FAQs for teachers and tutors | NCFE | NCFE

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FAQs for teachers and tutors

Please use the categories below to find the relevant answer to your question.

How do I become an approved centre?

Find the qualifications you’re interested in offering on our qualification pages and click deliver this qualification. Once you’ve added everything you wish to gain approval for, click the basket icon and click 'apply for approval to start delivering'. You'll then be taken to our online application form.

Where can I locate the qualification codes for the programmes I want to gain approval for?

You can access the qualification codes using our qualification finder. You should be able to locate the qualification by searching using a keyword or course title. When you go to the qualification page, the code will be in the ‘Reference number’ box. Alternatively expand your search using the advanced search feature.

How can I find out which qualifications I'm currently approved for?

You can view the qualifications that you’re currently approved for by logging into the Portal. Access the Programmes tab and filter your search to show only your approved programmes.

What are the costs involved in becoming an approved centre?

Please see our fees and pricing document for approval fees.

What can I expect from an approval visit?

Please refer to our preparing for an approval review page.

What evidence is accepted to show our centre currently work with another Awarding Organisation?

Evidence must include at least one of, your current centre approval certificates, a letter or email confirming approval or an External Verifier/Moderator visit report from the current academic session.
You still need to meet our Approval Criteria and agree to our Centre Agreement. Once we receive your form we’ll check the information you’ve supplied. If your application is successful, we’ll add your details to our database and send you confirmation of approval by email.

How can I make registrations with you?

You’ll need a Portal account to register your learners with us. You can register on the Portal by filling in your information on the Portal registration page.

Once you’re logged in, click the registrations tab and follow the steps to process your registrations. If you need further support, please use the Portal Handbook.

How am I invoiced for the registrations I've processed?

We send you a consolidated invoice statement each month, showing all your transactions for that month. You’ll receive this in the first week of each month. For further information see our Invoicing Policy.

How can I check if my learner is already registered?

Log in to the Portal and click the search tab. You can search using the learner’s forename, surname or date of birth.

Can I cancel a registration that I've made in error?

You can cancel a registration by sending an email to our Customer Support Team. If the cancellation is made within 5 days of registration, you’ll be refunded the registration fee.

If outside of the 30 days you can withdraw your learners without any charge however the registration fee is not refunded.

The fee for this service can be found in our Fees and Pricing document.

Can I reinstate a learner that was previously registered?

A learner that has previously been cancelled cannot be reinstated and must be re-registered with us.

If the learner has been withdrawn they can be reinstated at any point within their two year registration period. Our Customer Support Team will reinstate the learner for you.

Can I amend the name of a learner that I’ve registered?

You can amend a learner’s name when you claim their certificate on the Let’s Claim screen of the Online Certification process.

Using this function you can correct a spelling error in the learner’s name.

What is Direct Claim Status (DCS)?

For information on DCS including how its awarded, which qualifications are eligible and transferring DCS from another awarding organisation, take a look at our DCS page.



Can my DCS be removed?

Yes we can remove your DCS approval at any time, but only for the following reasons: if you don’t meet the DCS criteria during your external quality assurance/verification visit (as detailed above). If this happens we’ll contact you and discuss this with you; in the exceptional circumstance where information from a range of external sources raises concerns, e.g. complaints, suspensions or investigations which may lead us to review of your DCS approval. If this happens, an External Quality Assurance Officer would contact you to highlight the issues and discuss the concerns.
Once DCS has been lost you will need two consecutive external quality assurance visits that meet our quality criteria. This involves being graded as excellent or above average in all categories and to have completed all of the outstanding actions set by the external quality assurer.

How many learners should be sampled to achieve DCS?

DCS is awarded for each individual qualification and therefore the number of learners sampled would be considered per qualification.

It also depends on the current status of the centre and over how many visits you want to achieve DCS.

