New qualifications end of year one F1 blog

The chequered flag has fallen on the first year of the new qualifications for us at Tree Life. It has been a race for all learners and assessors to get work completed in the one year at level 4. The year has been ‘exhausting’ for all of us but nonetheless a good one considering this is the first time of coming to the new grid. The scrutineer otherwise known as the moderator has been to examine our vehicle of operations and passed us fit for purpose. The learners work has also been scrutinised and declared fit for a podium place. We now await official confirmation of the results from the big chiefs at ABC but expect to be wearing winners garlands, holding a trophy and spraying the champagne very soon.

We have learned a lot about these new qualifications having been round the circuit lots of times with different learners (drivers). Some have stayed on track whilst others have taken corners rather more slowly and some have gone into gravel traps along the way. A few have retired from the event altogether citing all sorts of mechanical and electrical reasons. A majority have stayed the course and completed all the laps (assignments) with the assistance of the marshals’ (tutors). A great aspect of the qualification framework is that it allows for learners to go at their own pace to a large extent without grid penalties.

In the pre-season testing we have been in the wind tunnel affectionately called July modifying some components of our assessment methodologies to make them more efficient. We have used a type of DRS (Drag Reduction System) to reduce the drag to learners and assessors alike of some of the assignments. We have also extended the season to provide a longer opportunity for laps to be completed satisfactorily. There are no significant rule changes coming from ABC or the governing body (Ofqual), indeed Ofqual appear to be pre-occupied with another racing incident in a race series called GCSE!

The Tree Life engine has increased its cubic capacity (cc) by appointing a sub-contractor to deliver one of our classes. Darren Blunt is an experienced teacher and holder of the professional diploma and will be a good addition to our team. The pit crew from last year remains the same with Keely remaining team principal. Apart from one class all of our planned classes are full.

It has been apparent from the very first lap that the learners have to stay up to speed with delivery of work in order to get to the end. This is the penalty for no final high stake examinations or testing. Those that have finished I’m convinced have been right on the verge at times of going off and hitting a wall however, they have kept on course through all the troubles and are now able to give post-race interviews with a smile on their faces. For all those that have been successful I hope you have utilised your KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery System).

For the podium places there has been a question over what post-nominals may be used. We at Tree Life have been campaigning for several months for a resolution to this question and finally we have an answer. The Arboricultural Association, ABC and hopefully the Royal Forestry Society will launch the new post-nominals soon however, I can give you a sneek preview from under the covers.

The accepted convention will be as follows:

Level 2:

Cert Arb L2 (ABC)

Level 4:

Cert Arb L4 (ABC)

Dip Arb L4 (ABC)

Level 6:

Cert Arb L6 (ABC)

Dip Arb L6 (ABC)

We hope that this meets with everyone’s approval, for me it says what the qualification is, at what level it has been attained and who the awarding body is. This should prevent confusion in the future with other similarly named qualifications.

It was definitely a long season and already the new one has begun, Andy was in pole position last week and hopefully the ‘lights came on’ amongst the learners as he introduced the qualification at level 4. New comers to the grid at level 6 started their engines on Tuesday this week sliding into existing courses from the pit lane with plant health taking the focus at the first corner. We look forward to being able to send out certificates as soon as ABC supply us with the goods and to popping the corks!


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Level 4 and 6 Diploma in Arboriculture Spring Blog

The day light is getting longer, we are 7 months in with the QCF, and how’s it shaping up I hear you cry. To be honest it’s damned hard work for all concerned! The principles of the scheme are holding up well under the weight of assessment criteria (AC). However, learners and I took some solace from the Easter bunny in chocolate comfort for at least 4 days over the recent holiday period.  Those with any sense at all disappeared out of the country to states of sunshine. Not myself or Andy though, but we did put down our marking pen and pencil.

The learners tell me that learning is definitely taking place despite the hard work of completing assignments one after another and very often simultaneously, I guess the real enjoyment will only be appreciated once all the work is in and passed as attaining the standard required. The motivation being, (I assume) no final examinations, either theory or the dreaded management exercise day in the Autumn rain.

