Monthly Archives: July 2021

Ofqual regulated qualifications v Accreditation from Ofqual regulated body

The latest trend in accreditation is for providers to elect for Ofqual regulated qualifications in the misguided belief it makes for a superior course. The process in terms of the checks and monitoring is the same as courses that are accredited by an Ofqual Regulated Awarding Body. The differences are subtle and the main one is of little benefit to anyone over 21. I wrote the following in a blog in 2017 and it still holds true:

Of the many questions I get about the accreditation of courses that are available in the Animal Care Sector (particularly relating to behaviour) is the topic of providing a springboard to a university course. There is an awful lot of mis-information on the subject, most of which revolves around the subject of applying for university through UCAS – The Universities and Colleges Admissions System.

The formal process of applying for a university place through UCAS is largely designed to cater for school leavers and anyone under the age of 21. If you do not fall into this bracket UCAS Tariff Points (associated with Ofqual regulated qualifications) are of much less importance. Mature students (those over 21 and generally all of those studying to become a behaviourist) have a more flexible set of opportunities and universities have the ability to judge your suitability based on experience and a broader spectrum of education that might be better suited to the chosen degree course. The following paragraph is taken directly from the UCAS website – Tips for mature student applications:

Don’t worry if you don’t have the right qualifications – just ask universities and colleges whether you can meet the entry requirements in a different way.

You could get accreditation for life and work experience.

Accreditation of prior learning (APL) is essentially credit awarded for wider learning evidenced from self-directed study, work or training.

In short UCAS Tariff Points are far from the be all and end all they are often made out to be. This goes further, just because a qualification is on the Tariff, does not mean a university will accept it. Therefore, it’s really important to check the entry requirements for the course you’re interested in.

There are only a certain number of qualifications on the Tariff. A university may accept a qualification even if it isn’t on the Tariff, so it’s best to check with them to see if they will accept your qualification. Remember, lots of universities do not use Tariff points.

So, how do courses get onto the Tariff? Put simply they need to appear on the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF) which is a list of courses approved by Ofqual for delivery in mainstream colleges. It also opens the possibility of the course provider drawing on government funding to deliver it. The downside for course providers is that they must give up the intellectual ownership of the course and it becomes available to any other college to deliver.

The whole subject of accreditation has changed dramatically in the last twenty years and is still changing. Initially there were no privately provided courses that came with any form of Ofqual based accreditation, then slowly it became the mark of quality until now the choice of courses (and range of quality) is bewildering. The next development is for the training and behaviour sector to be regulated, many of my readers will understand that this process is now quite advanced. The introduction of regulation will mean that courses and their content will have to meet strict criteria and the vast majority of courses will not meet those requirements and it will not matter whether they attract UCAS Points or not.  I predict that, in the not too distant future, an awful lot of people will be very disappointed with choices they have made and money they have invested based on advertising promising that they will become ‘qualified’ behaviourists.

Change is definitely coming

It seems that the business of the animal training and behaviour sector being formally recognised as a profession is taking forever and it is true to say that there have been significant delays as a result of Brexit which was swiftly followed by the Covid pandemic. The net result is that progress is about two years behind schedule but the positive news is that talks with the RCVS have re-started. For those who are not aware of what is coming, there is a new Veterinary Services Act being developed that will replace the Veterinary Surgeons Act (1966). Part of the new act will be dedicated to para-professional activities (also referred to as ‘allied professions’), behaviour and training being one such activity.

In order to be included, any para-profession must meet many criteria to demonstrate that they are regulated to a sufficiently high standard to be recognised by the RCVS and that they would be confident in linking them to their Royal Charter. There are some key issues in the process of regulation that must be met including a clear set of standards that define what educational and skills requirements are to be met by each role, how those standards are assessed and independently assured on an ongoing basis, there must be a single disciplinary process, there must be a register of all qualified practitioners, there must be evidence of strong and effective governance along with many more requirements.

Being qualified cannot be self-declared, each individual will need to be formally assessed as meeting all the criteria.

Currently the behaviour and training sector is a mosaic of different organisations doing their own thing to a spectrum of different abilities and requirements and while there is undoubtedly some overlap in what each does there is no coherent structure and therefor the sector cannot be regarded as a single profession. The only organisation that provides the detailed infrastructure of such a profession is the ABTC and this is why they are discussing the way ahead with the RCVS for inclusion in the forthcoming legislation.

ABTC are well aware of their critics, most of whom are allied to other systems that have appeared over the last 10 years to try and provide an alternative form of regulation. It is unlikely that any of these systems will offer a suitably rigorous and acceptable level of governance to be considered for the moves that are coming which is why ABTC are the focus of attention. ABTC has already attracted the support of the veterinary profession and all the major animal welfare charities. It is also the only ‘Council’ (this is a legally sensitive term that requires permission of the appropriate Secretary of State to be used in a name, the organisation should normally be a local authority, an independent advisory body, a deliberative assembly, or a governing, supervisory or representative body of an activity, trade, business or profession).

There are still more steps in the process and metaphorical hoops to jump through but change is coming that will elevate the status of trainers and behaviourists that embrace it.