Core aim: Selectively covers outcomes within an occupational standard(s) and enables an individual to demonstrate achievement of outcomes which employers identify as supporting progression into or within the occupation.
Qualifications in this category will primarily be considered against occupational standards against which it is not possible to develop an occupational entry qualification offer.
Qualifications in this category may be approved under section A2D5 of the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (ASCL 2009).
This category will be subject to the following tests:
Qualifications in this category will be required to achieve the following purposes:The qualification will provide students with knowledge, skills and behaviours identified as supporting progression into or within an occupational area.The qualification will provide employers with reliable evidence of a student’s attainment in relation to the competence required to support progression into or within an occupation.Where identified as required for employment or progression decisions*, the qualification will differentiate student achievement to support selection decisions.The qualification will form part of an engaging course of learning and act as motivation for students to enter into or progress within the occupational area.The qualification is typically taken either in isolation or alongside other qualifications to build on or enhance knowledge and skills.
*By employers for recruitment or providers for progression to further or higher education.
To submit qualifications to be considered for approval by IfATE, applicants must ensure they are recognised by Ofqual to offer qualifications at level 3 in the associated sector subject area.
Certain occupations are regulated by law which means that there is a legal requirement to have certain qualifications or experience (or meet an alternative condition or requirement) in order to undertake certain professional activities or use a protected title. Where a submitted qualification relates to an occupation which is regulated by law you must evidence that the relevant regulator agrees that the qualification must be obtained (along with any other conditions stipulated by the regulator) in order for an individual to practise in the occupation.
As part of the application process, Ofqual may inform IfATE of any relevant ongoing or impending regulatory action affecting a relevant qualification or applicant. When making approvals decisions, IfATE will have regard to this information.
IfATE are likely to withhold making a final approval decision until satisfied that any relevant ongoing or impending regulatory action has concluded. When making our decision about whether to withhold a decision IfATE will consider the specific circumstances of the case. This will include the nature of the regulatory action and the timeframes anticipated for any regulatory action to be resolved as well as any other relevant information from applicants, regulators and other stakeholders.
Once regulatory action has concluded IfATE will decide whether or not to proceed with the approvals process, and if it does so, will apply the criteria set out on this page.
Qualifications for approval in this category must be submitted into an appropriate cycle as indicated by IfATE.
Prior to submission into this category, applicants must first have submitted a proposal via the IfATE proposal stage.
Applicants are advised against proposing a qualification for development aligned to a standard(s) against which it is possible to develop an occupational entry technical qualification.
Only when a proposal has been submitted will IfATE accept full submission of a technical qualification for consideration in this category.
Where IfATE has expressed concerns relating to the outcomes proposed as part of the proposal stage, applicants must demonstrate that such concerns have been addressed within their full submission. Failure to address these may result in applications not progressing through the process due to a failure to satisfy (ii) of the significant outcomes test:
Submissions will only be accepted into cycles in which both the category of qualification and route(s) of the aligned occupational standard(s) are indicated as in scope for approval.
Submissions into this category must align to an occupational standard(s) published by IfATE at level 3. We will only accept submissions of level 3 qualifications.
Applicants are advised against submitting more than one qualification against the same occupational standard unless there is evidence that specifically demonstrates employer need for this.
Where a standard forms the basis for a technical qualification in T Levels, it is unlikely any approved qualification will be eligible for 16-19 funding in accordance with DfE funding guidance.
Qualifications submitted for approval must adhere to IfATE’s qualification titling requirements.
All submissions must be made using the technical qualification application form, with applicants selecting the correct qualification category and answering all subsequent questions within the form.
In the technical qualification application form, the applicant must clearly identify the level 3 occupational standard(s) the qualification aligns to. Where a qualification aligns to more than one occupational standard, the approval criteria must be met in full for each standard for the qualification to be considered for approval by IfATE.
Alongside the information requested within the application form, applicants are required to upload the following materials, which will be shared between IfATE, Ofqual and DfE, for their application to be reviewed for approval:
Failure to submit complete versions of all requisite documents will render the submission invalid until such a time that all completed materials are received by IfATE.
The intention of this proposal stage is to provide applicants with provisional views on the qualification they intend to develop for submission to IfATE. As part of this, IfATE will assess the proposal, providing a provisional view on the likely demand for the qualification within the route area and outlining any significant issues that would likely need to be overcome or addressed in respect of employer demand if the qualification was submitted for approval and considered as part of the full approval process.
The proposal stage also allows IfATE to review the duties applicants intend to target through their qualification offer, enabling us to provide comment/feedback in relation to these, as appropriate. It is expected that most duties targeted by the qualification will directly relate to KSB outcomes within the published occupational standards selected by the applicant. Duties describe what someone in the occupation ‘usually’ does in the workplace. They are sometimes called competences or activities. They should be distinct and complete activities. They are what you would find listed in a job description. A duty may be a workplace requirement such as planning inclusive education, training and assessment for individuals and groups.