As the training provider we are slowly refining our approach and unfurling the creases. It has been a big learning curve for all concerned. The learners have had to learn that AC do not have to be met first time around and that it is perfectly acceptable to have to re-submit work – that is all a part of the learning process. A new phrase for them has sprung up and entered their vocabulary – ‘Assessment for Learning’. In this concept the feedback each individual gets is very important and allows learning to develop and progress towards achieving the standards as required by the AC. The assignments set should not be perceived as assessment but as a medium for learning, as many of the budding qualification holders would now paraphrase ‘it’s all about the learning’.

In some respects as this is an entirely new system for many of the learners, we have had to teach them to learn. Historically we are all mainly tuned in to traditional final high stakes examinations and rote learning often just to pass an exam. The QCF is a very different species and for many the system is very foreign, we are not familiar with a system that allows assessment in which the product does not have to be at a pass level. Consequently this can be seen as a failure when work comes back to a learner requiring improvements however, it mustn’t be looked upon in that frosty manner. That message has taken time to sink in and bear fruit.

The vast majority of work produced by the learners is not meeting the AC first time around however, a large proportion meets the AC second time around. A minority of work goes around the system a few times more, but hey that’s perfectly ok – some learners take a little longer to learn. I am perfectly happy that because the work has to be completed in full to meet the AC, the learner is getting a better learning experience than before and the employer will have at the end of the day when the sun goes down a more competent employee – that should put a spring in their step! That is the essence of the QCF system.

As the training provider we are not getting everything right first time but hopefully improving as we go along in a second flush. We have to write every one of the assessment methodologies and sometimes this needs refining. So far we have kept up with the marking – just! Tree Life started with 104 learners each producing work on a fortnightly basis to be marked on a fortnightly basis. Substantial quantities of first and second submissions have to be marked every two weeks – anywhere up to 300+ items of work bursting our collection boxes. We have two first class individuals both Professional Diploma holders, one engaged in education, assisting us with marking and that relationship has grown well under our supervision.

Tree Life has paid to have an advisory visit (optional visit) from an experienced lead moderator working on behalf of the awarding body ABC prior to our first real moderation in August. The purpose of the visit, which occurred very recently, is to seek guidance and advice related to all the issues of the moderation process which include assessment of learner work, internal moderation, administration procedures and recording systems. The visit has gone well; we are not green when it comes to moderation processes however, as a result of the visit we have tweaks and extension growth to make to our administration systems and methods of presenting some information for the moderator. We are 85% of the way there to fulfilling our responsibilities as a training provider. 85% would be a distinction under the old system, but as our learners’ know, we have to achieve 100% these days! Tree Life will be making the necessary adjustments in the next few weeks and we will be ready for what we hope will be a rigorous moderation process.

There has been a small fall out rate from our starting numbers due to the usual reasons such as illness, change of circumstances, work pressures etc but also I think, in some part, due to the work load of the qualification. For anyone contemplating undertaking the qualifications with us in the future make sure you talk to us re the work load and commitment to deadlines that is required. We are recruiting now for a September start with level 4 Diploma and an October start for level 6 Diploma. Level 6 learners will join classes half way through the Diploma qualification and will be have to attend a mandatory introduction day on 9th October 2012.

I am very optimistic that level 4 learners are going to achieve the Diploma qualification this year despite the work load, we have another year to wait and see if the level 6 learners can see the light and produce the potential energy to complete incremental growth of themselves in degree level arboriculture. Finally Andy and I look forward to receiving the outstanding work from current learners and to a break in marking with attendance at the AA trade show (15-16th June), we will be there with our usual fungi competition won by Ted Green last year, someone suggested he should be banned for this year, however I suggest you come along and upstage him, should he be present.

This year we are going to be displaying arb equipment, tools, chanisaws, books and clothing from yesteryear and I hope you will come and join in our trip down memory lane.


