Guidance

Section 96 - Qualifications

Section 96 gives the Secretary of State the power to approve qualifications for delivery to young people aged less than 19 years old.

Introduction

We are currently upgrading the section 96 website. In the interim, the section 96 website content will be available to access here on GOV.UK including links to approved and archived section 96 qualification downloads.

Unfortunately, GOV.UK does not support the individual qualification search function and so the downloads of approved and archived section 96 qualifications will need to be used in the short time. The downloads will continue to be updated on a monthly basis in line with our published section 96 approval timelines.

Overview of section 96

Section 96 is a section of the Learning and Skills Act 2000. It gives the Secretary of State the power to approve qualifications for delivery to young people aged less than 19 years old.

Public funding is considered for qualifications which have been section 96 approved. For some funded institutions, such as maintained schools and academies, section 96 approval is required for the delivery of qualifications to young people.

Each qualification is approved in accordance with its suitability to be delivered to students in the following age categories:

  • Pre - 16
  • 16 to 18
  • 18+

To determine whether or not a qualification has gained section 96 approval you can download full lists of approved and archived section 96 qualifications.

Qualifications and courses in funded institutions.

For an external qualification to be eligible for funding by an authorised body, or for it to be delivered by or delivered on behalf of a maintained school or academy it must be approved on section 96.

However, individual academies may in exceptional circumstances, under the terms of the model funding agreement, seek the specific written approval of the Secretary of State to offer a course leading to a qualification without section 96 approval.

A funded institution can teach a course that is not on section 96, if it does not lead to a qualification. Section 96 only applies to courses that lead to a qualification and does not cover courses that lead to more informal certificates, such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award, or provision that is not certificated.

Section 96 qualification downloads

The section 96 downloads are updated on a monthly basis.

Section 96 approved qualifications are identified on 2 separate downloadable lists;

  • section 96 approved qualifications
  • section 96 archived qualifications

The section 96 approved qualification list shows qualifications currently approved on section 96 and available for delivery to young people.

The section 96 archived qualification list shows qualifications that have previously been approved on section 96, but have now passed their section 96 archive date and so are no longer available for delivery to under 19 year olds.

Section 96 approved qualifications downloads

The section 96 qualification data is available for download in a variety of formats. Please note that the section 96 approved qualifications download in Excel and Pipe delimited formats contain identical section 96 approved qualification data.

Select the file you require from the links below:

Section 96 approved qualification download - Pipe delimited format

(Suitable for Windows)

You may find it helpful to print this page in order to refer to as you open and view data in the Excel worksheet.

To download the approved qualifications Pipe delimited file, right click on the link below and choose the “Save Link as” option.

Section 96 approved qualification download - Pipe delimited format

Instructions on loading the Pipe delimited data into an Excel worksheet

To open the data file in Excel, you will need to open a new Excel workbook and then follow these instructions:

  1. Open Excel
  2. Choose File - Open
  3. Where it states list files of type, select All Files
  4. Click on the section 96 text file, and then press OK
  5. The next screen is an import wizard, and you must ensure that delimited and my data has headers is selected from the options before continuing
  6. Click Next> to continue
  7. In step 2 of the wizard you need to select the following settings: * delimiters: Select only Other * text qualifier: {none} * in the box next to the “other” category enter the character I “bar” (hold down the shift key on your keyboard and press the \ key to get the “bar” character)
  8. Click Next>
  9. Click Finish to continue
  10. Save as an Excel File

Section 96 approved qualification download - Excel format

(Suitable for Windows and Mac platforms)

Section 96 approved qualification download - Excel format

Section 96 approved download - excel

This file is in an OpenDocument format

Section 96 archived qualifications downloads

(Suitable for Windows and Mac CSV viewer app)

Please refer to the “Instructions on loading the pipe delimited data into an Excel worksheet” above.

Section 96 archived qualification download - CSV format

Section 96 archived qualification download - CSV format

Section 96 archived qualification download - Excel format

(Suitable for Windows and Mac platforms)

Section 96 archived qualification download - Excel format

Section 96 archived download - excel

This file is in an OpenDocument format

If you have any queries regarding section 96, please email us at section96.mailbox@education.gov.uk

The process for approving qualifications under section 96

To avoid asking awarding organisations for the same data twice, the data entered into Ofqual’s Portal system is shared with other systems used by the government and its funding agencies.