If you are delivering the qualification for the first time and would like to achieve DCS in 1 visit, then the following criteria must be met in your EQA report; Exclusively grade 1s; No outstanding actions from previous EQA visit report; A minimum of 3 learner portfolios sampled on the visit, with at least 2 completed portfolios sampled and marked as ‘final’; other learners sampled can have ‘new’ or ‘mid’ status; Reliability of assessment must be graded as A; For Reformed Functional Skills only: the square root of submitted learners for controlled assessment must be sampled or a minimum of 5 (where there are fewer than 5, a minimum of 3 learners must be sampled and marked as final).
If you are delivering the qualification and would like to achieve DCS over 2 EQA visits, then the following criteria must be met in your EQA report; Exclusively grade 1s, 2s and 3s; A gap of at least one month between the 2 visits
No outstanding actions from previous EQA visit report; A minimum of 3 learner portfolios sampled on each visit, with at least 3 completed portfolios sampled over the 2 visits; other learners sampled can have ‘new’ or ‘mid’ statuses; Reliability of assessment must be graded as A or B
For Reformed Functional Skills only: the square root of submitted learners for controlled assessment must be sampled or a minimum of 5 (where there are fewer than 5, a minimum of 3 learners must be sampled and marked as final).
If you already have DCS and plan to maintain this then you must have one visit within 12 months of DCS being achieved/maintained meeting the following criteria; Exclusively grade 1s, 2s and 3s; No outstanding actions from previous EQA visit report; a minimum of one completed learner portfolios sampled and marked as ‘final’; other learners sampled can have ‘new’ or ‘mid’ statuses; Reliability of assessment must be graded as A or B; For Reformed Functional Skills only: the square root of submitted learners for controlled assessment must be sampled or a minimum of 5 (where there are fewer than 5, a minimum of 3 learners must be sampled and marked as final).

Why has my centre lost DCS when the minimum number of learners were sampled?

If the minimum number of learners have been sampled, you’ll need to check that all other DCS criteria has also been met.

Learners marked as ‘new’ or ‘mid’ count towards the number of learners sampled however, only learners marked as ‘final’ are deemed as fully completed portfolios. The minimum number of ‘final’ completed portfolios must be sampled to achieve DCS. The EQA will always retrospectively sample learners who’ve been certificated previously via DCS.

What does the ‘DCS Pending’ status mean?

DCS Pending will appear on the report when most of the required criteria has been met but insufficient final learners haven’t been sampled to achieve DCS. DCS is therefore pending until correct number of final learner portfolios have been sampled; When achieving DCS in 1 visit – a minimum of 3 learners must be sampled and 2 marked as final; When achieving DCS over 2 visits – a minimum of 3 learners must be sampled in the current and previous report and 3 must be marked as final over the 2 reports per qualification; When maintaining DCS – a minimum of 1 learner portfolio must be sampled and marked as ‘final’.

What does ‘First Report of DCS’ mean?

This means that it’s the first report to meet the DCS criteria on the 2 visit pathway. DCS hasn’t been awarded yet but will be achieved if the next visit meets the criteria and takes place with 18 months of the first visit.

If a centre has achieved a status of ‘DCS Pending’ or ‘First report of DCS Standard’ will learner certificates be automatically issued once a certificate claim form is submitted?

Certificate claim forms will only automatically be signed off if a centre has DCS achieved or maintained. For any other DCS outcome, certificate claims will need to be signed off by the EQA. You must ensure that prior to submitting any certification claims, a visit must have taken place otherwise the EQA will reject the claim. Our SLA for EQAs to sign off certificate claims is 3 working days.

Why has the centre lost DCS for qualifications that weren’t sampled?

There are a couple of triggers which will result in DCS being lost for all qualifications in the QA group even if they weren’t sampled on the visit:
If section 2 is graded as ‘some actions outstanding’ or ‘no action taken’; Any section containing a grade 4 or 5; Section 7 reliability of assessment graded C or D; Section 10 do you recommend continued approval for this product and centre is marked no.

If a centre has achieved DCS for a higher level qualification of a nested qualification eg Cert or Diploma, can DCS be applied to the lower Level Award or Cert, or standalone units?

Yes DCS can be applied. However, the centre or EQA must request this either in section 10 of the EQA report or by emailing [email protected].

If a qualification is sampled prior to the expiry of DCS, is it update for another year, or does it still run up to the original expiry date?

DCS will be updated for a year from the date of the EQA visit, whether it is on the day of the expiry or prior. If a visit takes place after the expiration date then DCS will automatically lapse and the centre will need to work towards achieving DCS again.

Why can a centre not gain DCS when they have been delivering qualifications for a number of years, however, they never have enough learners to meet the requirements of DCS?

NCFE has set minimum requirements for DCS in order to monitor centre assessment standards. Therefore, if a centre is unable to meet the DCS criteria, this can’t be awarded.

What is a V Cert?

'V Cert' is our brand name for our technical award qualifications for schools. We have developed these qualifications in line with the technical guidance provided by the Department for Education (DfE) and have been approved to count on KS4 Performance Tables.