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QCF Arboriculture Kicks Off on Time

The premier professional qualification level 6 and the championship level 4 kicked off on time with Tree Life in the manager’s role and a good crowd through the turnstiles in attendance with 9 classes at 5 different venues around the UK and Ireland. The ball is now rolling – a little faster than we all anticipated as the workload becomes apparent to us all. Learners (the players) are having to produce work every fortnight for marking and the managers have to mark many scripts every fortnight. The learners and managers are certainly having to get their tactics right in order to complete the work as scheduled. More training instigated by the managers will be required to get learners fit for the tasks in hand.

It has been a learning curve for all us in this new division of QCF, and all involved in the process have learned so much already about the game. The lines have been drawn and we are all beginning to settle into our particular roles. The way forward has become clearer as each session passes, with the general agreement that the principles of the QCF are good, and that learning is already taking place. Some players have already scored on the learner tracking sheets demonstrating that they are on their way to achieving the goal of attaining a level 4 or 6 diploma in arboriculture.

Particularly at a higher level of the game, it is apparent that some players will take time to adjust to the quicker pace and demands of a higher division. However, that is where the learning comes in and developing the individual, ensuring that they are ready to take to the bigger stage when it comes along. The level 6 diploma is now well and truly pitched at a level 6 (equivalent to BA Hons degree) and is suitably demanding of the learners. When all aspects of their work have to pass the defensive line of the assessment criteria, it is no mean feat. There can be no half rights in this system, which does not leave room for any player to refuse to come off the bench! Every assignment has to be given maximum effort in order to keep a first team place.

The assessment procedure of submitting work on a regular basis (formative assessment) for both levels, although hard work, is the penalty paid for no final external examinations (summative assessment). The value of the formative assessment procedure lies in it being a learning activity as opposed to a test of what has been learnt across a small part of a syllabus using an unseen question. The manager’s role extends to the function of assisting the learner to know what improvements are required to their work to bring them to the standard of meeting the assessment criteria. This role has become more evident as we begin the process of evaluating learners work, in other words the quality of the feedback is paramount to the ultimate success of the learning.

It’s early days yet in the season, but I can already see the good principles of QCF taking shape in the midfield. The strategy of attacking the assessment criteria needs to be managed carefully by both sides to ensure its validity, reliability, authenticity and manageability. Having a new qualification, new surface on which to play and new squad to work with has, in my opinion, revitalised the level 6 qualification, myself as an educator and it appears the learners too. That’s a positive note on which to blow the final whistle on this blog and head for the shower.

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A New Arrival!

After a good and slightly prolonged period of gestation the new kid on the block has arrived safely. The stork delivered this morning two brand new qualifications, and whilst in their infancy, they are a clearly a new baby in terms of qualifications for the arboricultural industry. The arrival has brought a certain inner satisfaction to Tree Life as we can now open the doors to the qualification contents for the learners that are signed up with us for a start this year. The contents of both level 4 and 6 can be found by following the link to the ABC web site. We hope you enjoy your first viewing of the new arrival (we thought, only for a second though, that Hello magazine should be the first!) and that it appears to be along the lines of what you hoped for. Early and late scans of the content by a working group, ABC, a LANTRA group, Ofqual personnel and selected other specialists confirmed that it was very appropriate for our industry. I would like to thank all those people that have taken time out to assist those of us that had the task of putting ink to paper to make it all happen in a relatively short space of time.

To those of you that are signed up for one of our courses, we thank you for your patience in waiting for the content to be delivered. We have had to wait patiently too, along with the other training providers – however, it’s all systems go now. Andy and I look forward very much to meeting all of you as we enter a new era in arboricultural education.  F. A. B.!

The link to the new qualifications:

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End of Summer Blog

Warm sunny days are actually still here (two at least) as I write this, but where did the summer go! September has arrived without the production yet of the qualification details for levels 4 and 6. When it arrives there should be four parts to it that will assist the training provider and learner alike. The four parts constitute the learning outcomes, assessment criteria, indicative content and reference/reading list.

