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Let’s make this perfectly clear: The difference between qualifications and CPD courses

Let’s make this perfectly clear: The difference between qualifications and CPD courses

We all do courses and training to improve our knowledge and skills, but what do these terms mean? Do they result in you being appropriately qualified to teach the new skill to your clients and customers? Tom Bell, Director of PD:Approval, with experience of endorsing REPs-recognised training for over 12 years, will tell you everything you need to know about choosing the appropriate piece of training…

In the course of our work as the endorsement body for REPs, we come across many fitness professionals, training providers, employers and general public who are unclear about the difference between a qualification and a piece of continuing professional development (CPD) training, or indeed realise there is a difference.

The simple explanation is that qualifications are listed on the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), which is the national framework of UK qualifications, and the certificate of achievement is issued by an Awarding Organisation. Your certificate means you are ‘qualified’ in that subject. Certificates for qualifications included in the REPs framework will include the REPs CPD point logo.

CPD can be developed by any individual or organisation, but unless it is endorsed by a recognised body, ie PD:Approval, does not come with any safeguards in quality for learners or any support for the learner if things go wrong. The certificate will be issued by the endorsed provider and means you are ‘certified’ in that subject. Certificates for PD:Approval endorsed training will include the REPs, CPD point, and PD:Approval Endorsed logos.

There is also a lack of understanding about what learners should know about the training they are undertaking – will there be an assessment, what does the certificate mean, is my insurance affected? We hope to be able to provide a clear picture to help you in the training choices you make.

Education and training is an essential part of any profession and most professional membership bodies require a qualification or degree to gain entry. Each profession and sector is different and all have their own ways to protect the integrity of their industry and qualifications. But they all recognise the importance of the provision of recognised skills for employment so that the learner is competent as well as confident in what they are doing.

REPs and PD:Approval champion the provision of recognised skills and aim to ensure that we continue to drive up achievement within the UK through the REPs framework of qualification categories (Level 2, 3 and 4). Coupled with PD:Approval endorsed CPD training to support ongoing learning, this offers a clear career pathway for REPs members to progress whilst gaining recognition for their efforts. More importantly, it gives them peace of mind knowing that all endorsed training is covered by their REPs insurance (REPs members can use other bodies to provide their insurance but REPs insurance guarantees cover for REPs recognised training).

To be able to make a more informed choice it is important to understand the detail behind the different levels of learning.

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Vocational Qualifications:

Vocational qualifications provide the skills for employment and each additional level or discipline offers a wider scope of practice to operate in. The qualifications are underpinned by national occupational standards (NOS) either fully for a particular role ie Level 3 Personal Trainer, or partially for a discipline, ie Certificate in Kettlebells.

Before a qualification is available to be offered by an Awarding Organisation it has to be accredited by the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) and must be shown to have employer support before going on the RQF.

Accredited qualifications are delivered by AO approved ‘centres’ (training providers). Qualification learning time is variable, but REPs recognised qualifications are typically 150+ hours.

AOs must regularly quality assure their approved centres, whereby an AO appointed External Quality Assurer (EQA) will either visit the provider to observe them delivering or assessing the training, or request them to send in their materials to be checked as a desk based assessment. As the AO has this relationship with their centres, any learner complaints that can’t be dealt with by the training provider will be the responsibility of the AO to deal with.

The REPs qualification framework, which lists the qualifications that will enable you to join the register and move to different levels of membership, sets out the scope of practice and level of insurance that REPs members must abide by.  For example, it is not the place for a fitness professional to diagnose, treat injuries, rehabilitate or offer diet management - these are the roles of a Nutritionist, Physiotherapist or Sport Rehabilitator. All accredited qualifications that offer entry to REPs such as Level 2 GYM, another level such as Level 3 Pilates, or an additional category such as Older Adults, are awarded 20 REPs CPD points. Accredited qualifications that aren’t on the framework, for instance a Certificate in Kettlebells, will be awarded points according to the learning hours up to a maximum of 16 REPs CPD points. 