Each V Cert technical award is equivalent to one GCSE, and contains both internally and externally assessed elements.

V Certs are recognised by DfE as Technical Awards.

Which vocational qualifications can my school deliver?

Schools can deliver any existing age-appropriate qualification; see Section 96 for further information. However, if you are looking for qualifications that are included in the Key Stage 4 performance tables then you will need to choose a qualification from the list published by the DfE.

Our V Cert technical awards are on the DfE list and each is equivalent to 1 GCSE.

What happens if my external assessment is affected by bad weather ie I have to close my centre due to adverse weather conditions?

As the external assessments take place within a marking window, it would be down to the school to rearrange the session that was affected. All external assessment sessions would still need to take place within the marking window. If you have any concerns about this please contact the External Quality Assurance team.

What happens if I haven’t received my assessment papers before the scheduled marking window?

You should contact our Customer Support Team as soon as possible or call 0191 239 8000.

Tell me about Performance Points

The list of all qualifications that attract performance points can be found on the DfE website. These are updated every year.

All Level 1/2 V Cert Technical Awards are graded from Level 1 Pass through to Level 2 Distinction*, and are equivalent to GCSE grades 1 to 8.5. See grading table below.

A graph showing the new V Cert grading structure

What are the discount codes for the V Certs?

Qualifications are assigned a discount code by the Department for Education (DfE) to show where one qualification discounts the other because the content of each qualification is deemed too similar.

If a pupil completes 2 qualifications that have the same discount code, although the pupil still gains both qualifications, only 1 of those qualifications will count towards the Key Stage 4 Performance Tables. For example, if a pupil completes both GCSE Physical Education and the V Cert in Sports Studies, only one of these qualifications will count in the Performance Tables.

These are updated by the DfE every year. See the DfE website for further information.

In relation to the early entry policy, which V Cert qualification will count towards the Key Stage 4 Performance Tables?

Qualifications taken from Year 7 onwards can count in the Key Stage Performance Tables once the pupil reaches the end of Key Stage 4.

However, the early entry policy comes into effect from Year 9.

This means if a pupil completes a Level 1 qualification in Year 7 or 8 and completes the Level 2 qualification in Year 9 or 10, then the best result from either the Level 1 or Level 2 qualification will count in the Performance Tables.

However, if the pupil completes both the Level 1 and Level 2 qualification in Year 9 or later, then it is the first entry that will be reported in the Performance Tables.

What if my pupils are studying a V Cert at a local college, who gets the points?

The performance points are assigned to the school where the pupil is enrolled.

What are the occupational competence requirements to deliver V Certs?

Each qualification specification provides guidance on the experience and qualifications needed to deliver and assess the qualification but it isn’t intended to be exhaustive or definitive. Examples of relevant qualifications and occupational backgrounds are given as benchmarks.

Other equivalent qualifications or backgrounds may also qualify prospective staff for delivery or assessment roles. Centres must provide sufficient numbers of suitably experienced Assessors and Internal Quality Assurers to ensure that qualifications are delivered effectively. Staff recruitment should be made at the discretion of centres, and centres should be aware that it is their responsibility to ensure that all staff involved in the delivery and assessment of our qualifications are suitably qualified.

Each subject specific qualification specification can be found on the qualification pages.

What does 'Operational End Date' mean?

The Operational End Date is the last date that we can accept registrations for a qualification. The qualifications will be reviewed before this date with the intention of extending the accreditation period, pending further review of the qualifications by the Department for Education (DfE).

You’ll still have 2 years from the operational end date to claim your certificates.

How will the new qualifications differ from the current model?

You can read some of the key changes between our new V Certs and the legacy V Certs in our What’s Changing? Guide.

How long are the new V Certs approved for performance points for?

They are approved for 2024 and 2025 performance tables. Then they'll most likely do a yearly review of the qualifications and the next opportunity to add any new ones would be for 2026 tables, but we are still waiting for the technical guidance and dates from DfE. Check out the Performance Tables Guide for further information.

Will centres receive support visits?

Support visits will not be available for centres as its moderation and moderators won’t be allocated until final marks are in the Portal, they'll be more like examiners.

Administration and standardisation training will be provided to support centres as well as support from the provider development team.

If a learner fails the examination, will there be a resit opportunity?


Will there be an earlier examination opportunity than in May/June each year?

No. There is only one examination each session.

Does the learner have a choice between the NEA and EA?

No. Each V Cert comprises a compulsory NEA and EA. The percentage weighting will vary for each qualification so please refer to the qualification specification for confirmation.

