The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) groups skilled occupations which have related requirements for technical knowledge and practical skills into 15 routes and represents them on occupational maps. For most occupations on the maps, there is an employer-designed occupational standard which sets out all the knowledge, skills and behaviours (KSBs) required to become fully competent.
The qualification categories in scope for cycle 2 are:
The submission window for applications for level 3 qualifications will be between 10 June and 21 June 2024. We encourage applicants to book support sessions prior to submitting their application.
Prior to submission, we ask applicants to complete the registration form with the details of the technical qualifications that they intend to submit in the approvals cycle. This enables IfATE to manage applications as efficiently as possible, design tailored support sessions and provide further clarity and guidance, as requested. The registration of intent window will open on the 8 January and close on the 12 January 2024.
To prepare for submitting level 3 occupational entry technical qualifications, we recommend that applicants begin aligning their qualification to the relevant occupational standard’s KSBs and review their qualification’s content and assessment to ensure it is in the best position to be approved.
To prepare for submitting level 3 qualifications in the additional specialist, occupational progression and employer-proposed categories, we recommend that applicants review the relevant published criteria. For submission into these categories, we will require a qualification proposal to be submitted, and further details for this process can be found below, from section 4 onward.
For cycle 2 of the approval of level 3 technical qualifications, in line with DfE’s a guide to post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below in England, level 3 standards in the following routes are in scope.
Our occupational standards contain the KSBs identified by employers as required to competently perform an occupation. To ensure occupational standards remain current, they are regularly reviewed and revised against employers’ needs. Therefore, some of the standards in scope may have recently been reviewed or revised; others will need to undergo a review and may have revisions applied in the future.
Where an occupational standard is revised post-qualification approval, we aim to allow awarding bodies the flexibility to apply any changes using their own internal change process, without the need to resubmit materials for re-approval. This flexibility will apply to standards that are revised within one year of IfATE's qualification approval decision. Where a standard has undergone significant change, we may request that awarding bodies submit to our formal change process. This will be decided on a case-by-case basis and IfATE will work with awarding bodies to make suitable arrangements for the re-approval of qualification materials. If you have any queries about the occupational standards in relation the level 3 approval process, please email us.
Applicants can access the list of occupational standards in scope for cycle 2 of the level 3 technical qualifications approvals process. Please note that further standards may be added to this list if they are currently in the process of being revised; for example, if a standard’s levelling is revised to be at level 3.
Additional specialist qualifications build on occupational standards and enable an individual to specialise within an occupation, usually building on prior achievement of competence in the core occupational outcomes. These qualifications will be either:
Where predefined areas are published by IfATE, awarding bodies can submit qualifications for approval against these without the need to first submit a proposal. For cycle 2 there are currently no predefined areas identified and published by IfATE. Therefore, awarding bodies will be required to submit a qualification proposal for all qualifications in this category. The qualification proposal stage process allows flexibility for awarding bodies to set out intended developments in specialist areas that build on the outcomes set out in existing occupational standards. Further details are given in section 5.
Occupational progression qualifications selectively cover outcomes within an occupational standard(s) and enable individuals to demonstrate achievement of outcomes which employers identify as supporting progression into or within an occupation. These qualifications will be either:
Awarding bodies can submit qualifications against IfATE’s published predefined areas, without the need to first submit a proposal. The predefined area and duties below are in scope for submission in the occupational progression category for cycle 2 of the level 3 approvals process:
The predefined duties are directly linked with the KSBs in the identified occupational standard. Awarding bodies must submit mapping that clearly shows how their qualification content targets these duties, enabling an individual to progress within the occupation. At submission, awarding bodies must provide a robust rationale and evidence of employer support for any additional content that sits outside these predefined duties.
Awarding bodies wishing to develop qualifications outside the predefined area specified above must first submit a proposal, to agree intended occupational progression duties in advance. If you are considering submitting a proposal for a level 3 occupational progression qualification, contact IfATE first so we can discuss your proposal and give you the best advice.
To be published at a later date.
We recognise the need for flexibility in the technical education landscape, to allow awarding bodies to respond to the market and submit qualifications which deliver against emerging skills needs, offering specialist, cross-cutting functional competence and occupational progression in areas that are demanded by employers. These may be existing or new qualifications that build on and go beyond the competencies in our occupational standards, or selectively cover competencies within standard(s). Please visit our categories and criteria page for information.
