What is an accredited qualification? What do Levels 2,3,4 mean?
During the recent lockdowns, many Instructors have been taking online courses, often described as Level 1, 2, 3 etc but what does this mean?
Levels are simply a way of describing equivalence within different qualifications, for example a Level 3 NVQ is equivalent to an A Level.
You can see the full official list here:
The Levels are set by Ofqual, but the actual course content is approved by an Awarding Organisation to become an accredited course. BTEC remains one of the most well-known (and is now owned by Pearson) but around two hundred others exist covering many different types of qualification. It is important to realise there is no difference between awarding bodies, in the sense that a BTEC Level 3 it’s not in some way “better” than a Highfield Level 3 (or vice versa). The courses are all assessed to Ofqual Guidelines, and once approved appear on the Ofqual Register.
What this means in practice is as well as ensuring value for money, some qualifications are eligible for Government Funding and you can be sure of the amount of work required and what other qualifications it is equivalent to. Credits earned from previous qualifications can often be put towards the next “higher” qualification, i.e. if you have done a Level 3 and want to a Level 4, you may not have to do as much as someone starting a Level 4 from scratch.
Does it matter then?
It depends on the course, the cost and how much you value it. For example, the IAM test is probably the most well-known advanced driving test but is unaccredited. (RoSPA did accredit the IAM test and many other Advanced Tests using Accreditation of Prior Learning (APL) as BTEC Level 3 Advanced Award if you paid them, but they stopped this several years ago. In fact, none of the Advanced Tests are accredited by anyone other than the provider.
Short CPD courses in the industry are rarely accredited as they are usually half day or one day classroom workshops and it would not be worth the time or expense of seeking accreditation and it’s not wanted by the delegates either, but this doesn’t mean these courses are of no value.
It’s a case of buyer beware. There is no legal restriction on anyone using the Level terminology when naming a course, so I could start selling my half-day “Level 8 Driving Instructor Training Course” tomorrow, but with un-accredited courses any “level” is just the name set by the training provider, this is particularly prevalent with on-line courses. This also means that the course may not be recognised when put towards other regulated qualifications.
Another thing to be aware of is that some unaccredited courses go even further and claim accreditation from an external body which will put an impressive logo on the certificate, often with links to websites to check validity of the certificate and so on.
The problem is the external body used isn’t an Ofqual awarding body either! Because again anyone can call themselves an awarding body. I will happily accredit your Level 8 in house course for a fat fee, just give me a call!
This is not helped by the fact that some Awarding Bodies also offer “Quality Assurance” for courses rather than accrediting them. This means you have a nice-looking certificate that you may think is accredited but actually isn’t!
In summary make sure you understand what you are paying for, and if accreditation is important to you be suspicious of ridiculously cheap courses