Duties typically define the activities that a competent person will carry out in a specific occupation, require the application of specific knowledge and skills, are distinct and complete activities, rather than individual tasks, and can be compared with the essential criteria in a job description; for example:
Where IfATE raises concerns about the proposed duties and/or linked KSBs as part of their proposal response, it is expected that applicants act upon these concerns prior to full submission of their materials. This will primarily relate to instances in which IfATE has raised concerns that the duties and / or linked KSBs proposed to be covered by the qualification would be unlikely to enable a person to work within occupations at a particular level of competence; in this case, a level of competence that would support an individual’s progression within an occupational area.
Applicants will not be asked to develop a suite of qualification materials to submit at the proposal stage. Where the proposal relates to a pre-existing qualification for which the applicant wishes to seek approval, IfATE does not require that existing qualification materials are submitted as part of the proposal stage.
Applicants must complete the proposal stage form with details of the qualification name, route, and the relevant occupational standards that the proposed qualification selectively covers. Applicants will also be required to specify the links between the identified KSB statements and the duties their qualification intends to cover.
Proposals should be submitted during the cycle’s designated proposals window. if you have any queries about the window deadline, please email us.
For evidence submitted by an applicant in support of the qualification’s approval, IfATE will apply the significant outcomes test. This will be applied along with the employer demand test, which IfATE uses to establish the likely demand from employers for a student who has achieved the qualification. The criteria for approval will be set out in full below to ensure applicants are aware of the specific focuses of the tests we will apply. It is important to note that we will also receive feedback on the submission from Ofqual when reviewing and approving technical qualifications. It is the intention that applicants will only need to submit one set of documents to satisfy the reviews of IfATE, Ofqual and DfE.
All applications provided to IfATE must demonstrate:
Applicants must submit an employer engagement rationale and evidence pack. This evidence pack must adhere to the following requirements, through the rationale, IfATE expects applicants to demonstrate the following:
From the rationale, IfATE must be able to establish:
The rationale must be accompanied by an evidence pack which is made up of a range of evidence, both qualitative and quantitative that substantiates the applicant’s research and engagements.
As a minimum, the evidence pack must include the following:
All employer evidence submitted must be clearly referenced in the rationale and, where relevant, should indicate clear links to content and assessment materials to which the evidence relates (for example, reference to a learning outcome within the qualification content).
IfATE do not expect applicants to submit all evidence gathered in the development process as part of their evidence pack. Applicants should ensure they submit at least one piece of evidence to substantiate each collection / analysis method described within the rationale (for example, development day notes, survey questions and responses, industry board notes etc.).
Applicants are expected to hold the entirety of their employer engagement evidence on file for the lifetime of the qualification. Further evidence may be requested from the applicant if during the review process IfATE requires additional assurance to be able to make an approval decision, or as part of our ongoing oversight of the qualifications landscape.
Applicants could provide the following evidence to support their rationale that there is demand from employers for employees who have obtained the qualification:
Applicants could provide the following evidence to support their rationale that the assessment requirements are fit for purpose:
Applicants could provide the following evidence to support their rationale that qualification standards will be maintained through continued employer engagement:
To ensure the broadest possible endorsement of their qualification, applicants should, as far as possible, ensure they engage with a range of employers representative of the occupational area. This should include:
Applicants should provide details of the organisation, job role and general role requirements of the employers they engage. However, applicants should avoid submitting information or material that contains personal data unless it is strictly necessary to do so. They should ensure that the people whose personal data they are supplying have had adequate privacy information and that they have otherwise complied with the requirements of data protection law.
Where an individual or organisation engaged in the development or validation process has a vested interest/conflict of interest (for example, a commercial partnership with the applicant or an awarding body board member who also sits on a consulted employer’s board), this should be declared within the evidence submission. IfATE may disregard evidence, or lend less weight to it, where it considers that there is or may be a conflict of interest or the evidence provided is not otherwise objective and impartial.
Applicants should ensure that representatives of employers have experience that is suitable for the task requested of them; for example:
In some instances, employer representatives may satisfy both categories (technical expert and senior decision maker). In such instances, awarding bodies should ensure it is sufficiently clear in their submission to IfATE that the individual has the credentials to comment on technical content, as well as student employment prospects.
When providing evidence of interactions with employers (during the development process) and the decisions resulting from such interactions, applicants should avoid submitting exhaustive accounts (for example, transcripts) of their work with employers. Evidence submitted relating to direct interactions should focus on assuring IfATE of the following:
Before developing content, applicants should first establish the duties an individual would be required to carry out in order to support their progression within the occupational area. Once established, applicants should identify outcomes within IfATE’s occupational standard(s) which underpin these duties, therefore demonstrating that the outcome occupational standard. From this, applicants should develop content which would suitably enable a student to carry out the identified duties, once qualified. As a result, majority of content contained within the submitted qualification should map to KSBs within a published occupational standard(s). The selected KSBs will be those identified by the applicant as necessary to carry out the qualification’s targeted duties and agreed by IfATE.
