NCFE Level 3 Performance Skills suite

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This QIP covers vocational qualifications which are not listed on the Department for Education (DfE) 16 – 19 performance tables for England.

These qualifications are not listed on the DfE 16 – 19 performance tables because they are not designed to meet the requirements of the Key Stage 5 performance tables.

  • England
  • Wales

Vocational qualifications are either work-related qualifications designed to enable students to gain the skills required to perform a particular job, or qualifications that may be taken as part of a wider study programme or an apprenticeship.

Schools and colleges may offer qualifications that are not included in the DfE performance tables, if approved for teaching to 16-19 year olds by the Secretary of State for Education in England under Section 96, where this is in the best interests of individual students.

These qualifications provide students with a structured and challenging individualised learning programme that supports their development and progression in line with their future career plans.

They are the substantial qualification component of the study programme and enable progression into further training and education or employment in the performance industry. They aim to:

  • develop students’ understanding of a variety of approaches to performance
  • provide students with a chance to give and receive feedback on aspects of their own and others’ performance skills
  • develop students’ understanding of the performance industry

The objectives are to help students to:

  • develop their specialist knowledge and skills in a chosen area of performance
  • pursue further training or employment in the performance industry.

Students will develop generic, transferable skills, such as planning, health and safety, giving and receiving feedback.

In addition, the requirement to complete optional units means that students are able to develop more specialist knowledge and skills in a chosen area of performance. 

For those who wish to study at a higher level, the qualifications will enable them to develop higher level learning skills such as independent working, research, self-reflection and collaborative learning.

Education context

These qualifications are designed for post-16 students and fall under the oversight of the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and the Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA). A significant number of students will undertake these qualifications post-19.

Following its 2012 review of post-19 qualifications the ESFA removed 1,800 qualifications from public funding and a further 1,000 in 2014. In March 2014 the government published a Reform Plan for Vocational Education.

These qualifications have not been subject to the same reforms as Applied General and Tech Level qualifications (which are specifically designed for 16-19 year old students), however the ESFA has implemented a new set of business rules for the approval of qualifications for funding, based on the 2013 Review of Adult Vocational Qualifications in England. These rules recognise that adults may have different needs, aspirations and ambitions to younger people and include that qualifications should be:

  • relevant to individuals and employers and affordable for all sizes of business and for individuals
  • rigorous and based on a robust future-looking occupational standard designed and assessed by the sector
  • recognised as worthy of investment, giving a clear signal of the economically valuable skills, knowledge and understanding required in an occupation now and in the future.

Regulation of vocational qualifications

The regulation of vocational qualifications is the responsibility of the respective regulators in each UK country – Ofqual (England), CCEA Regulation (Northern Ireland), SQA (Scotland), and Qualifications Wales (Wales). The regulatory approach undertaken for vocational qualifications is different from A levels. This is because there are no specific qualification criteria for vocational qualifications, as there currently are for GCSEs, AS and A levels. Vocational qualifications must comply with the regulator’s general rules, as is the case with all regulated qualifications.

These qualifications form part of a study programme. Study programmes normally include substantial academic or applied and technical qualifications, non-qualification activity including work experience, and the study of English and mathematics where students do not hold a GCSE graded A* – C in these subjects.

Awarding organisation
  • NCFE
Qualification codes
601/5481/0 (NCFE Level 3 Diploma in Performance Skills)
601/5815/3 (NCFE Level 3 Extended Diploma in Performance Skills)

To achieve the Level 3 Diploma in Performance Skills students must successfully complete all three units from Group A and a minimum of four units from Group B.

To achieve the Level 3 Extended Diploma in Performance Skills students must successfully complete all three units from Group A and a minimum of seven units from Group B.

Subject areas

Group A units

  • Rehearse and perform (T/506/9447)
  • Prepare for an audition (A/506/9448)
  • The healthy and safe performer (F/506/9449)

Group B units

  • Employment opportunities for performers (F/506/9452)
  • Develop teaching skills in performance (D/506/9457)
  • Develop solo performance skills (T/506/9450)
  • Develop ensemble performance skills (A/506/9451)
  • Performance in a chosen specialism (J/506/9453)
  • Performing in musical theatre (L/506/9454)
  • Plan and promote a performance (R/506/9455)
  • Specialist research project (Y/506/9456)
  • Level 3

Level 3 qualifications are regulated to the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF) in England and Northern Ireland and the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales, though many may be offered on a three-country basis.

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


The qualification is graded Pass, Merit, Distinction and Distinction*.

The unit grades are aggregated to form the final overall qualification grade. A Distinction* grade is awarded to students who have consistently achieved a Distinction grade in every unit.


Internally assessed and externally quality assured portfolio of evidence.

Students are set assignments. These may be in the form of briefs, problem solving exercises and research investigations. They are contextualised using realistic scenarios. The assessment may require students to write a report, write a business proposal, deliver a presentation, or make conclusions based on extensive research into a practical investigation.

All assessment is criterion-referenced, based on the achievement of specified learning outcomes. Each unit within a qualification has specified assessment guidance.

Contribution of assessment components to overall grade

100% of the assessment is by the internally assessed and externally quality assured portfolio of evidence.

Resit arrangements

To achieve the NCFE Level 3 Diploma/Extended Diploma in Performance Skills, students must successfully demonstrate their achievement of all learning outcomes of the units as detailed in the qualification specification.

Students who aren’t successful can resubmit work within the registration period.

Guided/notional learning hours notes

NCFE Level 3 Diploma in Performance Skills is 305 – 312 GLH, 340 hours Total qualification time (TQT).

NCFE Level 3 Extended Diploma in Performance Skills is 432 – 444  GLH, 490 hours Total qualification time (TQT).

UCAS Tariff points

NCFE Level 3 Diploma in Performance Skills

Grade Points
D* 42
D 36
M 24
P 12

NCFE Level 3 Extended Diploma in Performance Skills

Grade Points
D* 56
D 48
M 32
P 16


Key issues for UK HE admissions

There are a number of key considerations for HEPs when reviewing vocational qualifications that are not listed on the DfE 16 – 19 performance tables for England:

  • Some of these qualifications are occupational, and may not be designed specifically for progression to HE.
  • Applicants holding these qualifications may be school or college leavers, however some may be more mature students who are likely to have other relevant experience alongside these qualifications.
  • These qualifications may have been taken as part of a wider study programme or an apprenticeship.
  • If they are presented for admission to HE it is likely to be in conjunction with other qualifications.

Students may combine the Level 3 Diploma or the Extended Diploma in Performance Skills with other qualifications e.g. A levels or other vocational qualifications.

Timing of assessments/results for learners

Students are assessed throughout their programme of learning and may submit their portfolio of evidence at any point. Results are provided on a rolling basis.

Qualification dates notes

These qualifications are current.

Reporting and certification information

The results of these qualifications are reported to UCAS through Awarding Body Linkage (ABL).

View the results available through ABL.

Certification of these qualifications is reported on the basis of the number of certificates achieved over a 12-month period.

Progression information

This suite of qualifications has been developed in partnership with employers, universities and other subject experts to ensure that the content is current and relevant.

Level 3 criteria require students to analyse, draw conclusions, interpret or justify, which are all examples of higher level skills. These higher level skills support progression to higher education.

Further information

The Performance Skills qualification had an operational end date of 31 January 2019, therefore the specification is no longer available and we are no longer accepting learner registrations.