You may have read my most recent article in the latest arb news that popped through the letter box this week. Unfortunately, some body at HQ (who will remain nameless but has apologised) decided to change the wording in one of my carefully written sentences. This has had the effect of portraying incorrect information suggesting that awards are awarded at level 2, certificates at level 4 and diplomas at level 6. This is not true.

The truth is that in principle Awards, Certificates and Diplomas are available at each level. Each category denotes a different size of qualification. To remind you – each unit is assigned a number of credits, the credits build up to an award, certificate or diploma. 1-12 credits are required for an award, 13-36 for a certificate and 37+ for the award of a diploma.

I am sure the aim for all centres offering these qualifications will be to take all learners through to the award of a diploma. I have had a phone call from another centre this week that will be offering these qualifications, and like us they are chomping at the bit (now that the college long summer holiday is at an end – oh those where the days!) to get the much needed info from ABC. We have spoken to ABC today (2nd Sept) and no update was available on progress due to………. You’ve guessed it – holidays.

From a Tree Life perspective, we are currently focusing on the administration side of the qualifications and how between the learner and us we can manage the recording systems that are going to be necessary to control for every individual what has been achieved. This will be a partnership between the learner and us, and both parties will have a responsibility to keep good records. The records are essential in order that when the external moderator arrives, all information that he/she requires will be immediately at their disposal.

The Tree Life team (Dave and Andy) have very recently run a practise standard setting exercise at level 6 to ensure that between us we are assessing work consistent with each other and at the appropriate standard for level 6. This proved most useful and allowed us to spend time discussing the qualification requirements at level 6. In the near future we will carry out a similar exercise at level 4.

We have identified 22 different assessment methodologies that can be utilised across the qualifications that will fulfil our approach to assessment and constitute best practice in the era in which we live. It all looks exciting on paper, but I wish we had the details from ABC in order, that we can furnish those of you that are signed up for learning with us with more information. As soon as we get that information, it will be available to you and we can put together our schemes of work etc. We thank those of you very sincerely that are signed up, and particularly as you have to put trust in Tree Life to deliver something new for all of us, the detail of which is not yet published – so thank you for your trust in us.

Based on the information sheet available from ABC, Tree Life in the next day or two will be able to produce our intended running order (scheme of work with attendance dates) of units and reading lists to accompany levels 4 and 6. This will be available to our learners as from 3pm Wednesday and will be sent out by our office. We will of course be hassling ABC throughout this week, that’s the royal we of course because Keely will be doing the phoning!

I very much hope that next time you are reading our blog that it announces that ABC have pulled their finger out and the qualification content has at last seen the light of day!

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Post card from Barbados (home of the Kensington Oval Cricket ground) and its fantastic news!

I have been informed by ABC awards today, that the qualifications at level 4 and level 6 in arboriculture have been accredited and join level 2 as now being available to our industry. They are available to undertake as soon as training centres can get learners on-board. The work of the staff at ABC Awards should not be under estimated in all of this, whilst I kept to my side of the deadlines, so did ABC and between us we have made this happen in approximately 7 months which is no small undertaking. So the hurdles have been jumped, the hoops negotiated, curved balls dealt with and the gold medal attained and all that without playing the joker.

The change has been very necessary according to the governments independent review carried out by Professor Alison Wolf because previous qualifications where failing to meet employer needs, the validity of some of them was questionable, the system was incredibly complex, quality was uneven and more critically the system was failing young people as it wasn’t equipping them for employment. I wouldn’t actually label those criticisms at the old RFS certificate and diploma and the AA/ABC technician’s certificate as, in my opinion, they were very work related and proved that they enhanced the careers of those attaining the qualifications. However, they were caught up in a larger net and so had to conform or be banished to the bowels of obscurity.

