Well the leaves have all blown away at this time in February apart from those stuck in neighbours’ gutters and of which they are still complaining about to their local authority tree officer.
The winds of change are always blowing or should be in business so that a business remains ahead of its game. Ofqual is hardly a business but they are in the business of education and made trade wind changes that affected vocational education big time a few years ago with the introduction of the Qualification and Credit Framework (QCF). This rather changed the face of the assessment processes moving from a summative process (testing at the end of a period of learning which is traditional and high risk for students) to a formative process (conducting assessments along the learning path and using the mechanisms to assist learning called assessment for learning (AFL)). The effects, like a whirlwind, took assessment essentially into the house of the training provider and away from external examiners.
Five years down the line a storm wind brewed and QCF has been washed down the drain along with the existing rules. A monsoon followed and Ofqual were flooded with complaints related to the inflexibility of the QCF system and its assessment processes. When the storm became a light wind a new frame work emerged (Oct 2015) called the Regulatory Qualification Framework – “a single, simple system for cataloguing all qualifications regulated by Ofqual.” (Ofqual 2016) Jeremy Benson Executive Director for Vocational Qualifications states “We don’t claim it will transform the qualifications landscape, but we do hope it will help people to understand qualifications a little better and to use them more confidently”.
Ofqual will not be replacing the QCF rules with another, different set of specific rules, because prescriptive design rules are not the best way of securing validity (a qualification doing what it says it will on the tin). Awarding organisations will still have to comply with Ofqual’s General Conditions of Recognition. Ofqual states “qualification regulation needs to be flexible enough to encompass qualifications across different sectors, at different levels and with different purposes. And it’s because of this that awarding organisations need to have the freedom to design the assessments that work best for their particular qualifications”. (Ofqual Blog Aug 2015)
In the cross winds that follow any new guidance ABC indicates that for their arboricultural qualifications this means very little change. However, I am hoping for no twisters but more flexibility in how the assessment procedures are conducted because, as most of you understand, the burden of portfolio production lands on the learner (we can call you students again under this new framework) and then the assessor has to mark it all. The current level 2, 4 and 6 ABC qualifications are due for a review in 2017 with introduction in September 2017. I don’t anticipate much turbulence but a zephyr (gentle) wind favourable to maintaining the quality of qualifications that we currently have.
When I have more news on the progress of the review with ABC I will make some breezy announcements through the appropriate channels. The change of framework DOES NOT affect current students or those starting qualifications prior to September 2017, current regulations and processes will be prevailing.
On another front Tree Life has faced a headwind and some uncertainty regarding for how long we will offer, particularly, the level 6 diploma qualification. Following a recent company AGM, I can confirm the current intentions with regards to the level 6. Tree Life will be offering the level 6 qualification for a minimum of the next two years with starts in 2016 and 2017. Beyond 2017 we offer no guarantee of being in a position to offer level 6. This is due to a time when Andy and I have retirement looming in our airstream. As a conscientious training provider all students starting with us have 4 years to complete which means that in 2021 we still could be marking assignments while having got bus passes in our pockets!
Tree Life has grown over the past 18 years and increased its team year upon year. That may happen on the back of a tailwind to retirement indicating that level 6 will continue to be offered by Tree Life even when sirocco (a warm wind from the desert) retirement warmth has blown through and the dust has settled. It is my intention that level 6 shall remain a premier qualification for arboricultural consultants, tree officers and contract managers and that it will be on offer from Tree Life AC Ltd for the foreseeable future. Only the winds of time can dictate how in the future that can be made possible – but it won’t be for the lack of trying!