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Development of QCF Qualifications

The Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) is a new and more flexible way of recognising achievement through the award of credit for units and qualifications. The QCF replaces the current national qualifications framework (NQF) and, like its predecessor, will be regulated by OFQUAL. All vocational qualifications will need to be redeveloped to meet the QCF regulatory principles by the time the NQF closes for business at the end of 2010. Sector Skills Councils (SSCs), and sector bodies like the TDA, are expected to take the lead role in the vocational reform agenda through the development of a sector qualification strategy and the setting up of a process for approving qualifications intended for their sector.

Development of QCF Qualifications

The TDA is responsible for leading the development of qualifications for those roles that occur only within the school workforce; other SSCs are responsible for leading on the development of qualifications for other roles such as administration, catering etc.


The change from NQF to QCF does not invalidate previously achieved qualifications and there is no expectation that anyone will have to redo their qualification as a result.


As the sector body for the school workforce, the TDA was required to develop a Sector Qualifications Strategy (SQS) that evaluated:

  • How well existing qualification provision met sector needs
  • the future qualification needs of the sector due to policy or demographic changes; and
  • opportunities afforded by the vocational qualification reform agenda.

Existing qualifications available to those supporting teaching and learning in schools currently comprise:
NVQs at levels 2 and 3 in Supporting teaching and learning. NVQs are work place delivered qualifications which assess whether candidates are meeting the relevant units of National Occupational Standards through their day to day work.

  • Support Work in Schools qualifications. These qualifications, also available at levels 2 and 3, are much smaller than NVQs. They, too, are work-placed delivered and intended to be appropriate for a wide variety of support staff roles.
  • A range of Vocationally Related Qualifications (VRQs) at levels 2 and 3 in Supporting teaching and learning. These are qualifications that are delivered through taught courses, predominantly via FE colleges though some are offered through distance learning. They provide the underpinning knowledge and understanding at least for the mandatory units of the NVQs.
  • Other qualifications developed in specialist areas e.g. those supporting pupils with hearing impairment, behaviour management. These are also predominantly VRQs and often have considerable overlap with other VRQs and NVQs (e.g. NVQs include mandatory and optional units on behaviour management and an optional unit on supporting pupils with hearing impairment).

The consultation with school leaders, support staff and local authorities to support the development of the SQS found that:

  • Schools and LAs were confused by the current proliferation of qualifications for teaching assistants
  • Too many qualifications overlapped in content, meaning staff were being released to repeat learning
  • While aspects of all the existing qualifications were valued, there was concern that that those with NVQs did not necessarily have a secure knowledge base to underpin their practice, whereas those with VRQs only had not demonstrated that they could put their knowledge into practice
  • Although there was a place for smaller qualifications like the SWiS, it should be clear that these are starting points and should build into larger qualifications over time
  • There should be a single qualification at each level of practice that sets out the minimum expectations of skills and knowledge for practitioners at that level
  • Smaller, CPD qualifications/units should be available in specialist areas that recognise and develop expertise in different areas
  • There was also a need for induction training to be accredited
  • More qualification content should be shared with other parts of the childrens workforce.

In response to consultation findings, TDA is, in collaboration with awarding organisations, developing the following qualifications:

  • Level 2 award in support work in schools
  • Level 2 certificate in supporting teaching and learning in schools
  • Level 2 certificate for midday assistants
  • Level 3 award in supporting teaching and learning in schools
  • Level 3 certificate in supporting teaching and learning in schools
  • Level 3 diploma in supporting teaching and learning in schools
  • Level 3 certificate in cover supervision

The level 2 award in support work in schools has been designed to be accessible to those not yet working in school as well as replacing the non-accredited induction training for those new to working in schools. The qualification sets out the knowledge and understanding required to work in a school regardless of role or level and covers the Common Core of skills and knowledge in a way that is meaningful for those whose role does not necessarily bring them into regular and sustained contact with pupils (e.g. administrative staff) but who still need to understand how schools work as organisations; their responsibilities with regard to safeguarding; how to communicate appropriately with children, their parents and other staff; expectations regarding confidentiality etc. It replaces the mandatory units of the current Support Work in Schools qualifications. School support staff in roles not directly concerned with working with children and young people could go on to achieve units and/or qualifications in a range of occupational areas.

The units in the award must be achieved in order to be awarded either of the two certificates at level 2 (Supporting Teaching and Learning and midday supervision) which supplement the award with additional units that assess practice in the work-place and provide the additional knowledge needed by those supporting children directly at this level of practice.

Similarly, the level 3 award provides the underpinning knowledge required to support childrens learning at this level. Because of the depth it goes into, this award is really only suitable for those who have, or aspire to, work directly with children rather than as part of the wider school workforce. As a knowledge-based qualification, it is suitable for those:

  • Who are working in a level 2 role and wish to prepare for a higher level role
  • Those not yet working in the sector but who are capable of study at this level
  • As initial training for those appointed to a L3 role.

As with the level 2, the award is nested within the certificate, the units in which assess the candidates ability to put the knowledge into practice. The certificate testifies to generic competence for those supporting teaching and learning; however, many TAs at this level will also have specialist expertise (e.g. in SEN, behaviour and welfare, EAL) and achievement of sufficient credit from a pool of optional units will lead to the award of the diploma. To achieve the diploma, candidates must achieve the award and certificate supplemented with additional knowledge and skills based units in the area of their specialism(s).

It is also proposed that level 3 CPD qualifications which are accessible to the wider school workforce are developed. These will support staff to gain additional specialist expertise.

Some of the qualifications listed above include units from other relevant sectors, so learners who move into the school workforce from elsewhere in the childrens workforce may have the opportunity to bring qualification units with them. The TDA has contributed to the work completed by other SSCs in producing these units. The TDA is committed to recognising relevant units and does not propose to develop qualifications which are available elsewhere.

The TDAs development of QCF units will build on the best features of the current Support Work in Schools qualifications, the NVQs in supporting teaching and learning and knowledge-based qualifications currently available on the NQF. TDAs frameworks, with their focus on curriculum, teaching and learning, support the Agencys contribution to the Narrowing the Gap agenda: they complement CWDCs framework and arise out of close collaboration with CWDC qualifications staff as well as extensive consultation with the school sector. TDA strongly supports the principles of integrated working and, through our use of shared units with CWDC and other childrens workforce sector skills bodies and councils, we have addressed the skills and knowledge that an effective childrens workforce has in common.

In developing our own frameworks we have been mindful of the significant difference that support staff in schools can make to childrens learning and achievement. Where school support staff move into other areas of the childrens workforce, the alignment that TDA and CWDC has achieved in our respective qualifications frameworks will facilitate completion of CWDCs qualifications. The Common Core of Skills and Knowledge for the Childrens Workforce has informed the development of qualifications. TDAs QCF qualifications will be submitted for inclusion into the integrated qualifications framework for the childrens workforce.

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