England has been at odds with much of Europe (what’s new in that!) relating to vocational education and has much to learn from other countries. Many other countries models are actually based on the English framework but have developed over the years to meet changing demands and varying economic situations. It is actually unclear where our Government stands on the topic of assessing vocational training and who should do it. The current Government is actually keen on exam type assessment where-as, educationalists hold the view that assessment should be based on practical learning. In my opinion, our three old qualifications have mixed and matched quite well with academic type testing and practical testing. However, nothing is perfect and maybe the old examination procedures could have done with some updating for the benefit of the learner and employer.

However, that is all in the past now and a new dawn awaits us all in the form of internal assessment – the most significant change from the old to the new qualifications. Each centre approved by ABC to deliver level 2, 4 and 6 qualifications will carry out the assessment of learners, validated by the awarding body through a process of external moderation. The centres have the opportunity to be innovative in their selected assessment methodologies as it is they that will decide how the subject material is to be assessed. A range of different techniques and methods should stimulate both staff and learner interest. Variety is the spice of life!

By incorporating a range of different methods, assessment assesses a broader range of skills and, as such, it is considered to be fairer and less discriminatory. Consequently, assessment should have the effect of widening access to qualifications and perhaps widening success.

A range of methods is a more reliable assessment of learning because it is not dependent on any one method of assessment. A range of assessments allow for the fact that all individuals have strengths and weaknesses, by assessing an individual’s performance across a range of skills a more balanced and reliable assessment can be obtained. Not all your eggs are in the one basket of final examinations!

A range of assessment on the whole adopts a more positive approach to education; by spreading the assessment net more widely, it provides learners with a range of opportunities to demonstrate how much they understand, rather than the somewhat negative approach of how little.

Providing timely and constructive feedback allows misunderstandings to be detected and cleared up, and learners are able to make improvements where necessary. This process helps maintain learner motivation, enabling them to learn more steadily and fluently. If learners’ genuinely don’t know what they are doing wrong, as they are never informed until a final mark is given, then this can lead to frustration and a loss of interest in the qualification.

At level 6 we should be able to use innovative assessment methodologies as a possible strategy for facilitating a ‘deep’ rather than a ‘surface’ approach to learning.

When it is the case that all assessment criteria have to be met in full, surely the learning outcome must be more positive and will result in a better fuller understanding of the topic area.  This is what I see as the greatest and most welcome aspect of the new qualification framework.

Here at Tree Life AC Ltd we are looking forward to the new academic year with enthusiasm and some in trepidation at the somewhat unchartered waters of the mechanics of internal assessment. Andy and I have been party to internal assessment before when teaching in colleges of FE, so it is not a new process for us. In the next few weeks, we have to make sure our ship is sea worthy, the rigging sorted, technology is working, tools stored away for the voyage and the sails billow and are without flaws.

It will take a week or two, I suspect, before ABC awards can get published information to us in the form of the syllabus so don’t expect Keely to supply any more information at this time.

Very soon we will be publishing information for registered Tree Life learners on how we are going to deal with the qualifications in terms of unit delivery, order of teaching, what options will be available, how our internal assessment procedures will work, how we will ensure validity of learner work and (most importantly) how we will ensure that Tree Life maintains validity in the process external to that of ABC external moderation.

The 28th July 2011 is the start of a new today with new arboricultural qualifications that should be ready to be delivered by training centres soon – are you ready? Tree Life certainly will be.

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News update on unit titles

ABC clearly are expecting the new qualifications to be ready for the new academic year as they have released some information regarding the unit titles, mandatory and optional units, and number of credits etc on their web site. This information can also be found on our web site (

This is very good news for all concerned and will allow us, and all the training providers to start making plans. You will notice the addition of optional units allowing for specialisms’ to be followed and ensuring those of you that, for example, have nothing to do with subsidence, now don’t require experience of those issues in order to gain a level 6 qualification.