All endorsed CPD specifies a pre-requisite qualification that learners must have in order to undertake the training. If a REPs member undertakes training and is not sufficiently qualified, then they are not covered by their insurance. For example, someone undertaking endorsed CPD in exercise referral will not be covered by their insurance to practice unless they have first achieved an appropriately certified Level 3 Exercise Referral qualification.

Higher Education Foundation/Degrees:

Degrees in a fitness related discipline don’t cover the same areas as the accredited qualifications on the REPs framework, therefore only offer provisional membership. These members must gain one of the qualifications on the framework in order to achieve full membership status.

Degrees that are endorsed by PD:Approval do enable undergraduates to get full entry to REPs during their study, as well as gain valuable work experience and an income, as they are able to gain level 2, 3 and sometimes 4 qualifications which are embedded into their degree programme. If you are at university and can’t access these qualifications, speak to your tutors and ask them to contact us.

Industry Awards (Level 4):

Training at Level 4 indicates a healthy and fitness specialism in either medical conditions or strength and conditioning, and qualifications are available through AOs at this level.

PD:Approval offers an alternative route whereby specialist training providers can develop their own Level 4 training and gain endorsement for it as an Industry Award. The award will not sit on the RQF but is recognised by REPs and enables learners to either gain Level 4 membership or another level on the register in their specialist area and 20 REPs CPD points, providing they have the necessary pre-requisite qualification(s).

Continuing Professional Development (CPD):

CPD is a piece of training developed by an individual or organisation that sits outside the qualifications framework. It confers a skill not a qualification and must not be seen as a replacement for a qualification that offers entry or an additional level or category on REPs. 

CPD is seen as a way to support the ongoing development of skills already attained through a qualification, degree, or Industry Award. For example, a Level 2 Exercise to Music qualified fitness professional may decide to undertake a course in choreography as the skills to plan and prepare an exercise to music class have already been learnt in their qualification and the workshop is a great way to gain knowledge and new ideas.

Endorsed CPD must link into the REPs framework qualifications (REPs Level 2, 3 or 4) so that it further develops the REPs members’ knowledge whilst keeping them within their scope of practice. This means that REPs members must already have a specified pre-requisite qualification in order to undertake the training, the aim being to safeguard the learner and general public from underqualified fitness professionals and to ensure their REPs insurance is not invalidated in relation to that training.

CPD can be described in a variety of ways – course, workshop, training programme, unstructured learning, informal learning, but should not be described as a qualification.

When choosing PD:Approval endorsed training, learners should be aware of the following:

  • If it offers 8-16 REPs CPD points, there must be a formal assessment which will provide verbal and/or written feedback which, if a ‘refer’, will help revisit the areas where the learner has failed and so meet the learning outcomes of the course. REPs members must satisfy the pre-requisite to be covered by their insurance.
  • If it offers between 4-7 REPs CPD points, there will be key learning outcomes to complete but no formal assessment. REPs members must satisfy the pre-requisite to be covered by their insurance.
  • If it offers 1-3 REPs CPD points, it will be training that creates the opportunity to gain ideas and keep up to date with research, all building on knowledge in areas that the member is already qualified in. The pre-requisite condition still applies unless it is an endorsed event ie conference or seminar.

Where CPD covers areas which are not reflected in any national occupational standards ie boxing, group indoor cycling, HIT/HITT, strapping and taping, kettlebells, body weight suspension training, the training must offer at least 8 CPD points and have a formal assessment.

CPD, degrees and Industry Awards endorsed on behalf of REPs by PD:Approval has been checked against strict criteria to make sure that they are safe and effective, and that the provider has policies and processes in place to support the learner experience. We also ensure that tutors, assessors and internal quality assurers are suitably qualified, and members of REPs where appropriate.

PD:Approval regularly quality assures our endorsed providers offering CPD, degrees or Industry Awards, whereby an External Quality Assurer (EQA) will either visit the provider to observe them delivering or assessing the training, or request them to send in their materials to be checked as a desk based assessment. Any complaints about a PD:Approval endorsed provider that can’t be dealt with by the training provider themselves can be referred to PD:Approval.

Hopefully this has provided some clarity on the training opportunities available and explained the difference between a qualification and CPD, enabling learners to choose their training path accordingly.  

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