The Department for Education (DfE) has made some announcements about the funding of pre-existing (QCF) qualifications. These flow from the Review of Qualifications at Level 3 and below and do not come as a big surprise. They have also agreed arrangements for those students who need to ‘top up’ from smaller QCF qualifications to larger ones.
1. Removal of funding approval from 1 August 2020 for pre-existing (QCF) qualifications paired with a redeveloped (RQF) qualification:
In the first stage consultation on the Review of post-16 Qualifications at level 3 and below, the DfE confirmed that funding approval would be removed from older, pre-existing (QCF) qualifications where there is an equivalent redeveloped (RQF) qualification in 2020 performance tables. Ministers have agreed these plans and published a list of pre-existing qualifications from which they will withdraw funding from August 2020 for new starters. This announcement only affects those QCF qualifications where reformed (RQF) versions have been developed.
Existing students enrolled on pre-existing qualifications will be funded through to completion. This applies to 16-19 funding, the level 3 legal entitlement in the devolved and national adult education budget, advanced learner loans and the European Social Fund.
2. ‘Nested’ pre-existing qualifications:
AoC has raised the issue of removing funding where smaller qualifications are nested within larger qualifications. Under this ‘nested’ model, students can enrol on a smaller qualification first, then ‘top-up’ to a larger qualification within the same suite the following year. Our concern was that for pre-existing qualifications, a student would no longer be able to transfer in their second year because funding approval would, by that stage, have been removed from the larger qualification.
DfE has decided that rather than ‘topping up’ the small nested qualification with the larger qualification, the ESFA should put in place the option for those students who need to, to ‘step down’ from the larger qualification to the smaller qualification. This means that colleges who wish to use this facility should enrol all those students who need the option of taking larger qualification over 2 years on the larger qualification from the start of the course but with the reassurance that they can ‘step down’ and achieve the smaller qualification if they wish to. The ESFA will issue further guidance on this process in August.
AoC welcomes the fact that arrangements have been put in place to ensure the final cohort of students on these qualifications have the same options as previous cohorts.
3. Moratorium on approving new qualifications at level 3 and below for funding:
In the first stage consultation, DfE also set out its intention to introduce a moratorium on approving any new post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below for funding during the review . They have confirmed today that the moratorium will take effect from September 2020. The last opportunity for awarding organisations to submit qualifications for funding approval will be 1 September 2020.
The aim is to stabilise the qualifications offer in advance of further reform. Some qualifications will be exempt from the moratorium, such as GCSEs and A Levels, and there will be exceptions to this process where awarding organisations need to update existing qualifications. DfE will be issuing detailed guidance in September.
4. Support and information:
Questions about the student transfer process can be addressed to DfE at Qualifications.ESFA@education.gov.uk
Questions about pre-existing qualifications can be addressed to DfE at Technical.EDUCATION@education.gov.uk
AoC can provide advice to member colleges in managing these changes and will produce some FAQs once the technical guidance is published.