Yesterday evening Tree Life ran a pilot on-line lecture with a small group of invited individuals reaching out as far as Ireland and Spain, which went well enough to demonstrate that we have the capacity to deliver lectures from our own base into your home/office without either of us getting the car out. Tree Life will endeavour to use technology and the more traditional methods in order to provide the necessary range of units to assist all of our registered learners achieve these qualifications and taking the optional units specific to their needs. It will be a challenge for all of us to ensure, in a small industry, where learners numbers are not high that we can make learning viable for all concerned.

Here at Tree Life we can’t wait to get started on the new qualifications, it’s been a long while since we had a new crop of level 6 learners starting out on that particular pathway. In between times, we have mentored learners through the final stages of the written papers, it’s a tough job, but someone has to do it!

Level 4 classes ended this month, despite that Tree Life will be offering revision courses for any learners still requiring assistance – may be an on line lecture or two! Altogether it appears we leave behind a great legacy of qualifications that have done arboriculturists’ proud over the years. I will miss the cut and thrust of preparing students for the challenge of the written exams and management exercises – they will be missed. The last 17 years of my working life has, in part, been spent assisting candidates to achieve the level 6 and the best part is always when they ring me, or text these days, to say that they have passed. One year so many passed that I was drunk by the end of the evening having consumed a beer on behalf of everyone!

It’s not quite rest in peace though, as quite clearly the training providers have the opportunity to devise a very similar management test if that is the best method of assessing a learners ability against the set assessment criteria. However, unlike the old system where achieving 50% would get you a pass, you now have to meet 100% of the assessment criteria.

I hope that you find the ABC information useful and a step in the right direction towards making it all happen now –  I really look forward with Andy (after my approaching holiday – I will be off to sea and sand in the lands of Vivian Richards and where the Kensington Oval is feared by visitors) to getting down the nitty-gritty of putting together a programme of learning at level 4 and 6 where the objective will be for all learners to achieve a DIPLOMA at the chosen level.

No answers on a post card as to where I’m going required!

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Wimbledon Week Update

The level 4 and 6 new arboricultural qualification balls are now in the court of Ofqual for a final showdown on centre court. Having got LANTRA approval, I hope for a straight sets win, no requirement for a trainer and Ofqual approval before the strawberries run out. Should approval be forthcoming, champagne will be sipped while ABC complete the booklets of information and hold them aloft in triumph. From here, the training providers (coaching staff) can get on with the task of distributing information to potential learners (players).

The timescale for this to be completed should be mid-July; I hoping for no delay to occur as that may mean Cliff Richard will get up and sing! However, this will give little time for training providers to prepare for the start of the season, so I would ask that all potential learners are all patient, information will be available as soon as the covers come off. I am sure most training providers will operate over the normal academic season starting September or October time, and finish in the grand slam month of June ready for the summer off season. Nevertheless, we do have the choice now of extending the playing time over any period thought to be appropriate as the no final examination (tie-break) rule doesn’t apply any longer.

External moderation carried by the ABC umpires and referee might determine to some extent when portfolios of learners work are required to be presented for scrutiny, no doubt the training providers will be able to have an input into the timings – after all not all moderation can take place on the same day at different locations. The net result could be variance in starting and finishing times between the training providers. The sets (units) of learning can be taught in any order to be decided by the training provider, presumably by the toss of a coin.

Below is an example of a learning outcome (LO) just as a warm up, and one of its doubles partners from five listed assessment criteria from a unit on tree management at level 6:

LO 1. Understand the need for arboriculturists’ to participate in providing a sustainable treed landscape

 1.3 Critically analyse the role of street trees in today’s society which also demands value for money and draw conclusions to include visions for providing sustainable tree cover

 Each assessment criteria attached to a LO has to be met in full as judged initially by the training provider, I anticipate that any local disagreements regarding a call of pass or fail would be resolved by referral to firstly an internal moderator and secondly to the external moderator – a kind of version of hawk-eye.