When mapping to KSBs within occupational standards, IfATE expects to observe that:
Knowledge statements: IfATE expects selected knowledge statements to be fully covered and appropriately described in the qualification’s content. Where an applicant expands on a knowledge statement, providing additional (related) knowledge above and beyond that intended within the occupational standard, applicants should ensure that the relationship between the additional elaborations and knowledge statements taken from the occupational standards is evident within their submission.
Skills statements: Where an applicant seeks to cover a skill statement directly, IfATE would usually expect a skill statement to be fully covered and appropriately described within the content of the qualification. Many skills can be obtained in a peer-to-peer setting, through simulation, scenario or other training devices without requiring an applied, clinical or specialist setting. Partial coverage of a skill statement will also be considered, taking into account factors such as access to specific technologies, training devices, settings and user groups. Where an applicant expands on a skill statement, providing additional (related) requirements above and beyond that intended within the standard outcome, applicants should ensure that the relationship between the additional content and the skill statement taken from the occupational standards is evident within their submission.
Behaviour statements: Applicants should consider including behaviour statements drawn from the occupational standards from which their knowledge and skills derive. There is, however, no requirement to cover behaviours within the qualification offer. Where it is possible to fully cover a behaviour in a qualification, the applicant should seek to do so. IfATE does, however, recognise that it can be challenging for students to fully attain behaviours through only studying a qualification in a course of education. For this reason, when included, IfATE expects a minimum of partial coverage for behaviour statements to be achieved (for example, the inclusion of knowledge outcomes relating to the expected behaviour(s).
Applicants may also choose to include additional content which does not relate to any KSBs found within the occupational standards on IfATE’s occupational maps. The applicant will be required to demonstrate that any additional content included within the qualification has been developed in line with the qualification’s purpose and is relevant to the duties targeted by the qualification. It is, therefore, for the applicant to demonstrate how their qualification content coheres with the overarching qualification outcomes, as agreed by employers. IfATE may challenge applicants where content appears incoherent and/or unsubstantiated by evidence, and may ultimately refuse to approve the qualification on that basis.
We may not approve a qualification if we have significant concerns about the amount of additional content and/or the relevance of additional content. A disproportionate amount of additional content may impact the overall quality and/or credibility of the qualification with employers. We would, therefore, carefully consider our policy goals of improving quality and clarity in the technical education landscape, and our wider statutory duties when making an approval decision on qualifications containing significant amounts of additional content.
For all additional content, applicants should ensure they provide detail of employer validation for each addition within the content mapping template. Where the applicant wishes to rely upon more substantive evidence pieces within their employer evidence submission, the applicant should provide clear reference (within their content mapping) to relevant sections of their evidence submission to allow IfATE to complete its requisite checks.
Applicants must provide, as part of their submission, a PDF of the qualification specification document containing within it content primarily mapped to the KSBs targeted by the qualification.
Applicants must use the mapping template provided with the online application form to show how the content and assessment methods in the qualification they are submitting for approval relate to the selected occupational standard KSBs. Applicants should make clear in the mapping template the relationship between the KSB outcomes within IfATE’s occupational standards and the duties targeted by the qualification.
Applicants must use the mapping template provided with the online application form to show how the content and assessment methods in the qualification they are submitting cover the KSBs in the relevant occupational standard(s).
As well as mapping their qualification to the KSBs, applicants will also need to indicate if there are any KSBs they have chosen to exclude or that cannot be achieved in the qualification’s intended delivery context and explain why. Justifiable rationale could include (but is not limited to):
The qualification may also include additional content over and above the KSBs set out in the occupational standard if the rationale demonstrates that content is relevant to the occupation and valuable to employers.
Any content that does not align to the relevant occupational standard(s) should be included in the additional content section of the application template.
IfATE expects as many of the relevant KSBs as possible to be fully covered by the submission, although some may be partially covered.
KSB coverage may be deemed to be insufficient if:
All KSBs contained within IfATE-approved occupational standards are developed and/or reviewed in line with our Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) framework. This framework acts to ensure that all occupational standards are developed and reviewed with essential EDI factors considered. It is IfATE’s expectation that awarding bodies ensure that, through their own development processes, they also ensure that EDI factors are considered when producing their qualification content.
