Details of long-awaited new English for Speakers of Other Languages (Esol) qualifications due to run from next month have been finalised, FE Week can exclusively reveal.

Awarding organisations (AOs) including NOCN and City & Guilds have agreed their latest Skills for Life (SfL) offers with Ofqual.

The quals have been under development since February last year when the Skills Funding Agency set out the principles to shape the future of SfL Esol.

A number of AOs, including Ascentis and Cambridge English Language Assessment, have been working with NOCN to produce a suite of qualifications, ranging from six (reading), nine (writing) and 12 (speaking & listening) credits, to the full certificate of all three at 27 credits.

City & Guilds developed its new suite independently and has come up with a slightly different version, with quals in reading, writing and speaking & listening ranging from nine to 12 credits and the combined certificate of all three ranging from 29 to 34 credits.

The new qualifications had been due last month at which point the SFA was expected to cease funding for the old quals.

However, it said in May that it would fund both old and new Esol SfL qualifications until January, with “existing” Esol SfL quals funded in 2014/15 at the 2013/14 rates.

Graham Hasting-Evans, NOCN managing director, told FE Week: “Our new Esol SfL awards are six credits for reading, nine for writing and 12 for speaking & listening, and there is a combined certificate-sized qualification of 27 credits.

“These qualifications will allow providers greater flexibility in providing smaller qualifications for each of the components of Esol rather than just speaking & listening, while still allowing accreditation for the full Esol curriculum at a specific level.

“The sizes of the qualifications were agreed by the group of awarding organisations which worked together to develop the new qualifications following consultation with providers and other interested parties. Each credit has 10 guided learning hours attached, regardless of the level of the qualification.”

The other AOs working with NOCN were EMD (Qualifications) Ltd, English Speaking Board (International) Ltd, Pearson Education Ltd and Trinity College London.

“We sought advice from the SFA regarding whether funding will continue to be in place until the end of December 2014 for the current NQF qualifications now that all our QCF qualifications are approved by Ofqual,” said Mr Hasting-Evans.

“The SFA confirmed that funding will be available for both suites up to the end of December, although it stated that it ‘would expect providers to switch to the QCF versions as soon as they are able’.

“Therefore, NOCN will allow registrations until the end of December on the ‘old’ NQF qualifications, while also allowing access to the ‘new’ QCF versions if centres wish to start using the qualifications.”

A spokesperson for City & Guilds said: “Our new suite of Esol Skills for Life qualifications will be launching on September 1 to anyone based in the UK who wants to improve their understanding and use of written and spoken English.

“It will include single-unit awards in reading, writing and speaking & listening, as well as a full-mode certificate, combining the three units.

“The qualifications vary slightly in size, depending on the level the individual is taking. All of the single-unit awards range from nine to 12 credits, whereas the full-mode certificates range from 29 to 34 credits.

“To ensure the transition is as smooth as possible, centres currently approved for the old (NQF-based) Esol Skills for Life suite will be given automatic approval for the new qualifications.”

She added: “We are allowing dual registration up to the end of December — the older qualifications have been extended until December and so will also be available alongside the new ones.”


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