Section 96 Approval Principles

We consider qualifications for section 96 against a set of core approval principles.

Where a qualification fails to meet one or more of the principles, we will not approve it, and we will notify the awarding organisation with an explanation.

The section 96 approved qualification download contains all qualifications that have gained section 96 approval and can be used to identify the approved age categories for a qualification.

Please direct any queries regarding the section 96 core approval principles, or non-approved section 96 qualifications to qualifications.esfa@education.gov.uk.

Common Principles for Section 96 Qualifications

Approval Principle Common Principles
External qualification

Qualifications must be classed as an external qualification. An external qualification is one that is externally awarded or authenticated.

An external qualification does not include:

  • National Curriculum assessment and testing arrangements required by law at Key Stage 1, 2 and 3
  • a record of achievement
  • an employer's report of work experience
  • community service or business related awards such as Duke of Edinburgh's Award
  • any certificate awarded in a competition, competitive festival or quiz
Prior regulation by a regulated body Qualifications must be regulated by Ofqual to ensure that they:
  • meet high quality standards
  • are designed to meet the purpose intended
  • support a need, purpose or programme identified for its participants
  • enable progression to other qualifications within the same or different pathways, to other further study or to sustainable employment
  • are provided by an awarding organisation which has demonstrated the capability to apply criteria contained in the regulatory authorities Common Code of Practice
Funding

Qualifications considered to be an employer's statutory obligation or an employer specific qualification are unlikely to gain section 96 approval.

This includes qualifications that are funded by other Government Departments such as the armed forces.


Core Approval Principles relating to Age Categories

Approval Principle Principles for Pre-16 approved qualifications Principles for 16-18 approved qualifications Principles for 18+ approved qualifications
Level Qualifications are at Entry level, Level 1 or Level 2 or exceptionally at Level 3. Qualifications up to and including Level 5. Qualifications up to and including Level 6.
N/A Excluding level 3 qualifications that exclusively or mainly focus on personal skills such as; career planning, employment and work skills, learning skills, team working, communication, self-improvement or self-confidence.
The only exceptions are Performing Arts qualifications that require a student to access different levels in line with their current ability.
Supports broadening and developmental opportunities Any qualification that accesses a broad range of knowledge and skills and is designed for more than one profession. Any qualification that offers complementary, broadening or developmental opportunities at any level or leads to sustainable employment with a range of employers within a particular sector.
Suitability for age category Any qualification approved will be required to be suitable for pre-16 year olds taking into account their;
  • maturity
  • well-being
  • any health and safety requirements
Any qualification approved will be required to be suitable for 16-18 year olds predominately taking into consideration health and safety requirements. Any qualification will be approved on the understanding that awarding organisations, sector skills councils and Ofqual have ensured health and safety and legal requirements are deemed appropriate for students aged 18 and above.
Legality Any qualification approved must not contain an activity that is unlawful for the age group.Any qualification approved must not contain an activity that is unlawful for the age group.