Northern Ireland Accreditation
The Northern Irish system for accrediting vocational qualifications is overseen by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) and is designed to provide learners with the skills and knowledge needed to succeed in the workforce. The system is based on the principles of flexibility, quality assurance, and responsiveness to the needs of learners and employers.
In Northern Ireland, vocational qualifications are referred to as Vocational Qualifications (VQs), and are offered at different levels of study, including Entry Level, Level 1, Level 2, Level 3, and Level 4. Qualifications at each level are categorised dependent on the hours of learning involved, in order of size they are award, certificate, extended certificate, diploma and extended diploma. Each level of study is designed to provide learners with a progressively higher level of skills and knowledge, and to prepare them for different types of jobs and careers.
To obtain a vocational qualification in Northern Ireland, learners must complete vocational qualifications approved by the CCEA Regulation, the regulator for qualifications in Northern Ireland. Qualifications themselves are developed and certificated by awarding bodies (AOs) which are independent bodies approved by CCEA Regulation with the capacity to do this. There are over 90 active AOs in Northern Ireland of which OCNNI is the largest by volume of qualifications awarded to learners. AOs have the responsibility to oversee the approval of organisations including colleges and schools to offer regulated qualifications directly to learners and issue certificates to those learners who have successfully completed. A similar model is in place in the other UK nations, Wales and England. In gaining accreditation for qualifications in Northern Ireland the option is there to have qualifications also approved for Wales and England as the accreditation systems are linked, effectively enabling UK wide accreditation. Scotland operates its own accreditation system.
The cost of accrediting vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland varies depending on the AO with some AOs charging for this process of accreditation but most recouping costs through charging the organisations they have approved to offer the qualification a registration fee per learner when the learner is registered into the qualification. This registration fee also may cover other elements such as AO quality assurance, certification etc. This system facilitates a degree of flexibility and responsiveness from the accreditation system which enabled an accreditation framework to be built round the curriculum areas the Bridges project focused on developing learning resources for, namely:
This has mean that learners can be enrolled into accredited programmes in the above areas, use the learning resources developed as part of project and have their knowledge and skills assessed in order to achieve certification for those learners that meet the requisite standard.
The following table summarises the accredited qualifications and courses the resources developed for each of the above areas were linked to the Accreditation Framework for Northern Ireland: