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NCFE

Vocational and other qualifications quarterly: July to September 2021

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Quarter 3 2021 (July to September) was a period in which the final stages of COVID-19 restrictions were lifted in England and Wales. Adapted vocational and other qualifications continued to be permitted, in line with our regulatory arrangements (please see the background notes for more information). The trends seen in this quarter may have been affected as a result.

The number of certificates awarded in 2021 quarter 3 was just over 2.2 million, a 12% increase from quarter 3 of 2020. This has also meant that the number of certificates issued in the 12 months leading up to the end of quarter 3 2021 (4,596,775) has also increased relative to the number certificates issued in the 12 months leading to the end of quarter 2 2021 (4,364,655). This confirms the change of trend already seen in quarter 2, when an increase in these figures started raising for the first time after the COVID-19 pandemic.

There was an increase in the number of certificates awarded for almost all qualification levels between quarter 3 of 2020 and quarter 3 of 2021, with the largest increase in numbers being for Level 3 qualifications (from 541,385 certificates in quarter 3 of 2020 to 687,555 certificates in quarter 3 of 2021, an increase of 27%). The only qualification level which saw a decrease in certificates awarded from quarter 3 2020 to quarter 3 2021 was Entry Level qualifications with a decrease of 4%. The number of certificates issued for Level 8 qualifications remained the same.

Quarter 3 of 2021 saw increases in the number of certificates awarded for most sector subject areas. The largest increase was seen for Arts, Media, and Publishing, which saw an increase from 193,820 certificates in quarter 3 of 2020 to 303,485 certificates in quarter 3 of 2021 (an increase of 57%). The largest decrease in certificates from quarter 3 of 2020 was seen for Preparation for Life and Work, dropping from 476,380 certificates to 366,550 in quarter 3 of 2021, a decrease of 23%.

Quarter 3 2021 saw a significant decrease compared to quarter 3 2020 in the number of certificates awarded for Functional Skills qualifications (from 255,955 certificates in quarter 3 2020 to 142,510 certificates in quarter 3 2021, a decrease of 44%). This may be, in part, due to ESFA permitting temporary flexibilities on when Functional Skills qualifications had to be taken as part of apprenticeships and only required apprentices to achieve Level 1. Most qualification types, however, saw an increase this quarter compared to 2020 quarter 3.

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The 2 qualifications with the highest number of certificates awarded in quarter 3 2021 were OCR Level 1/2 Cambridge National Certificate in Creative iMedia, followed by Pearson BTEC Level 1/Level 2 First Award in Sport. These qualifications had the higher number of certificates awarded in quarter 3 2020.

The awarding organisation with the highest number of certificates issued in this quarter was Pearson, followed by City and Guilds and OCR. In quarter 3 2021, Pearson saw a 5% decrease in the number of certificates awarded (down 33,005) compared to quarter 3 2020. City and Guilds and OCR saw a 5% and 1% decrease in the number of certificates compared to quarter 3 2020 respectively.

Over the whole year, Pearson had the highest number of certificates issued, followed by City and Guilds and NCFE.

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