Cskills Awards Tech levels (reformed)

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The QIP covers all Cskills Awards Tech level qualifications that meet the full requirements set by the Department for Education (DfE) and contribute towards performance measures from 2018.
Countries
  • England
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland
Purpose

The Department for Education (DfE) describe Tech level qualifications as follows:

Tech levels are rigorous advanced (level 3) technical qualifications on a par with A Levels and recognised by employers. They are for students aged 16 plus who want to specialise in a specific industry or prepare for a particular job. They cover jobs and careers where employers recruit people at this level or where a level 3 qualification is needed before students can progress to a related higher education course. Tech levels give students an opportunity to develop specialist knowledge and skills to help them get an apprenticeship or job, for example in engineering, IT, accounting or professional cookery, or progress to a higher level qualification. In some cases, a tech level qualification is a ‘licence to practise’ or can exempt someone holding the qualification from a professional exam. Tech levels are recognised by trade or professional bodies or at least five employers. Alternatively, the qualification may be accepted by a national licensed professional registration scheme.

Cskills Awards specialise in qualifications in construction, planning and the built environment.

Education context

Some vocational qualifications offered at Level 3 have been reformed as a result of changes to school performance tables. Vocational qualifications must meet the criteria set by the Department for Education (DfE) in order to count towards school performance tables. These reforms mean that 91% of the Level 3 qualifications that previously counted towards school performance tables were removed from performance tables in 2016.

For accountability purposes, vocational qualifications are now be classified as:

  • Tech level qualifications: The purpose of these qualifications is to lead to a ‘recognised occupation’. Examples provided by the DfE include engineering, accounting, construction, manufacturing, agriculture and IT. These qualifications must meet a number of criteria, including the endorsement of five employers registered at Companies House.
  • Applied General qualifications: The purpose of these qualifications is to provide a broader vocational education. They ‘are designed for students wanting to continue their education through applied learning.’ These qualifications must meet a number of criteria, including endorsement by at least three universities and colleges.

The reform to vocational qualifications is being conducted in two stages: an interim stage and full stage. Each of these stages introduced new criteria for vocational qualifications to meet in order to count towards school performance tables.

The first teaching of the qualifications reformed on an interim basis was from 2014 and these counted towards school performance tables in 2016. Only qualifications that meet the full criteria count towards performance tables from 2018. Schools and colleges may offer qualifications that are not included in the performance tables, if the qualifications are approved for teaching by the Secretary of State under Section 96.

Read Section 96.

The characteristics that must be met by Tech level qualifications as detailed in the DfE criteria are as follows:

 

Interim Requirement (for qualifications counting in 2016 performance tables)

Full Requirement (for qualifications counting in 2018 performance tables)

A. Declared Purpose

X

X

B. Size

X

X

C. Recognition

X

X

D. Synoptic Assessment

 

X

E. External Assessment

 

X

F. Grading

 

X

G. Employer involvement (Technical Level Qualifications only)

 

X

H. Progression

 

X

I. Proven Track Record

 

X

These changes include, but are not limited to:

  • Size: Tech level qualifications must require at least 300 guided learning hours (GLH). Applied General qualifications must require at least 150 GLH.
  • Appropriate content: A qualification specification must state the specific content that students must pass to achieve the qualification. Mandatory content and the associated contribution to the overall grade must make up at least:
    • 40% of a Tech level
    • 60% of an Applied General
  • Appropriate assessment: Tech levels must have at least 30% external assessment. Applied General must have 40% external assessment. Students will also be given one opportunity to resit.
  • Synoptic assessment.
  • Grading: All vocational qualifications must be graded using three grading points or more, such as Distinction/Merit/Pass.
  • Employer involvement: Tech levels must be recognised and endorsed by a trade/professional body or at least 5 employers registered with Companies House.

HEPs should take care when reviewing vocational qualifications for entry, see ‘Key issues for UK HE admissions’.

Further information about Tech level qualifications, and the range of qualifications that meet these requirements, can be found on the DfE website.