The qualification proposal stage allows IfATE to have advanced sight of an overview and rationale for the intended additional specialist, occupational progression, and cross-cutting functional qualification(s). Through it, IfATE will consider the proposal(s) and provide feedback to awarding bodies for consideration on subjects such as the suitability of the qualification in the category and the duties they intend to target within their proposed offer.
Awarding bodies should also include in their registration of interest any qualifications for which they intend to submit a proposal.
For cycle 2, the qualification proposal stage only relates to additional specialist, occupational progression and employer-proposed qualifications that are not based on duties published in the predefined list, where published by IfATE.
For the employer-proposed category, we only expect qualification proposals where an occupation is recognised on the IfATE maps, but the occupation does not have an associated occupational standard. Where no relevant occupation is recognised on the IfATE occupational maps, an occupational proposal must be submitted per IfATE’s occupation proposal process. IfATE’s route teams will consider occupational proposals. In all cases, IfATE is unable to consider qualifications for approval where no relevant occupation is recognised on its maps.
As the process of agreeing an occupation proposal and developing a standard does not have a set timeline, IfATE will liaise with applicants throughout this process to establish the most appropriate point to take receipt of any qualification offer for approval purposes.
Where a standard is developed, we will not take receipt of the qualification in the employer-proposed category. Instead, approval would take place in an occupational entry category against the approved standard, once published.
Only where IfATE recognises an occupation on our maps but are not in the process of developing a relevant standard, will a qualification be considered in the employer-proposed category.
Occupational entry qualifications, or those being submitted against a published predefined area, will not require a qualification proposal.
Awarding bodies are not required to develop a suite of qualification materials to submit as part of the qualification proposal, and no regulation and recognition requirements will apply at this stage. However, awarding bodies will need to check whether they have the scope of recognition in place to deliver qualification and should contact Ofqual if they need to apply to expand their scope of recognition.
Awarding bodies must submit a qualification proposal form, providing details of the intended additional specialist, occupational progression, and employer-proposed qualification(s). The below lists indicate the type of information IfATE will likely collect through our proposal form for each category of qualification.
Where IfATE does not recognise the occupation that the qualification intends to target on the occupational maps, it is advised that applicants review the occupational proposal process first and, if appropriate, submit an occupational proposal.
Qualification proposals for the cross-cutting category will only apply in cycle 3 of the post-16 approvals process, and more details will follow in due course.
Prior to submitting a proposal(s), we expect awarding bodies to have engaged with the published criteria to inform their development planning. We also encourage awarding bodies to undertake early engagement within their employer network and use our published employer strategic guidance to inform and support their proposals.
IfATE officials will undertake a review of each submitted qualification proposal, including a series of internal and, where appropriate, external checks. These will include checks against the criteria for the relevant category, review of the intended duties and KSBs where appropriate, as well as a review of rationale and/or evidence and approach provided to support the need for the proposed qualification.
On completion, IfATE will then send feedback to awarding bodies. Any feedback provided by IfATE will not be an approval decision and will, therefore, be non-binding. Following receipt of our feedback, we expect awarding bodies to make their own decisions to proceed (or not proceed) with the re/development of their proposed qualification. There will also be an opportunity to have a follow up one-to-one session on the feedback provided.
Feedback to awarding bodies may include comments on:
Where awarding bodies proceed to develop and submit a qualification through our approvals process, any appropriate rationale or evidence submitted as part of the proposal submission can also be considered within the full submission. Awarding bodies must resubmit this information as part of their full submission.
The qualification proposal stage application process for level 3, cycle 1 is now closed.
The level 3 cycle 2 qualification proposal submission window will be open between 29 January and 9 February 2024. IfATE will review proposals and will seek to provide feedback by the end of April 2024, in readiness for the main submission window, which is between 10 and 21 June 2024.
You will be able to access the qualification proposal form here when it is live.
Our approach to future cycles is in line with DfE’s a guide to post-16 qualifications at level 3 and below in England. Our cycle 3 submission window will open in summer 2025 Our intention is to accept qualification submissions for cross-cutting qualifications at level 2 and level 3 across all routes in the first cycle 3 submission window. We may also consider qualifications that meet DfE’s exception criteria.
We will provide applicants with the timelines for cycle 3 as soon as possible, to give them maximum time to align their qualifications to available standards within the relevant routes.
Support and resources are available to support applicants in making their applications.
Published 9 November 2023
Last updated 30 November 2023