Just when you thought it was safe to go out in the dark, the powers to be have decided that all qualifications as we know them, must change again.

We are now all used to the QCF, the Qualifications and Credit Framework where we can carry units with us, such as mandatory units, from one qualification to another. That has all changed and we now have a system called the Regulated Qualifications Framework referred to as the RQF.

Whilst the official changeover happened some time ago, in October 2015, the Awarding Organizations’ are only just catching up with it and have started releasing the new qualifications. 

Since October 2015, the new framework replacing the QCF is the Regulated Qualifications Framework (RQF), however qualifications can continue to carry credits and therefore follow the QCF rules detailed below.

The names of the qualifications in the QCF tell you three things – how difficult it is, how long it takes and what it is about.

The content – that’s what it’s about – could be retail, health and fitness, leadership, or maybe sport.

The level shows how difficult the qualification is. There are nine levels in the QCF, from Entry level to level 8. Levels indicate the difficulty and complexity of the knowledge and skills associated with any qualification. While most qualifications will be assigned a single level some, such as GCSEs, can span more than one. In the fitness industry, most of our qualifications for unsupervised teaching sit at level 2 and 3 with some specialist qualifications at level 4.

Next is the size – Size is the estimated total amount of time it could typically take to study and be assessed for a qualification. Every qualification in the QCF comes in one of three sizes – Award, Certificate and Diploma.

Every unit has a credit value that tells you how long the unit takes to complete. A credit is about 10 hours’ work, so a unit with a credit value of four, will take about 40 hours to do.

The total credit value of a qualification tells you its size – i.e. whether it is an Award, a Certificate or a Diploma. Awards are made up of 1 to 12 credits, Certificates 13 to 36 credits and Diplomas 37 credits or more.

Qualifications on the RQF will now be expressed in terms of Total Qualification Time (TQT). This includes taught hours, supervised learning, guided learning and self-study and preparation. This may increase the credit value and therefore the time. Qualifications can sit at different levels, but the same qualifications i.e. Personal training will now be governed by a minimum amount of study and assessment time. i.e. 38 unit credits = 380 hours as an example.

Here are two examples of qualification titles, showing how the three parts fit together:

Level 2 Certificate in Fitness Instructing

Level 3 Diploma in Teaching Mat Based Pilates.

Implications for the instructor

Qualifications are changing and some are becoming larger and more thorough and onerous in their assessment practice. This can only be a good thing.

Many of the qualifications are not visible yet and PT is the first we have seen. It now includes, business, technology, marketing, client health behaviours and much more. This prepares you more thoroughly for the modern working environment. The rest of the qualifications are expected to change soon and will follow the same principle of bringing them into currency of the working environment.

Personally, I think this is good. What this does mean, is that qualifications will become more expensive as they will be bigger and require more assessment. To help keep costs down for the instructor, based on the TQT,  we are offering a short course or a long course option for most of our new qualifications. The short course option takes the cost down for you, with more self-study and less taught modules and the long course is more expensive but fully taught modules. See our PT, Yoga and Pilates diplomas as examples. You can now choose your financial option, with your preferred learning option, keeping your training cost to a minimum. This will allow you to take more self development training more often and grow your teaching or business portfolio.

Other Change

Register of Exercise Professionals (REPs)

Launched in 2002, REPs are an independent, public register that recognises the qualifications and expertise of health-enhancing exercise instructors in the UK. REPs provide a system of regulation for instructors and trainers to ensure that they meet the health and fitness industry’s agreed National Occupational Standards.

REPs provide assurance and confidence to the public and employers that all professionals on the Register are appropriately qualified and have the knowledge, competence and skills to perform their role effectively.

REPs were developed to protect the public from trainers who do not hold appropriate qualifications. As well as protecting the public, REPs was also established to recognise the qualifications and skills of exercise professionals.

REPs transferred its ownership to Sports Coach UK and is operated by Coachwise Limited.

On their website, you can find accredited CPD courses with full details.


PD: Approval has been contracted to run endorsement on behalf of REPs. They offer a fully independent robust quality assurance process from beginning to end and their core role is to ensure quality assured training is available to REPs members, recognisable to learners and employers through a quality kitemark. 

The Quality Training Portal, a database to search for endorsed training, will continue to be available but work is underway to develop a new exciting platform – more details to come.

Chartered Institute for Management of Sport and Physical Activity

Launched in 2011, CIMSPA is the professional development body for the UK’s sport and physical activity sector.


CIMSPA has been awarded chartered status by the Privy Council, which came into effect at the start of January 2012.

CIMSPA provides leadership, support and empowerment for professionals working in sport and physical activity and a single unified voice for the sector.

CIMSPA maintain membership registration. You can join CIMSPA as an affiliate member (level 2 instructor), a practitioner (level 3 instructor), a member (management experience) or chartered member (level 5 qualifications or above.  

The Institute holds two long term strategic priorities:

  • To provide opportunities for young leaders to develop and succeed
  • To provide leadership on the development and management of career pathways

CIMSPA offers various partnership schemes for providers, employers and awarding organisations. For example Drummond Education is a Skills Development Partner to CIMSPA.

CIMSPA promote quality endorsed training representative of industry qualifications and also as self-development. On the CIMSPA website you can find approved training and CPD courses / events with full details.

Implications for the instructor or member

Watch this space? Ultimately only one industry register may survive long term if we hope to have credibility with the public and the government. As industry practitioners, we want to have respect for the value in registration and having two different registrations systems won’t help this. As to which organization you should register with, if at all, it is down to personal preference. If I had to hedge my bets as to the future, well! you will have to call me to find out that bit of information. J.