NIACE response to Ofqual review of ESOL qualifications

10 September 2012

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulations (Ofqual), has published its first ever Consultation on English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) Qualifications.

Chris Taylor, Programme Manager for ESOL at NIACE, said:

“This review presents an important opportunity, not only to revise and update the existing regulations, but also to re-develop the qualifications and make them more relevant. One of the consultation principles is to promote public confidence in them – this was identified as an area for further research in the NIACE-led ESOL Inquiry in 2006 and still remains a matter of concern.”

“ESOL qualifications need to be recognised by employers as well as education and training providers, if they are to have any value and help support learners progress into further study or open up new careers for them. Recent NIACE research – commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) – found that some learners perceive their qualifications to have little value beyond their current course of study. Learners themselves, and those engaged in advising or referring learners, need a clear understanding of the value of ESOL qualifications.”

Ofqual’s consultation has three proposals:

Proposal 1 introduces general conditions of recognition for a new qualification called ESOL for Life in the UK which will be awarded through a 100 per cent external assessment. Whilst NIACE fully acknowledges the problems around centre malpractice, NIACE believes retaining a choice of internal and/or external assessment models would allow providers to better tailor their assessments to course type and purpose.

Proposal 2 introduces general conditions of recognition for ESOL International qualifications based on existing regulations. The absence of a funded Level 3 language qualification, comparable with A-level language study and outside the Skills for Life framework, presents a particular barrier for learners at the higher levels of language learning to achieve their academic potential or to gain employment which would make appropriate use of their existing skills. NIACE would welcome the development of a new language qualification at Level 3 which has currency for academic and professional progression.

Proposal 3 suggests the withdrawal of the existing regulations for ESOL Skills for Life and ESOL for Work qualifications. Whilst ESOL Skills for Life qualifications have supported the extraordinary developments in ESOL over the last ten years, NIACE views the revision of the regulations and the overall purpose of ESOL qualifications as timely.