The Department of Education (DfE) and Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA), only use The Portal data to identify qualifications which are seeking section 96 approval or ESFA 16 to 19 funding validity. The Portal data is also the only source of data used to identify changes to current qualifications that are already section 96 approved or that have ESFA 16 to 19 funding validity.

Regulated awarding organisations should ensure that the following key fields are completed in The Portal:

  • offered in England
  • funding in England
  • operational end date (or in the absence of an operational end date the review date)

This information informs the DfE and the ESFA:

  • that a qualification is intending to be delivered in England
  • that a qualification is seeking section 96 approval and 16 to 19 public funding
  • the operational duration for a qualification

Awarding organisations should also make sure that the age category and links to specification fields are correctly completed, so that section 96 approval and funding validity are considered for the appropriate ages.

Qualifications are considered for section 96 approval against a set of core approval principles. Where a qualification fails to meet one or more of the principles it will not gain section 96 approval.

A list of section 96 approved qualifications is available to download.

Summary of the section 96 approval process

  • regulated awarding organisations use Ofqual’s The Portal system to submit or amend qualification data to Ofqual. When Ofqual regulate a qualification they give it a qualification number
  • on the last Tuesday of each month, the DfE gets a copy of Ofqual’s The Portal data. This covers both newly regulated and amended qualifications. It does not include qualifications regulated by Ofqual on the last Tuesday of each month; these are included in the following month’s data
  • using the monthly Portal data the DfE use the section 96 core approval principles to assess the suitability of each qualification to be delivered to students in the following age categories:

    • Pre-16
    • 16 to 18
    • 18+
  • once the section 96 approval process is completed, the section 96 website is updated with new approved qualifications and amendments to existing section 96 qualification data. The section 96 website also displays the approved section 96 age categories for a qualification
  • the section 96 approved qualifications are then published on the Learning Aim Reference Service (LARS)

Section 96 process timescales

The section 96 approval process is currently completed on a monthly basis, which begins on the last Tuesday of each month when the DfE gets a copy of Ofqual’s The Portal data. As a cut of The Portal data is taken once a month, the date at which a qualification is submitted or amended in The Portal will impact on the overall time taken for a qualification to complete the section 96 approval process.

The DfE complete the section 96 approval process within ten working days of receiving the Ofqual The Portal data. It can therefore take up to 7 weeks from the submission of a qualification for Ofqual regulation to the publishing of section 96 approval data on the section 96 website.

Further information on the complete process for seeking public funding for qualifications to be delivered by young people in England can be found on GOV.UK. This detailed guidance page provides full details of the process as well as timescales and information on the key organisation involved.

Section 96 withdrawal of qualifications

Section 96 approval of qualifications does not automatically expire on a given date. Once granted, approval is open-ended.

The Secretary of State may, at any time, revoke section 96 approval of a qualification, whether or not a review date is set. This may happen if:

  • the awarding organisation requests it
  • the qualification no longer meets one or more of the principles which originally set out suitability for approval (for example it is no longer regulated by Ofqual)

Where a qualification is withdrawn from approval, the section 96 archive date will be set to reflect this and so will not replicate the operational end date in The Portal. The withdrawn qualification will then appear on the section 96 archive download of qualifications. Ofqual and the awarding organisation will be notified of any withdrawn qualifications.

Students may be registered for a qualification at any time between the section 96 approval start date and the section 96 archive date. Any student registered for the qualification at the archive date may complete their qualification up to the certification end date, even if that qualification has been withdrawn.

Understanding qualification dates

The date information recorded in The Portal reflects a qualification’s current status. It is also used to determine the section 96 approval dates and the 16 to 19 funding validity for a qualification.

When a qualification reaches its operational end date, it is still approved by the Secretary of State, but it is removed from the section 96 approved download. The qualification is then listed on the section 96 archive download until a future operational end date or review date is in place.

Awarding organisations are responsible for maintaining date information for a qualification. Any changes to the status of a qualification should be promptly resubmitted to Ofqual through The Portal. This will ensure that timely amendments are made to the section 96 approval and 16 to 19 funding validity dates.

Operational end and review dates

A qualification’s operational end date as recorded in The Portal informs:

In the absence of an operational end date, The Portal review date will populate the section 96 archive date and the corresponding ‘16 to 19 last date for new starts’ field.

