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SCQF blog - agility and responsiveness are values to retain

Pauline Radcliffe

Today Pauline Radcliffe, Chief Executive of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework, reflects on some of the suggested changes in the James Withers' Independent Review of the Skills Delivery Landscape. The views expressed are that of the author.

Last month SCQF Partnership and Qualifications Framework’s very own Donnie Wood chatted heroically for over 2 hours with a presenter and her guests into Radio Awaz, a Glasgow Southside radio station about exams, assessment methods and next steps to those receiving award results. It was a great opportunity – and one we’d like more of – to engage with a specific community about the breadth of pathways open to learners of all ages, far beyond the schools based National Qualifications that are most often the focus of media attention.

The Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) explains the relationship between over 10,500 assessed learning programmes in Scotland that are credit rated onto the Framework from Level 1 to 12. These levels have enabled us to develop an approach to Recognition for Prior Learning which supports articulation across institutions and learning environments and is front and centre for my organisation as it promotes equitable access to the right learning in the right place.

Colleges are of course, recognised Credit Rating Bodies (CRBs) in Scotland, meaning that they have the authority to credit rate and place qualifications on the Framework. They can also raise income through commercial activity in third party credit rating of programmes or to strengthen employer/college partnerships in specific sectors. Currently over half (15) of Scottish colleges have their own credit rated provision on our SCQF database, with 11 of those having credit rated new activity within the last 2 years. There are 7 colleges credit rating qualifications on behalf of 11 other qualification owners, with 61 programmes credit rated in this way on our database.

There’s some great examples of new qualifications now quality assured onto the SCQF: UHI Moray recently added their first ever credit rating activity as a CRB with a qualification in Developing Leadership in Recreational Sport at SCQF Level 5, targeted at senior phase pupils, whilst City of Glasgow College credit rated some of its micro-credential offer, including its ‘Business Trends and Operations’ at Level 8, with 2 credit points, focused on business professionals’ CPD needs. Third party credit rating activity ranges from Fife College credit rated Skills Development Scotland’s Healthcare Pathway for senior phase learners in response to workforce shortages, to Glasgow Clyde College’s, commercial partnership driven, credit rating of Wella Hero’s Higher Level Diploma (Level 9 with 64 credit points) for experienced, qualified hairdressers who wish to upskill.

On paper, college ‘credit rating’ activity might sound a bit geeky or ‘non-core’ to delivery of further education in Scotland. And let’s face it, there are bigger fish to fry at the moment, as colleges try to make their budgets work within an extremely tight envelope. But the ability of colleges in Scotland to credit rate bespoke provision is arguably a hugely important consideration for the pivotal role colleges play at regional and local level in developing Scotland’s workforce, delivering skills needs, upskilling and addressing labour market shortages in specific sectors.

James Withers in his recently published Skills Landscape Review, highlighted the importance of Recognition of Prior Learning in encouraging a culture of parity of esteem across agile learner pathways, flexed to learner and employer needs and circumstances. So it’s perhaps surprising to realise that colleges’ ability to credit rate and deliver bespoke qualifications and assessed learning could be threatened as a - perhaps unintended - consequence of his recommendation to bring all publicly funded education under the new qualifications body. Scotland’s National Qualifications Framework operates a devolved, quality assured, model of credit rating and placing qualifications on its Framework which has enabled us to operate a cohesive system for all learners across institutions, training providers, professional bodies and public agencies. This hasn’t been possible in other countries, including England.

Our Framework is based on trust and not regulation (though some qualifications on the Framework are regulated) and enable the very agility and responsiveness to employer needs that Withers also argued for. Putting all colleges’ credit rated provision within a substantial new agency to quality assure and credit rate could be costly and incredibly time consuming to deliver and it could act as a barrier to colleges in meeting the needs of regional partnerships and local employer relationships. Whilst some of our colleges aren’t currently credit rating at all – given the difficult resource decisions faced - is that agility and responsiveness something we want our system to lose?


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