Skills sector development agency

Sector Qualifications Reform Programme (SQRP)

What is the Sector Qualifications Reform Programme?

The Sector Qualifications Reform Programme (SQRP) is part of a broad reaching initiative to radically change the landscape of vocational qualifications in the UK.

It aims to ensure that the qualifications and other learning programmes available across the UK are more effective in equipping people with the skills that employers want and that learners need to secure and maintain employment. In so doing it will contribute to the UK’s business productivity, by ensuring that employers are able to make the most of the skills of their employees. Back to top

What is the context?

The SQRP forms one part of the wider UK Vocational Qualifications Reform Programme (UKVQRP). There are five sub-programmes or ‘strands’:

Strand 1: Sector Qualifications Reform Programme

Led by Sector Skills Development Agency (SSDA) UK-wide programme to define the skills, knowledge and understanding required by employers

Strand 2: Framework Development

Led by the Regulatory Authorities of England (QCA), Wales (DELLS) and Northern Ireland (CCEA)

Introducing credit to support recognition of partial and full achievement, progression and lifelong learning (Scotland has a watching brief on this Strand)

Strand 3: Planning, Funding and Delivery

Led by Learning and Skills Council (LSC)

(This Strand also has a three country remit, with Scotland having a watching brief)

Strand 4: Preparatory Rationalisation of Existing Qualifications

Led by JCQ and FAB, representative organisations of awarding bodies

A short-term UK wide project to remove unused vocational qualifications and ensure there is a clear rationale for those with low take-up

Strand 5: Communications

Led by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES)

To ensure open communication and collaborative working between strands, and to promote the work of the overall programme

The UKVQRP is co-ordinated through a Programme Board, chaired by Peter Lauener at DfES, and it reports to the Ministers for each of the four home nations. Each of the above strands is administered by its own Board, with a Senior Responsible Owner.

What is the process?

The Sector Skills Council or other standards setting body will build on their Sector Skills Agreement work, or other robust market intelligence, to develop a Sector Qualifications Strategy (SQS). It will then work closely with stakeholders such as Awarding Bodies and Regulatory Authorities to develop SQS Action Plans that identify a way forward to realise the SQS.

In tandem with this, Regulatory Authorities will develop Sector Qualifications Criteria (being tested in the pilot phase), allowing any resulting qualifications to be regulated in line with qualifications and credit frameworks of the four UK nations, and the SQSs to be useful to those frameworks.

Awarding Bodies will develop any new or revised qualifications that are identified as required within the Sector Qualifications Strategy (SQS).

These are then taken forward in terms of their position within qualifications frameworks and funding and delivery arrangements of the relevant UK nations, as part of the work of the other strands in the overall programme.

Strand 1 is being carried out in phases. A small number of organisations are participating in a pilot phase, during which time the processes for working with partners and developing the outputs will be tested and refined, with a view to the smooth running of the subsequent three phases, which are planned to commence in February, May and August 2007.

The pilot organisations are:

It is expected that the first group of reformed sector qualifications will be produced by January 2008, with phase 1 sectors due to complete Strand 1 by January 2009.

Sector Skills Councils (SSCs) and Standard Setting Bodies (SSBs) will be encouraged to work together and to share best practice in the development of this project. This is likely to be done through the buddying and integration arrangements currently being brokered by the SSDA.

What is the SSDA’s role?

The SSDA has been appointed to lead Strand 1, Sector Qualifications Reform Programme. While policy development work on this project has sat within the Standards and Qualifications team, a new delivery team has now been appointed from September 2006, to work closely with the Sector Skills Councils, Standard Setting Bodies and other partners, to manage the project and deliver the outputs. This team will also work closely with the Standards and Qualifications team, who will continue to take the lead on policy.

Geoff Fieldsend, Director of Workforce Development at the SSDA, is the Senior Responsible Officer for Strand 1.

The Sector Qualifications Delivery Team is headed up Sue Densley. To contact a member of this team, please email Pauline Hewitt at [email protected]

The Standards and Qualifications Team is headed up by Judith Compton. To contact a member of this team, please email Nikki McGee at [email protected]

Who else is involved?

The SQRP has many stakeholders who need to work together to ensure that the qualifications resulting from this process meet the needs of both employers and learners, and that they can be effectively developed, regulated and delivered.

The Strand 1 Board includes representatives from all four home nation government administrations and qualifications regulators, as well as Sector Skills Councils, Awarding Bodies, funding bodies, Higher Education and the SSDA.

The reform of vocational qualifications is relevant to all employers and to all those developing, funding and delivering qualifications in the UK, not forgetting the end users of qualifications, the employers and learners themselves.

Further information

Sign up to ‘Inform’ – the regular e-bulletin with updates on progress with sector qualifications reform. To view back copies, click here.

If you have further queries please contact a member of the Sector Qualifications Delivery Team (regarding delivery of the programme) or a member of the Standards and Qualifications Team (regarding policy).