When a qualification reaches its section 96 archive date, although the qualification remains approved by the Secretary of State it is automatically removed from the section 96 approved list and added to the section 96 archive list until a new The Portal operational end date or review date is in place.

The 16 to 19 last date for new starts field in LARS indicates the last date at which a student can be recorded as starting a qualification and be eligible for ESFA 16 to 19 funding.

Certification end dates

A qualification’s certification end date in The Portal informs:

  • the section 96 certification end date
  • the 16 to 19 end date field populated in LARS

The 16 to 19 end date indicates the last date that a qualification is eligible for ESFA 16 to 19 funding.

A student registered for a qualification by the section 96 archive date may complete their qualification up to the certification end date, even if that qualification is on the section 96 archive download.

Likewise, a student registered for a qualification by the ESFA 16 to 19 last date for new starts may complete their qualification and be eligible for funding up to the ESFA 16 to 19 effective end date.

If an awarding organisation has not inserted a review date or certification end date for a qualification on The Portal, when the qualification is added to section 96 a default date of 31 December 2099 will be inserted in the review date or certification end date field.

Summary of the relationship between the date fields in The Portal, section 96 and LARS

The Portal Section 96 LARS for ESFA funding validity
Operational end date Archive date 16 to 19 last date for new starts
Review date (in the absence of an operational end date) Archive date 16 to 19 last date for new starts
Certification end date Certification end date 16 to 19 end date

Section 96 withdrawal of qualifications

Section 96 approval of qualifications does not automatically expire on a given date. Once granted, approval is open-ended.

The Secretary of State may at any time, revoke section 96 approval of a qualification. This may happen if:

  • the awarding organisation requests it
  • the qualification no longer meets one or more of the principles which originally set out suitability for approval (for example it is no longer regulated by Ofqual)

If the section 96 approval for a qualification is withdrawn, then the section 96 archive date will be amended to reflect the withdrawal date and may not replicate the operational end date in The Portal. The withdrawn qualification will then appear on the section 96 archive download of qualifications. Ofqual and the awarding organisation will be notified of any withdrawn qualifications.

Students may be registered for a qualification at any time between the section 96 approval start date and the section 96 archive date. Any student registered for the qualification at the archive date may complete their qualification up to the certification end date, even if that qualification has been withdrawn.

Section 96 core approval principles

Qualifications are considered for section 96 approval against a set of core approval principles.

Where a qualification fails to meet one or more of the principles it will not be approved and the awarding organisation will be notified with a brief explanation.

The section 96 approved qualification download contain all qualifications that have gained section 96 approval and can be used to identify the approved age categories for a qualification.

Please direct any queries regarding the section 96 core approval principles, or non-approved section 96 qualifications to section96.mailbox@education.gov.uk.

Approval Principle Common Principles
External qualification Qualifications must be classed as an external qualification. An external qualification is one that is externally awarded or authenticated. An external qualification does not include: a) National Curriculum assessment and testing arrangements required by law at Key Stage 1, 2 and 3 b) a record of achievement c) an employer’s report of work experience d) community service or business related awards such as Duke of Edinburgh’s Award e) any certificate awarded in a competition, competitive festival or quiz
Prior regulation by a regulated body Qualifications must be regulated by Ofqual to ensure that they: a) meet high quality standards b) are designed to meet the purpose intended c) support a need, purpose or programme identified for its participants d) enable progression to other qualifications within the same or different pathways, to other further study or to sustainable employment f) are provided by an awarding organisation which has demonstrated the capability to apply criteria contained in the regulatory authorities Common Code of Practice
Funding Qualifications considered to be an employer’s statutory obligation or an employer specific qualification are unlikely to gain section 96 approval. This includes qualifications that are funded by other Government Departments such as the armed forces.
Approval Principle Principles for Pre-16 approved qualifications Principles for 16-18 approved qualifications Principles for 18+ approved qualifications
Level Qualifications are at Entry level, Level 1 or Level 2 or exceptionally at Level 3. Qualifications up to and including Level 5. Qualifications up to and including Level 6.
Level N/A Excluding level 3 qualifications that exclusively or mainly focus on personal skills such as; career planning, employment and work skills, learning skills, team working, communication, self-improvement or self-confidence. Excluding level 3 qualifications that exclusively or mainly focus on personal skills such as; career planning, employment and work skills, learning skills, team working, communication, self-improvement or self-confidence.
Level The only exceptions are Performing Arts qualifications that require a student to access different levels in line with their current ability. The only exceptions are Performing Arts qualifications that require a student to access different levels in line with their current ability. The only exceptions are Performing Arts qualifications that require a student to access different levels in line with their current ability.
Supports broadening and developmental opportunities Any qualification that accesses a broad range of knowledge and skills and is designed for more than one profession. Any qualification that offers complementary, broadening or developmental opportunities at any level or leads to sustainable employment with a range of employers within a particular sector. Any qualification that offers complementary, broadening or developmental opportunities at any level or leads to sustainable employment with a range of employers within a particular sector.
Suitability for age category Any qualification approved will be required to be suitable for pre-16 year olds taking into account their; a) maturity b) well-being c) any health and safety requirements Any qualification approved will be required to be suitable for 16-18 year olds predominately taking into consideration health and safety requirements. Any qualification will be approved on the understanding that awarding organisations, sector skills councils and Ofqual have ensured health and safety and legal requirements are deemed appropriate for students aged 18 and above.
Legality Any qualification approved must not contain an activity that is unlawful for the age group. Any qualification approved must not contain an activity that is unlawful for the age group. Any qualification approved must not contain an activity that is unlawful for the age group.