The practice ground for preparing for the big day when the external moderator turns up is of course the classroom and the huge amount of resources that are available outside of that environment, such as fitness trainers for the brain, dieticians and (hitting) partners. When the big day comes to hand in work UNLIKE at Wimbledon a learner is not on their own, should the work not meet the assessment criteria, the learner will be told why, and informed as to what improvements need to be made to achieve a victory. Coaching can take place during the game and of course taking toilet and lunch breaks with Barley water is acceptable, one doesn’t have to stuff a banana down between paragraphs!

 My personal view is that this new type of game will put a greater onus on the learner to get work completed outside of the classroom.  Particularly at level 6, an onus on information sourcing also which befits someone who wishes to attain a degree level qualification and look to becoming a chartered (top 100 player) arboriculturist.

 The traditional assessment process of using a minimum number of assessment methodologies (shots) such as written exams, oral and practical exercise to get the job done has been widened. Any shot (lobs, drop shots, smashes, second serve aces etc) can be used to meet the assessment criteria which allows fairer access to the game for all learners. Tree Life anticipates that most work will be submitted electronically which should be ergonomic for all concerned and protect it from getting lost, eaten by the dog, left on the roof of the car or transported by aliens – a bit like putting a roof on the game to ensure play can continue.

 So it’s game on, the rules and lines have been drawn up, we await the competition draw and seeding (Ofqual final approval) and the tickets (training provider prospectuses) to go on sale ready to serve up the first courses.

 I’m sure the uptake of new players coming onto the game will be good under the rule changes, the prospect is of more competent employees primed for the work place and employers able to readily identify what a potential employee can do – in other words GAME, SET and MATCH.

  NB The Royal box may be occupied by Wills and Kate – a newly married couple, for those of you who thought that Keely had got married (of which there was a number), the earlier blog reference was to the royal couple!

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Summer update on the QCF arboricultural qualifications

Yes! according to the news this morning, summer is here because so many plants are flowering a head of time, for example elder and slipper orchids, and also thousands of caterpillars are munching their way through tree canopies in Bradford.

Back in April I told you that another round of industry consultation was the next stage of the procedure to getting the new qualifications validated by Ofqual. This is both for the level 4 and the level 6 qualifications. Well I am on a high today as news from ABC informs me that this round has been completed. Not only that, but LANTRA our Industry Lead Body has stated, and I quote “that the units were well written”. I tempted to take the rest of the day off and go lie down somewhere in the sunshine! I’m honestly amazed that I haven’t to pour hours of my time in to making amendments to the units – can the day get any better!

It’s great news that the qualifications have passed muster with LANTRA because they can now be passed on to the final stage with Ofqual who will give the final stamp of approval within the predicted timescales for commencement of the qualifications. For any potential candidates and the training providers this is important news as we can be almost assured that a 2011 commencement will actually happen.

On a personal note I would like to thank all those who have participated in assisting the processes, from those that took part in the original surveys, those that reviewed units and attended the meetings in Nottingham. Also a special mention for the ladies at ABC which kept us arboriculturists on the right track when aspects of the writing got frustrating – you can’t really believe that disagreements occurred between a group of arboriculturists actually happened can you!

The next part of the process related to the awarding body ABC is the production of the qualification content the appropriate format. Following that will be the distribution of the information to the training centres. Each centre will receive three aspects of the new qualifications

Learning outcomes – what the learner will understand or know

Assessment criteria – what the learner can do

Indicative content – guidance for the learner and the training provider as to what is required of the learner indicating depth and breadth of knowledge etc I have a little more work to carry out on the indicative content now that the learning outcomes and the assessment criteria have been validated by LANTRA to ensure its suitability.

Now here’s an update for you that I’ll do my best to explain thoroughly. Each centre will receive the three aforementioned aspects, what they do not receive is any form of assessment methodology. Each centre will be responsible for determining the methodology it uses to test the learners (have you noted as potential candidates that you are now called learners – good) against the set assessment criteria. Each assessment criteria has to be passed by the learner.

