Nearly 1 million certificates were awarded in 2017 Q4, a decrease of 1.6% on the same quarter of 2016.
The decline is mostly due to a decrease in the number of certificates in QCF and functional skills. This decrease has been offset by the large increase in the number of certificates in vocationally-related qualifications and occupational qualifications.
The general decline in the number of certificates may be caused by a tightening in the availability of funding. This is notable at level 2 qualifications. Some of this decline has been offset by the large increase in the number of certificates in level 3 qualifications. This change could be driven by changes in the performance tables as Applied General qualifications (Level 3) grow in popularity.
The decline in the number of certificates in functional skills is likely due to the changes in funding rules by the Education and Skills Funding Agency and revised guidance from the Department for Education that post-16 students who have a grade D or grade 3 in English or maths must now be entered for GCSE resits rather than Functional Skills. In addition, colleges are also incentivised to enter students with grade E for GCSE as they gain more credit for distance travelled by improving a GCSE grade than for functional skills attainment.
Large increases in the number of certificates were seen in occupational qualifications (224%) and vocationally-related qualifications (168%). This is likely caused by awarding organisations re-assigning the qualification type of QCF qualifications to occupational qualifications or vocationally-related qualification. Following the closure of the QCF unit bank and introduction of the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), Ofqual decided that inclusion of the term ‘QCF’ in qualification titles after 31 December 2017 would be an indicator of non-compliance with Ofqual’s titling rules. As well as amending qualification titles, awarding organisations are therefore likely to be re-assigning the qualification type. A concession to the inclusion of the term ‘QCF’ has been given to Applied General qualifications that have similar titles but differing assessment (pre-existing and newly introduced with 40% assessment) allowing differentiation between them.
The sector subject areas with notable increase in the number of certificates were health, public services and care, and construction, planning and the built environment.
The sector subject areas with notable decrease in the number of certificates were information and communication technology, and retail and commercial enterprise.
The qualification with the highest number of certificates this quarter was ‘QA Level 3 Award in Emergency First Aid at Work (RQF)’, followed by ‘TCL Entry Level Certificate in ESOL International - Speaking and Listening (Entry 3)’ and ‘FAA Level 3 Award in Emergency First Aid at Work’.