We work with the sector to regularly review and improve qualifications and occupational standards for social work, social care and early years, children and young people's workers. We also have a statutory responsibility to approve and regulate standards for education at social work student degree level and throughout the Professional in Practice Framework for Social Work.

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Vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland are regulated against the Ofqual Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF). RQF indexes qualifications according to their ‘level’ and ‘size’ and maps them to the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications, as well as to the European Qualifications Framework. Ofqual requires awarding organisations to meet the General Conditions for Recognition in order to maintain a consistent approach to the level and size of all regulated qualifications.

There are eight levels supported by three ‘entry’ levels. While most qualifications will be assigned a single level some, such as GCSEs, can span more than one. Qualifications can sit at different levels, but require similar amounts of study and assessment time. Equally, qualifications at the same level can take different amounts of study and assessment time.

Size is expressed in terms of Total Qualification Time. It is the estimated total amount of time it could typically take to study and be assessed for a qualification. This can be anything from a matter of hours to several years of study and different students can take different amounts of time to study for the same qualification. The part of that time typically spent being taught or supervised, rather than studying alone, is known as Guided Learning Hours.

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