In addition to these requirements for content, the DfE sets out intentions in its consultation response (July 2021, Question 21) that, in order to ensure accessibility for all adults, technical education qualifications intended for delivery to adult students (and the processes that underpin their delivery) should be designed to allow for modular delivery and the recognition of prior learning (RPL). IfATE agrees that these elements may help adults access opportunities to reskill or upskill, allowing them to fit study around existing responsibilities such as work or caring.
Accordingly, applicants may, where appropriate, design their qualifications in such a way as to lend themselves to modular delivery of content. This can be done in several ways to aid the flexibility of teaching and learning, and applicants should consider elements which may impact a provider’s ability to provide modular delivery of the content in their qualification.
We also advise that applicants ensure they have in place a suitable RPL policy and process to recognise prior learning and reduce the duplication of content for adult students. Any RPL arrangements put in place by an awarding body must comply with Ofqual general condition E10.
All applications provided to IfATE must demonstrate:
Applicants must submit an assessment strategy and sample assessment materials that substantiate their approach to the assessment design, delivery and awarding of the qualification.
Applicants must provide an assessment strategy explaining the choices that have been made in the development of the qualification, as well as their approach to its ongoing monitoring.
There are three key properties of effective assessment strategies:
Assessment strategies are required to cover the following aspects of the qualification’s design and maintenance arrangements:
Full details of the requirements for assessment strategy documents can be found within Ofqual conditions.
Applicants are required to submit sample assessment materials (SAMs) which cover the entirety of the assessments a student would be required to complete in order to obtain the qualification.
Any SAMs submitted must be no more than two years old and assess mapped knowledge, skills, and behaviours within the occupational standard(s).
For qualifications with a single pathway, IfATE only requires one complete set of SAMs, per qualification. Where a qualification contains multiple pathways, applicants are required to submit additional SAMs for each pathway.
Sample assessment materials must include:
Technical qualifications should prepare students appropriately to enter and progress in skilled employment, and so assessment should be used to promote competence in relation to the occupational area covered by the qualification.
Holistic assessment in a technical context is achieved when a student is required to draw on outcomes from across a range of qualification content, demonstrating their learning within assessments that employers have validated are suitable to establish competence in relation to the selected occupational outcomes.
Assessment design should, therefore, take opportunities, as appropriate to the occupation, to holistically assess how far students are competent across the breadth of the outcomes covered by the qualification. Consequently, the use of compensatory approaches is discouraged, if this could result in students achieving a pass for the qualification having failed to demonstrate sufficient competence for one or more of the occupational requirements. Where compensation is applied, awarding bodies must explain, within their submission, how their approach to compensation does not compromise a student’s ability to demonstrate occupational competence.
Where qualifications are designed with several assessments available at multiple points throughout the qualification, IfATE believes there is a particular risk that these may assess (and that students could develop) a fragmented rather than holistic understanding of the occupational area. In such situations, IfATE believes it is particularly important to ensure students can make effective connections and draw together knowledge, skills and/or understanding from across the occupational requirements. Where possible, assessments should also incorporate key occupational behaviours as part of the wider assessment construct.
Awarding bodies may decide that a modular approach to assessment is appropriate to the purpose of their qualification. If taking a modular approach, awarding bodies must ensure that assessments group content coherently, generating tasks which are representative of actual industry requirements.
When delivered correctly, modular approaches to assessment can provide several benefits to students. IfATE has identified the following primary benefits of adopting a modular approach to assessment:
These benefits must be considered alongside the requirement for students to develop meaningful levels of competence within the occupation to which the qualification relates. It is IfATE’s view that the achievement of small tasks in isolation is not sufficient for a student to demonstrate competence within the occupational area, as it removes the requirement for students to holistically demonstrate their learning across the breadth of the occupational requirements.
IfATE also expects modularity to be used to support flexibility within a defined qualification structure and not to promote undue levels of optionality. It is IfATE’s view that a high level of optionality within a qualification is likely to lead to students not being required to cover occupational requirements sufficiently or consistently, thus reducing employer understanding/confidence in the competence being delivered by the technical qualification.
The achievement of a technical qualification is intended to signal to employers that a student has achieved a level of competence suitable to perform a job role or function within the occupational area. As a result, the requirements for a pass grade must be set accordingly and IfATE expects that awarding bodies set out their approach as part of their submission.
IfATE acknowledges that in some occupations employers may value the ability of a qualification to differentiate student achievement (for example, when comparing candidates). In such cases, IfATE encourages awarding bodies to differentiate grading above the pass grade if employers have indicated this is valuable to them for recruitment purposes. Where, as a secondary purpose, qualifications help progression to further study, differentiation should match progression requirements. For example, where a qualification will attract UCAS points for the purpose of progression to HEI, greater grading differentiation may be desirable within the qualification structure.
To maintain comparability between their own qualification offers, IfATE suggests that awarding bodies consider adopting a consistent grading scale approach.
Published 9 November 2023
Last updated 9 November 2023