Can the NEA and EA be completed in different academic sessions?

No. Both the NEA and EA must be completed within the same academic session.

Can a centre claim partial certification for a learner who has not completed the qualification in full?

No. The qualification comprises a single unit in a linear model so partial completion and certification cannot be claimed.

Does the learner have to answer all questions in the EA to pass the examination?

No. The examination grading model is compensatory so a learner may still pass the qualification even if they do not correctly answer all the examination questions. Providing the learner's combined marks for the EA and NEA meet the minimum amount required for a Level 1 Pass, they will still achieve.

Will sample assessment materials be made available?

Yes. Sample assessment materials are available for each subject to download from our qualification pages, and include:

  • Sample examined assessment paper (EA)
  • Sample mark scheme for the EA
  • Sample non-exam assessment (NEA)
  • Sample mark scheme for the NEA.
Will learners have access to class notebooks and other resources while completing the NEA?

Subject Specific Tutor Guidance will be available to centres soon to offer more detail and guidance on the controls for the NEAs.

What is the moderation process for the NEA?

Centres will be submitting marks rather than grades. Centres will submit marks that go forward for moderation. Once the portal closes the centre will not be able to amend any marks. These marks are then taken forward with the moderators marks, from the sample, to determine final marks for the learners. Depending on tolerance and consistency checks the final mark could be the centres mark, moderators mark or a regressed mark. A sample will be requested. Initial samples are based on JCQ sampling guidance for moderation. The sample maybe widened depending on whether marks are within tolerance or not. The centre will be advised if further samples are required. Centres will not be asked to submit all evidence unless the moderator deems in necessary to request more samples through the moderation process. In some cases though this might include all learners and all learners might be requested if they have a small cohort. Administration training and standardisation training will be provided to centres.

Why has the Level 1 Distinction* been removed?

This grade was removed to help decompress the L1 grade boundaries.

Is the overall grade compensatory?

The assessments are completely compensatory, so (in theory) learners aren’t restricted in what their overall grade will be by what they achieve in each assessment. Their overall grade will be determined by comparing their combined (and scaled) marks in each assessment against the combined (and scaled) grade boundaries. In reality, they’re unlikely to get a high overall grade if they do very badly in one of the assessments, and inevitably their overall grade will be somewhere between the notional grades they achieve in the 2 assessments. On that basis, for example if a learner got a Level 2 distinction in the NEA and only a Level 1 merit in the EA, they could come out with a Level 2 pass. However, given that grade boundaries are yet to be set, and will change from series to series, it’s impossible to give any more reassurance than that.

Which of the content will be tested in the examination and which in the internal assessment?

The new structure is in a single linear model and is not divided into 2 units like the previous V Cert model. This means that all content areas for each qualification must be taught in advance of the assessment and all of the mandatory content will be subject to assessment in both the EA and NEA.

Do level 1 and level 2 learners complete the same NEA and EA?


Are there any sample portfolios available?

Not currently, however we are working on creating Student Exemplary Materials to support with standardisation training and marking of the Non-Exam Assessments.

For the internal quality assurance of the NEA will the sample size recommendations be like the model 4 where we suggest 50% sample size in first year of delivery and then between 20%-40% thereafter?

As V Cert synoptic assessments will be moderated externally, we will not be checking evidence of IQA decisions. Centres, however, do need to ensure that internal quality assurance processes are in place with standardisation sessions being an integral part of this. Centres should then follow this with the sampling of assessment decisions, to ensure all assessors are marking consistently. As a guide we suggest all assessors are sampled for an agreed percentage of assessments marked, this should be higher in the first year of delivery.

Can I give feedback to my learners during the NEA?

Learners can rework their evidence at any point during the supervised sessions. Supervisors or assessors are able to identify areas which do not meet the required standard or criteria however, you cannot give the detail of what is missing or needs improving to learners. Learners should use this feedback and decide themselves how to improve it.

Can we teach/prepare/recap them for say x2 lessons a week and then undertake actual NEA in controlled session in the 3rd lesson a week?

The learner should not undertake the non-exam assessment until all content areas have been delivered. This is to ensure learners are in a position to complete the non-exam assessment successfully. The learner, therefore, should not be entered for the internal synoptic project until they have been taught the full course of study, to ensure that they are in the best position to complete the internal synoptic project successfully.’

Therefore, this is not permitted as all content needs to have been delivered prior to the completion of the NEA and it could be seen as ‘teaching to the test’.

