqual requirements prevented this.” 

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