What this means is, that the old traditional examinations have disappeared and in their place is any assessment methodology that performs the role of testing a learners abilities against the assessment criteria. These methodologies could include reports, oral examination, witness testimony, video, audio, multi-choice tests, photographs, practical tests, observations, role play, letters, course work, projects etc.

Excellent for the learner undoubtedly and for the training provider – I think! The down side for the training provider is that they have to come up with all the various methodologies, implement them and bear the costs of their development and implementation. The awarding body has effectively passed on the costs of assessment to the training provider.

For the learner the implication is huge! Huge because you are going to have to keep very good portfolios of all your work to present to an external moderator at the end of the period of learning and assessment. Imagine all those records and bits of paper that the dog eats, the children spill drinks on, is left on top of the car, leaves the office without so much as a goodbye, my computer won’t give it to me and mysteriously disappears overnight. I’ve heard all of the excuses over the years but none of them will cut any ice in the future. Back up systems will be needed. Tree Life is thinking of running a course on portfolio building, storage and protection before allowing any learners though its doors that you have to pass its integrated assessment gaining 110%!

What you have hopefully gleaned from that paragraph, is that internal assessment is how the qualifications will be assessed in the future. This is very common place in universities and colleges and has been for many years. It will be new to these qualifications but should not detract from ensuring that you as an employee are very fit for work and that what an employer gets, is a person that can do the job and do the job very well. Under the old system of traditional examinations a candidate only had to score 50% to pass, which effectively meant they got 50% wrong. With the new system a learner has to pass each assessment criteria at 100%! Dumbing down of qualifications under a new system? – NO not a chance.

Well I’ve dribbled on for long enough, I’m off to find somewhere in the sun to lie down.

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Arboricultural Qualifications Spring Update and it’s not April the 1st!

The second round of industry consultation took place today the 5th April, plus the assigning of credit values and determination of mandatory and optional units. A successful day was had by all; the gin and tablets were not needed today, lunch was good and I made the most of it!

The next stage constitutes a third round of industry consultation. This should be completed by the end of April – bank holidays and a little matter of a wedding permitting!

In June the level 4 and level 6 qualifications will be submitted to a LANTRA technical committee for review and comment. This will result in my continued input if changes are required. However, this period of review should be completed before the end of June when the qualifications will then be submitted to Ofqual for their approval. Should all be well at this stage, approval from Ofqual to ABC should be forthcoming in early August for a September introduction. (fingers and toes crossed then everyone!)

The proposal at this stage is for, the level 4 qualification to have an Award, Certificate and Diploma size qualification built within the units. The level 6 qualification will have a Certificate and Diploma size qualification built within the units. Each size of qualification will have mandatory units and optional units. The mandatory units will reflect underpinning knowledge while the optional units will allow for a degree of specialism e.g. woodland management is listed as an optional unit at level 6.

The size of each qualification (award, certificate or diploma) is determined by the number of credits attained by a learner. The team today have assigned the credit values to each unit based on the predicted numbers of hours it takes an ‘average’ learner to complete the necessary work as laid out in the learning outcomes. This amounts to the whole qualification taking shape and a light appearing at the end of the QCF tunnel.

QCF summary of what is expected from a learner at each level.

Level 4 achievement reflects a learner’s ability to identify and use relevant understanding, methods and skills to address problems that are well defined but complex and non-routine. It includes taking responsibility for overall courses of action as well as exercising autonomy and judgment within fairly broad parameters. It also reflects understanding of different perspectives or approaches within an area of study.

Level 6 achievement reflects the ability to refine and use relevant understanding, methods and skills to address complex problems that have limited definition. It includes taking responsibility for planning and developing courses of action that are able to underpin substantial change or development, as well as exercising broad autonomy and judgment. It also reflects an understanding of different perspectives, approaches or schools of thought and the theories that underpin them.

The text in bold is designed to help you spot the difference. I am happy with what was achieved today and take heart that we may have something in the cocoon that can blossom in September in to something that is not too alien!

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