Regulation of Tech level and Applied General qualifications

The regulation of Tech level and Applied General qualifications delivered in England is the responsibility of Ofqual.

The regulatory approach undertaken for Tech Level and Applied General qualifications differs to A levels. This is because there are no specific qualification-level criteria for Tech levels, as there are for GCSEs, AS and A levels currently.  Tech level is a category introduced by the Department for Education for accountability purposes rather than a specific type of regulated qualification.  To be included in the Tech level category, qualifications have to demonstrate particular features outlined in the table above.

Tech levels must comply with Ofqual’s general rules, as is the case with all regulated qualifications.

Awarding organisation
  • Cskills Awards
Qualification codes
600/8617/8 (Level 3 Diploma in Bench Joinery – construction)
600/8607/5 (Level 3 Diploma in Bricklaying – construction)
600/8610/5 (Level 3 Diploma in Painting and Decorating – construction)
600/8613/0 (Level 3 Diploma in Plastering – construction)
600/8604/X (Level 3 Diploma in Site Carpentry – construction)
600/8626/9 (Level 3 Diploma in Stonemasonry – Banker – construction)
Structure

The following qualifications consist of mandatory units only:

  • Diploma in Bench Joinery
  • Diploma in Painting and Decorating

The following qualifications consist of mandatory and optional units:

  • Diploma in Bricklaying
  • Diploma in Plastering
  • Diploma in Site Carpentry
  • Diploma in Stonemasonry - Banker

Where the qualification comprises mandatory and optional units, the number and proportion of mandatory units differs between subjects.

Some of the mandatory units may be specialised.

The rules of combination for the qualifications specify the minimum credit to be achieved through mandatory and optional units.

For detailed unit and structure information, please view the qualification specification on the CSkills website.

Subject areas
  • Bench joinery
  • Bricklaying
  • Plastering
  • Painting and decorating
  • Site Carpentry
  • Stonemasonry – banker
Levels
  • Level 3

Level 3 qualifications are regulated to the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF).

Level 3 is broadly aligned to the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) Level 6 / 7.

Grading

Pass, Merit, Distinction

Assessment

As noted in Education Context, to be classified as a Tech level qualification the qualification in question must meet certain criteria. This includes:

  • A minimum of 30% external assessment
  • A minimum of 40% mandatory core content
  • An element of synoptic assessment
  • There is a single resit opportunity

The above is the minimum requirements set out by the Department for Education. However, the application of this may differ by awarding organisation, therefore for more detailed information please review the specification of the individual qualification on the CSkills website

Assessment – Skills Test

  • Practical assignments have been developed for each individual unit, which gives the flexibility to assess learners in the manner most fit for purpose. This gives the option to sign learners off on a unit-by-unit basis to aid with retention and recognise every learners' achievements.
  • The practical assignments have been designed so that certain units are able to be delivered together; however others can be delivered in isolation. Ultimately learners will cover all of the skills learning outcomes and assessment criteria for all of the units.
  • They are designed to be taken within a simulated construction environment, away from the stresses and distractions experienced on a real site.
  • They are practical assignments that are to be taken within a set period of time.
  • The assignments can be delivered by single unit, several units at a time or at the end of the whole qualification.
  • The assignments are monitored and marked by the trainers.

Assessment – Knowledge Test

  • The knowledge assessment is designed to be taken on a computer using the Cskills Awards online testing platform. However paper testing is also available.
  • The tests are externally set and marked.
  • They are multiple choice tests where learners can choose one of four possible answers.
  • The tests cover the learning outcomes for each unit and measures that they have been met.
  • Testing can be by single unit, several units at a time or all the units at the end of the whole qualification.
Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

The Skills Test contributes 50% of the overall grade.

The Knowledge Test contributes 50% of the overall grade.

Resit arrangements

One resit of each test is allowed. Reformed Tech level qualifications are only allowed one resit opportunity per unit. The resit must be a new task or assignment, different to the original assessment.