When is the final external assessment opportunity for the legacy V Certs before they are withdrawn?

Learners are allowed a 2-year cycle to certificate after registering on a qualification. This means that certification must be completed by December 2024 so depending on the qualification pattern of assessment, this would be Spring 2024 for Model 4 level 1/2 technical awards and Summer 2024 for the Model 3 qualifications.

Will the papers/mark schemes be hidden so that students cannot access these if using for mocks?

We have published the sample papers and mark schemes on QualHub as we know how important it is for teachers to be able to review these when making decisions about which qualifications to offer.

We understand there are risks associated with having the sample assessments freely available online and will monitor this closely.

When can we make bookings for the first assessment series?

Registration for these qualifications opens on 1 September 2022 in the NCFE Portal.

How do we make bookings?

Assessment series bookings are made at the point of registration in the NCFE Portal, therefore no additional action is required other than selecting the required series at the point of registration.

Why is there not an assessment opportunity in 2022-23?

These qualifications are designed for 2-year delivery, therefore the first cohort registered in Sept 2022 will be entered onto the 23-24 assessment series.

Do I need to make separate bookings for the NEA and the EA?

No, they will be booked together when you select the preferred assessment series, as both must be sat in the same series.

What are the mode options for the EA?

The EA can be completed either online (in Surpass) or paper-based.

How do I make a booking for an online EA?

In same way in Portal, select online.

Can I book onto the Summer 2025 series?

This option will be available for booking from September 2023.

What are the dates of the Summer 2024 EA?

These will be confirmed in Summer 2023. We will be publishing the dates 1 year in advance (as opposed to the usual 2 years), so that we can plan around the assessment dates of other qualifications such as GCSEs. This will allow us to, where possible, avoid clashes and mitigate risks. However, the dates will be in the Summer 2024 period, meaning May and June 2024.

Can I change from online to paper based after booking (and vice versa)?


Can I book the NEA and EA for different years?

No – both the NEA and EA must be completed in the final year of delivery (2023/2024 for the first wave of students on these qualifications)

When will the booking cut off for the booking be?

This is still to be confirmed, however there will be no booking cut off in the 22/23 session as there are no assessments taking place until Summer 2024.

What will the late fees be if past the cut off?

Late fees will be charged, currently in line with the most recent fees document.

Will there be grade boundaries published for the NEA/EA?

The NEA assessment will be numerically marked by centres, rather than graded. Centres will have access to administration and standardisation training to support the application of the mark scheme. Setting the grade boundaries and awarding learner grades is completed by NCFE as part of our awarding processes. As the grade boundaries are set by NCFE as part of the awarding process, we won't know the boundaries in-year so will not be able to provide indicative grade boundaries ahead of time.

Will I still have an External Quality Assurer (EQA)?

If the qualification has a moderated component, you won’t be allocated an EQA. However, you will be allocated a Quality Reviewer who will conduct your annual monitoring review (AMR).

When will teaching and learning resources be available for the new V Certs?

We are developing a suite of teaching and learning resources for each V Cert, which will include detailed schemes of learning/work, PowerPoint presentations, and workbooks. Please refer to our Teaching and Learning Resources FAQs Document for the full release schedule.

How do I access teaching and learning materials?

The resources are available to download for free via the qualification pages. 

Will there be any textbooks available for the new V Certs?

Hodder textbooks will be available for Child Development and Care in the Early Years, Health and Fitness, Business and Enterprise and Food and Cookery. A Hodder revision guide will also be available for these subjects by Spring 2023 including Engineering.

Will iAchieve be providing teaching resources?

Yes. Online resources will be available for Health and Fitness, Food and Cookery, Business and Enterprise and Child Development in Care and Early Years. 

iAchieve are also interested in adding Health and Social Care, Sports Studies, Engineering and Digital technology to their suite. Contact [email protected] for more information.

What evidence is accepted to show our centre currently work with another awarding organisation?
Why has my claim been rejected by the External Quality Assurer?

This could be for several reasons:

  • An external quality assurance review hasn’t taken place for this qualification
  • The portfolio(s) are not of the required standard and need further work before certification can take place
  • The learner(s) haven’t been sampled or are part of a batch that hasn’t been sampled
  • The learner(s) have been cancelled, transferred or withdrawn
  • The EQA may have picked up on a discrepancy between the claim made and the work presented.

There are many reasons why a claim may be rejected but your EQA will support you through what actions need to be completed before certificates can be issued.

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