Additional information and key contacts

Key Stage 4 performance tables

Section 96 approval is not an indication of whether or not a qualification will be included in the Key Stage 4 performance tables. While schools are free to offer any qualification approved under section 96 for the relevant age group, Key Stage 4 performance tables will be restricted to qualifications that for the majority of young people:

  • are rigorous
  • are high quality
  • enable progression to a wide range of employment and further study opportunities

Further information about the process for considering qualifications for inclusion in performance tables can be found on GOV.UK. Any queries relating to Key Stage 4 performance tables should be sent to the DfE via an online form.

School census and QAN codes

If you require any information about qualifications and the school census then you can view the DfE school census webpages or you can contact the Data Collection Helpdesk service via the service request form.

If you wish to find the correct QAN number for a qualification then you can search for this on the DfE QAN website.

16 to 19 funding validity

The ESFA manage funding to support all state-provided education for young people.

The ESFA provide guidance on what provision is eligible for inclusion within an 16 to 19 funded study programme. A full list of eligibility criteria can be found within the ESFA Funding Regulation guidance for young people (section 4, study programme eligibility).

For a qualification to be eligible for 16 to 19 funding validity it must:

  • lead to an external certificate offered by an Ofqual regulated awarding organisation
  • have section 96 approval

The ESFA 16 to 19 funding validity means the period for which a qualification is eligible for ESFA 16 to 19 funding. The Learning Aim Reference Service (LARS) publishes ESFA 16 to 19 funding validity for a qualification.

The ESFA can be contacted via an online enquiry form

Ofqual – Register of regulated qualifications

Ofqual maintain standards and confidence in qualifications. They look after GCSEs and A levels, as well as a wide range of vocational qualifications in England. They also regulate the National Curriculum Assessments in England.

Ofqual achieve this by regulating and monitoring recognised organisations that deliver qualifications and assessments.

Regulated awarding organisations use The Portal to submit or amend qualification data to Ofqual. Ofqual publish regulated qualification details online in the Register of Regulated Qualifications.

For information about data on the Register, you can contact Ofqal at Customer.Services@ofqual.gov.uk.

Learning Aim Reference Service (LARS)

ESFA 16 to 19 funding validity data is available online in LARS. Further education stakeholders can use LARS to check the ESFA 16 to 19 funding validity for a qualification.

The funding validity data in LARS is updated to coincide with the Individualised Learner Record (ILR) data returns made by funded institutions, so that the latest funding validity is available for qualifications being returned in the ILR. Further information on the ILR and the ILR returns timetable is available from GOV.UK.

Queries relating to qualifications that are regulated by Ofqual and approved on section 96, but not showing on LARS with 16 to 19 funding validity should be directed to the ESFA via this email address email address is servicedesk@sfa.bis.gov.uk.

Section 96 queries

If you have any queries about section 96, please email us at section96.mailbox@education.gov.uk

Published 5 July 2017
Last updated 12 February 2018 + show all updates
  1. Section 96 spreadsheets have been updated for February.
  2. Section 96 spreadsheets have been updated for January.
  3. Section 96 excel spreadsheets have been updated for December.
  4. S96 qualification spreadsheets for November have been updated
  5. First published.