Guided/notional learning hours
Diploma in Bricklaying: 675 hours
Diploma in Plastering: 731 hours
Diploma in Stonemasonry: 808 hours
Diploma in Painting and Decorating: 869 hours
Diploma in Bench Joinery: 885 hours
Diploma in Site Carpentry: 916 hours
Guided/notional learning hours notes

For comparison, one A level is 360 glh.

UCAS Tariff points

Cskills Awards Level 3 Diploma in Bench Joinery (Construction)

Grade Points
D 96
M 64
P 32

Cskills Awards Level 3 Diploma in Bricklaying (Construction)

Grade Points
D 72
M 48
P 24

Cskills Awards Level 3 Diploma in Painting and Decorating (Construction)

Grade Points
D 96
M 64
P 32

Cskills Awards Level 3 Diploma in Plastering (Construction)

Grade Points
D 72
M 48
P 24

Cskills Awards Level 3 Diploma in Site Carpentry (Construction)

Grade Points
D 96
M 64
P 32

Cskills Awards Level 3 Diploma in Stonemasonry - Banker (Construction)

Grade Points
D 96
M 64
P 32
Key issues for UK HE admissions

Tech level qualifications are advanced (Level 3) qualifications, mainly taken by 16-19 year old students who want to develop transferable knowledge and skills.

There are a number of key considerations for HEPs when reviewing Tech Level qualifications that meet the full DfE criteria from 2018:

  • These qualifications are fundamentally different to their predecessors and Applied General qualifications, and are likely to result in learners developing different skills and aptitudes. HEPs should review their understanding of these qualifications to ensure it remains up to date.
  • The reformed qualifications include both external and synoptic assessment, as well as changes to resit processes. These changes are likely to result in fewer learners passing the qualification. Equally, it is likely that grade distributions will change. In light of this, HEPs may wish to review their entry requirements, offer making and decision-making strategies in relation to these qualifications.
  • The reformed and unreformed qualifications will be delivered by schools and colleges at the same time (see ‘Education context’). Therefore, HEPs may wish to consider their approach to setting and listing entry requirements for the specific qualifications.
  • The dual running of the qualification may result in applicants declaring the incorrect version within their application. UCAS will be working to support applicants and advisers in this area.
  • A larger mandatory core means that HEPs who require certain levels of achievement in particular units or ask for specific units to satisfy subject knowledge requirements should familiarise themselves with the new content specifications to ensure that these requirements are still valid. It should be noted that not all learners will be able choose their optional units and these may be prescribed by the school or college, therefore HEPs should be cautious if requiring achievement in optional modules as part of their entry requirements, offer making and decision-making strategies.

Progression to higher education is generally within the vocational area of the Tech Level, and may be to a foundation degree.

Applicants holding reformed Tech Level qualifications will have had experience of external and synoptic assessment.

Tech Level qualifications are supported by at least five employers from the job sector the qualification is related to. All students have to take part in meaningful activity involving employers in the course of their study. Examples are work placements, taking part in projects, or some of the course being taught by someone who works in the industry.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

There are rolling assessment points throughout the year.

Qualification dates notes

These qualifications are current.

Reporting and certification information

The results of CSkills qualifications are not reported to UCAS through Awarding Body Linkage (ABL). This does not reflect the validity of the qualification. HE providers will need to ask applicants to provide their own evidence of achievement.

View the results available through ABL.

A certificate is awarded once all knowledge and skills tests have been passed.

Progression information

Tech level qualifications differ in size; some may meet the entry requirements for higher education in their own right in a related area and some may need to be offered in conjunction with other Level 3 qualifications, for instance A levels. In addition, some higher education courses may require specific levels of achievement in particular units or ask for additional qualifications to satisfy subject knowledge requirements.

Progression to HE will probably be in the vocational area of the qualification, and may be to a foundation degree or a Higher National qualification (HNC/HND).

All students have to take part in meaningful activity involving employers in the course of their study. Examples are work placements, taking part in projects, or some of the course being taught by someone who works in the industry.