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RQF Explained

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Teaching Assistant Qualifications Explained

All our NCFE CACHE home study Teaching Assistant courses are fully regulated and provide exactly the same qualifications as your local college.


This guidance is for you if you are considering taking a qualification to:

• Prepare for working in a school
• Enhance skills and knowledge relevant to your current role in school
• Develop knowledge and understanding to prepare for a new role

Teaching Assistant qualifications explained

If you are looking to enrol on a Teaching Assistant course, you’ve probably seen many different courses for what is essentially the same qualification. It’s very confusing so hopefully the following information will help you. The old NVQ qualifications have now been replaced by what is now known as the RQF framework and this is the official qualification for Teaching Assistants. RQF is jointly regulated by the England’s regulator Ofqual, Wales DCELLS and Northern Ireland’s CCEA.

Which Teaching Assistant courses are recognised?

If you want to be 100% certain your Teaching Assistant qualification is going to be recognised, you need to choose a course that’s on the RQF framework. RQF qualifications are regulated by OFQUAL (The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation regulates qualifications, examinations and assessments in England and vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland) and replace the old NVQ system. IF YOU WANT A FULLY RECOGNISED QUALIFICATION, BE SURE TO CHOOSE A RQF REGISTERED COURSE. All of our home study courses are RQF registered and OFQUAL regulated.

Do I choose a Level 2 or Level 3 course?

There are two different course levels for Teaching Assistants, level 2 and level 3. The difference between the levels is the amount of detail you are tested on. The level 3 course has far more questions in each assignment compared to a level 2 course and it will take you longer to complete it. The level 2 courses are ideal for any-one who hasn’t been in study for a long period of time or would like an easier course to complete.

Do I need to work in a school?

You can choose either a work placement course or a non-work placement course, depending if you are volunteering or working in a school. For work placement courses, you will be assessed by practical observations in the school as well as by written assignments. If you are not working in a school you will be assessed by written assignments only. The work placement courses are called Certificate or Diploma courses and the non-work placement courses are called Awards. Schools accept both course qualifications and it’s easy to upgrade to a work placement course if you start working in a school. Ultimately it will usually be the head teacher who decides which qualification they prefer their Teaching Assistants to have.

Information on the new RQF qualifications for Teaching Assistants and support staff in schools

RQF is the national credit transfer system for education qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. RQF qualifications are made up of units and credits and regulated by OFQUAL, the department that regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England and vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland, Wales DCELLS and Northern Ireland’s CCEA. Every unit and qualification in the RQF framework has a credit value based on the length of time it takes the average learner to complete the learning unit. Each unit and qualification also has its own level, between Entry level and level 8, to show how difficult it is. Credits can be transferred to other relevant courses, meaning if you decide to enrol on a higher level or different course, the existing unit(s) you have can be transferred to your new course. Local authorities in Scotland are looking for workers holding either an SVQ level 3 in Early Years Care and Education or an HNC in Childcare and Education.

What qualifications are available?

The new RQF qualifications for support staff in schools are at levels 2 and 3 on the framework:-

Course Title: NCFE CACHE Level 2 Award In Support Work In Schools and Colleges – (Credits: 12)

Course Title: NCFE CACHE Level 2 Certificate In Supporting Teaching and Learning – (Credits: 32)

Course Title: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning – (Credits: 12)

Course Title: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning – (Credits: 35)

Course Title: NCFE CACHE Level 3 Diploma in Supporting Teaching and Learning – (Credits: 53)

These are knowledge and practical based qualifications suitable for Teaching Assistant roles in schools that support the teaching and learning of pupils. These courses will develop the knowledge and understanding for working in a school setting and cover areas such as safeguarding, communication, child development and understanding the school context.

The knowledge based Award courses can be taken by learners not yet employed in a school, or those in school who are seeking a higher level role. The Certificate course is a mix of knowledge and practical work which requires you to be working in a school. You will be observed in the school classroom while you are doing your practical work tasks.

Why are the qualifications changing from NVQ?

RQF is the new framework for creating and accrediting qualifications in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It is expected that all vocational qualifications will have been accredited to the RQF by the end of 2020. This is the point that the RQF will replace the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) for vocational qualifications. All qualifications currently accredited to the NQF, including those for school support staff, have to be redesigned to meet the requirements of the RQF.

Does the introduction of the RQF mean that staff with existing qualifications should take the RQF versions as well?

No, there is no intention that anyone should retake qualifications as the result of the introduction of the RQF. The RQF qualifications are based on the same standards that underpin the previous QCF qualifications; what has changed is the way that qualifications are designed. The new structure makes it easier to add additional units as your role changes and develops without having to repeat training you have already done.

Are there any entry requirements for the qualifications?

There are no formal entry requirements for the qualifications. However, you will need to have sufficient language and literacy skills to be able to achieve the qualification you have chosen.

How will the new RQF qualifications work in practice?

The examples below show how people might use the new RQF qualifications:
Jenny would like to work in a school but competition is fierce for any jobs that come up in her area. She decides to make herself more attractive to schools by training as a Teaching Assistant. Once she starts working in a school she also wants to progress to a more senior role in her school. She therefore decides to take the Level 3 Award in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools which provides the underpinning knowledge and understanding needed for a higher level role. With this new understanding, Jenny is able to take on increased responsibilities and quickly decides to enrol on a course that has the additional units that she needs for the Level 3 Certificate in Supporting Teaching and Learning in Schools.

After a while, Jenny moves to another school where she is asked to focus particularly on working with pupils with behaviour and attendance issues; Jenny decides to take some additional RQF units related to her new role and achieves sufficient credits to be awarded the Level 3 Diploma in Specialist Support for Teaching and Learning in Schools.

How do I find out more?

If you are already working in a school, your line manager or CPD leader should be able to help you decide on the qualification most suitable for you. Guidance for school leaders on support staff qualifications is available by calling our student support team on 0345 012 0098.

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Why choose us?

Why choose us?

  • Start any time of year
  • Variety of courses
  • Simple secure enrolment
  • No hidden costs
  • Complete career support