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Types of qualification

Our role is to make sure that the qualifications offered by awarding organisations meet the standards we set, are fit for purpose and are comparable to other qualifications.

This section provides information on the qualifications that are accredited (or approved) in England by Ofqual, in Wales (by the Department for Children, Education, Lifelong Learning and Skills; DCELLS) and Northern Ireland (by the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment; CCEA). 

You can also find a handy table of key dates within the qualifications system.


National curriculum key stages

The national curriculum is organised into blocks of years called 'key stages'. 'Foundation stage' covers education for children before they reach five (compulsory school age).

Relationship between key stages, school years and pupil ages


Becoming an awarding organisation

In order to offer accredited qualifications awarding organisation must be recognised by the regulators of external qualifications. The regulators check that the awarding body has the necessary systems in place to deliver national qualifications effectively and to appropriate standards.

Developing qualifications

Once an awarding organisation is recognised they can develop qualifications and submit them to the regulator for accreditation (approval). Before beginning the development process awarding bodies should contact Ofqual.

Qualifications accreditation process

Awarding organisations submit their qualifications for accreditation by the regulator via the web based accreditation system. The regulators check that the qualifications meet the required criteria before accrediting them.

Administering examinations

Awarding organisations must comply with the statutory regulations for external qualifications and the relevant code of practice.