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The release of Ofqual’s Annual Qualifications Market Report is always an exciting point in the calendar of Active IQ. The results of the report are extremely important to an awarding organisation where qualification development, quality assurance, approvals, business development, customer service and operations teams work together in synergy to bring our organisational values of creativity, efficiency, professionalism, supportiveness and agility to life on a daily basis. Seeing the fruits of our labour from the regulator’s market reports emphasises just how many lives we positively influence on an annual basis.

When you then consider how many lives will have been affected by the activity professionals that achieved qualifications in the last year, and across all the years that Active IQ has existed, then you start to realise the extent to which an educational organisation such as Active IQ can contribute to the health and wellbeing of communities, both nationally and internationally, on a daily basis. For me personally, that’s a powerful motivator and a reality that continues to fill me with passion for the work that we do.

The most recent Ofqual report has highlighted some interesting trends. Firstly it identifies that the number of leisure-related certificates for vocational qualifications has decreased by 11% from 2013/14, at which time total numbers of certificates had also declined from 2012/13.

It should be noted that the figures identified within the report relate to the broader leisure, travel and tourism sector, rather than just active leisure and fitness related qualifications. In terms of active leisure qualifications, there are a number of factors which have impacted on year-on-year certification numbers. Firstly, there has been considerable change in the way that qualifications are used in schools following theWolf Report (March 2011) and since 2014 only a small number of vocational qualifications have been included in school performance tables, leading schools and colleges away from qualifications not included in performance tables. Secondly, ongoing funding changes for vocational qualifications have had a significant impact, with the withdrawal of funding for qualifications that do not meet ever-changing criteria for public funding.

As Julian Leybourne, CEO of Icon Training, stated in Tom Walker’sHealth Club Management article of 5th August, qualifications are about quality not quantity, so it’s certainly no bad thing to see a fall in overall certification across the wider leisure, travel and tourism centre. It also demonstrates the rationalisation of qualifications that has already taken place and which is gaining momentum now that the old qualifications framework, the QCF, has closed. Awarding organisations are required by the regulator to review and refresh all qualifications now that they sit on the new qualifications framework, the RQF(Regulated Qualifications Framework).  Active IQ commenced this work back in October 2015 and it is a significant project that will take us through to December 2017, the date by which Ofqual require the exercise to be completed by all awarding organisations.

Engagement with Active IQ’s Employer Taskforce Groups and close collaboration with CIMSPA, and other awarding organisations, is underway and ongoing as part of that refresh exercise, which includes alignment of qualifications to CIMSPA’s Professional Development Framework. As Julian stated, a qualification offer is about quality, relevance and currency. For Active IQ, this is vital – not only is this essential as part of our drive to raise professional standards, but like other awarding organisations these are areas that we are regulated on. For us, freedom to now refresh core, previously Sector Skills Council owned common unit, industry qualifications is more than qualifications being fit-for-purpose – it’s about striving for excellence.

At a time when there has been, and continues to be, considerable flux in terms of education and funding reform, our team was delighted that we have again moved up the ladder in terms of our positioning as a specialist awarding organisation in the vocational qualifications market. Of the five organisations that lead the way in the Leisure, Travel & Tourism sector (Pearson Education Ltd, 1st4sport Qualifications, Sports Leaders UK, Active IQ and IQL), we were one of only two organisations to demonstrate growth from 2013/14 to 2014/15, with a 30% increase in total certification from the previous year.

It’s worth highlighting that despite the drive for rationalisation of qualifications overall, one size and one level will never fit all. Active IQ’s portfolio consists of qualifications that range from Entry Level through to Level 5, and which cover the breadth of occupations that our sector requires – including physical activity, fitness, leisure, health & wellbeing and specialist practitioners through to qualifications that progress individuals through alternative pathways such as management and leadership.

Looking ahead, we now have the implementation of the Post-16 Skills Plan to look forward to – ever agile, we will of course rise to that challenge!