Ofqual has confirmed it is to remove the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) rules.

The decision was confirmed today following a 12-week consultation and earlier review of the rules.

The change is part of the qualification watchdog’s wider plans to “strengthen” vocational qualifications in England and Northern Ireland.

The removal of the QCF rules, along with its bank of shared units, will begin from summer next year, following further consultation on technical details.

Jeremy Benson, pictured, Ofqual’s executive director for vocational qualifications, said: “We put the quality of qualifications above all else. The QCF ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach just isn’t right for every qualification.

“When we lift the QCF rules, good qualifications that meet those rules can stay, we will expect invalid qualifications to be redeveloped or withdrawn.

“Ending shared units will also mean that awarding bodies take clear and sole responsibility for the quality of every single part of their qualifications.

“Vocational qualifications have an important role to play in strengthening skills and supporting economic growth.

“Removing the QCF rules means that awarding bodies will be able to design qualifications that meet better the needs of employers and respond more effectively to innovations in professional practice.

“We have listened to feedback from our consultation and won’t be introducing any changes immediately.

“Over the next few months we will be working closely with awarding organisations, government bodies and others, to enable a smooth transition that minimises impact.”

Nigel Whitehead, commissioner for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills (UKCES) and managing director of BAE Systems, reviewed vocational qualifications for the government in 2013 and said he supported the changes.

He said: “Qualifications must be high quality, flexible and responsive to employer needs. My review found that the QCF rules have been responsible for a rigid tick-box approach to assessment. Rules on unit-sharing have reduced employer involvement and sector expertise in qualifications.

“I am fully supportive of Ofqual’s new approach to regulating vocational qualifications, which puts employer involvement at its heart.

“The UKCES and Ofqual are working together to put in place the conditions that allow employers to take an effective and directive role at the centre of the vocational qualifications system.”

Stephen Wright, Federation  of Awarding Bodies chief executive, said: “[It is] difficult to comment until the statement is released, but we would hope that Ofqual has listened to the clear messages from the awarding sector about keeping the elements of the QCF that work well, not least the QCF name which we have been communicating to employers and other key groups for four years.

“[The name] is just starting to gain some recognition, also the size descriptors award, certificate and diploma were difficult to introduce, but we are through the pain and they bring clarity to the qualification structure.

“Freeing up the framework may provide an opportunity to revisit one of the original objectives of creating an overarching framework for all qualifications, including national awards.”

Charlotte Bosworth, OCR director of skills and employment, said: “We welcome the proposal to withdraw the regulatory arrangements for the QCF and to regulate using only the general conditions of recognition.

“However, during the implementation of the changes we must not lose sight of what is really important – preparing young people for further study and the world of work and helping them reach their potential. We must manage the changes carefully so that we do not jeopardise comparability.”

Graham Hasting-Evans, NOCN managing director, said: “Ofqual’s announcement was expected. What we now need to focus on is establishing an ENQF which is internationally recognised and includes apprenticeships, higher apprenticeship, GSCEs, A Level and degrees all in a single framework.”

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  1. “Ofqual’s announcement was expected. What we now need to focus on is establishing an ENQF which is internationally recognised and includes Apprenticeships, Higher Apprenticeship, GSCEs, A Level and Degrees all in a single framework”
    Graham Hasting-Evans, Managing Director, NOCN

  2. Winston Scotland

    Mr Hastings-Evans is correct when he calls this an expected outcome. In my capacity as curriculum manager for English and Maths for adults, the QCFs have not proven to be the solution to the increasingly perplexing conundrum for bridging the achievement gap between level 1 and level 2 functional skills. Instead, in their current form, these new awards have brought disappointingly low returns for such a broad level of investment from across our organisation.

    Of course, our team weren’t entirely naïve: it was clear in advance to delivering to these qualification aims that we would face challenges with the loss of time for learning, due to increased testing, and the additional administrative duties for business support staff as well as for teachers. However, in planning around funding restrictions, we saw no viable alternatives for giving our students the contact time they needed to benefit from quality provision with genuine opportunity for progression. In this respect, there can be no regrets where efforts to preserve our strategic values are concerned. In spite of the many unwanted outcomes, we felt we had to continue QCF provision beyond its inaugural year in order to draw some benefit through continuity. The stability we had thereby envisaged could not be established, however, as further changes around funding regulations arrived after course files for the new academic year were written.

    We fully understand the sentiments behind Ofqual’s announcement and wait with eager anticipation to learn what new regulations arrive as a consequence. Crucially, we hope that in future there will be serious and informed consideration for the time needed to realistically adjust to such changes without severe compromise to our students’ experience on their journey to success.

  3. Mike Farmer

    I always thought that the QCF was a solution looking for a problem. Where was the evidence that students and/or their employers were crying out for a pick ‘n’ mix approach to qualifications, by taking credits from different awarding bodies? It was also costly to develop and maintain, for the old QCA and for Ofqual which, reluctantly, inheritied it, and also for awarding bodies. I went on public record in a letter to the TES in May 2010 arguing for its abolition (and got roundly condemned in some quarters for saying so!). Ofqual got it right when it stated in the consultation that the fundamental problem was that the QCF is normative, as opposed to the HE frameworks which are descriptive. There is now an opportunity for England to emulate Scotland, N Ireland and Wales, and develop a comprehensive and descriptive framework covering FE and HE. Such a single framework could retain some of the useful features of the QCF, including credit, level, size descriptors. It would also provide an opportunity to move away from the narrow concept of qualification descriptors in the current FHEQ (in England) to the broader concept of level descriptors, which was one of the (few) aspects of the QCF that was better than the FHEQ.

  4. I don’t think we need any more frameworks we have had so many sea changes since 2000 it is unbelievable remember them anybody? What we need is good quality courses that actually deliver what they say on the tin not just to satisfy those organisations that would like to control qualifications for profits sake. Can we start to offer good quality courses that deliver for our young people for a change that allow them to realise a vocation not just make college directors richer?

  5. Brian Kanengoni

    This is good news. I totally agree with Graham Hasting-Evans. Whatever any new tinkering should reflect an international perspective. We are increasing dealing with a global market for QCF qualifications. I am glad Ofqual has ceded there were issues with the rules of combination for some courses.

  6. Gill Macdonald

    It was unfortunate that the implementation of the QCF was not supported by information about the practicalities of providing for students presenting a variety of non-accredited and part-accredited evidence towards funded qualifications. Where was the quality assurance in all of this?