Merged into1981
Founded atUnited Kingdom
TypeExamination board Awarding Organisation
HeadquartersQ6 Quorum Park, Benton Lane, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE12 8BT
Region served
  • England
  • Wales
  • Northern Ireland
Official language
David Gallagher

NCFE, previously the Northern Council for Further Education, is an Awarding Organisation nationally recognised by the qualification regulators for each country of the United Kingdom.[1] NCFE is regulated by the Office of the Qualifications and Examinations Regulator in England, the Welsh Government in Wales[2] and the Council for Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment in Northern Ireland.

A registered educational charity, NCFE is responsible for the design, development and certification of qualifications and awards that are nationally recognised. The qualifications NCFE offer range from Entry Level up to Level 7 and include both vocational and academic courses.


The Northern Union of Mechanics' Institutes (NUMI), NCFE's founding organisation,[3] was established in 1848.[4] NUMI's first report proclaimed its objective to "become a centre from whence the elements of knowledge and civilisation shall go on with an unceasing progress, conferring intellectual, scientific and moral blessings throughout the length and breadth of the Northern Counties."

In 1920, NUMI was succeeded by the Northern Counties Technical Examinations Council (NCTEC) and, for the following 61 years, was responsible for providing examinations and certifications to schools and technical colleges, where it was backed by 9 northern local education authorities.[5]

In 1981, the NCTEC combined with the Northern Advisory Council for Further Education[6] (NACFE), and became the Northern Council for Further Education.[7]

In the 1990s, the education sector became independent from the government and NCFE became a national company, and thus were no longer known as the Northern Council for Further Education, but simply as the standalone NCFE.[8][9]


NCFE has won a number of awards for the working culture it creates.[10] The charity has been selected on more than one occasion as a Times Top 100 Company in the Not For Profit (NFP) category NCFE's first entry into the Top 100 came in 2007 in the Small Companies category, but the organisation has risen through the ranks each year:


NCFE offer a broad range of qualifications on a number of levels, from Entry Level right up to, and including, Level 7. NCFE are also frequently updating qualifications and introducing new awards in order to keep up with the changing education sector and to tackle the skills gaps.[19]

Foundation learning

Foundation Learning awards are designed to help learners progress to Entry Level and beyond by tailoring programmes to the learners and their interests and capabilities. The qualifications aim to increase engagement and participation in Further Education.[20]

NCFE offers foundation learning courses in the areas of:

Functional skills

Following the release of the Government's White Paper on 14-19 Education and Skills, NCFE developed Functional Skills in response to the employability needs identified by the Government. Functional Skills equip learners with essential, transferable skills in Mathematics, English and ICT in order for them to develop when moving into the world of work.


Apprenticeships offer learners the opportunity to take up a placement in a workplace whilst also studying towards a nationally recognised qualification. The qualifications are the work experience, a Competence Based Qualification (which includes NVQs), Technical Certificates, either Key or Functional Skills and vital coverage of Employment Rights and Responsibilities.[19][21]

NCFE's Apprenticeships cover the following areas:


NCFE's Traineeship programme has been developed to meet the Government's agenda[23] and offers a broad 'mix and match' package in order for centres to adapt to the needs of their learners. There are over 130 qualifications available, and a group of Maths and English qualifications that are currently planned for release in September 2013.

The Traineeship includes work experience as well as a requirement to study English and Maths. Learners are also prepared for entering the world of work, such as CV-writing tips and advice on how to prepare for a job interview.[24] Traineeships are designed to help prepare students for apprenticeships, further education, or entering the world of work[25] by building essential and transferable skills and core attributes that employers are looking for.[26]

NCFE's suite of Employability Skills qualifications aim to ensure that learners know how to make a good impression at work right from the beginning – presenting themselves smartly and professionally, working as part of a team, solving problems, following instructions and managing their time efficiently.

V Certs

NCFE developed V Cert qualifications in the response to the changes to GCSE equivalent qualifications made by the government, which have just come into effect.[27] These changes mean many vocational qualifications will no longer be considered to hold equivalency to GCSEs and thus won't count towards school's performances tables.

NCFE's V Certs were developed in response to this and meet the requirements of Ofqual and the Department for Education. The qualifications contain both examination and moderation elements and each individual qualification is the equivalent to a single GCSE.

Currently, NCFE are running 5 V Cert qualifications available from the start of this academic year (2013/14) which are:

Accreditation services

NCFE also provide accreditation services for bespoke training by kite marking its fitness for purpose and by verifying the quality of provision. Because not all qualifications on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) meet everyone's needs, NCFE developed the Customised Award service and the Investing in Quality (IIQ) Licence which provide a quality framework to support organisations to design and deliver their own training courses, whilst gaining formal recognition from NCFE (up to Level 4 equivalence on the QCF).

Customised Award

NCFE's Customised Award service is designed to accredit bespoke courses that fall outside of NCFE's national qualifications portfolio. It enables centres with only one or two courses to gain accreditation from NCFE for their bespoke courses.<

NCFE accreditation provides a guarantee that custom-made training courses are of a high standard and meet the rigorous requirements of a national awarding body. Learners on these courses will also be awarded a certificate of achievement from a recognised national awarding organisation.

The Customised Award service allows centres to write a course (or courses) which specifically meet their learners' needs.[28]

IIQ Licence

NCFE's IIQ licence is designed to give formal recognition to an organisations' bespoke courses. The IIQ licence is flexible and will allow organisations to have an unlimited number of courses accredited for one annual fee.

Like the Customised Award service, the IIQ licence gives centres the freedom to develop courses suited to the needs of employers, local skills requirements and government objectives. It also gives organisations the flexibility to tailor these courses to niche markets. NCFE accredit courses up to the equivalent of level 4 on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).

The IIQ licence is based on 7 Quality Statements which provide a quality assurance framework for the development, delivery, assessment and evaluation of an organisation's learning activities. The Quality Statements are mapped to a range of standards; Investors in People (IiP), the Common Inspection Framework (CIF), Matrix Standard, Training Quality Standard (TQS) and Recognising and Recording Progression and Achievement (RARPA).


  1. ^ "The Register of Regulated Qualifications – View Organisation : NCFE (NCFE)". 1 April 2010. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  2. ^ "Welsh Government | Recognised Bodies within the Credit and Qualifications Framework for Wales (CQFW)". 16 January 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  3. ^ "NCFE Case Study | e-Assessment Association". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  4. ^ "ncfe". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  5. ^ "Take HPD". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  6. ^ "Accreditation". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  7. ^ "Associations | A1 Locksmith Courses". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  8. ^ "CECOS London College". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  9. ^ "NCFE | Teaching Assistant Courses". Essential Teaching Assistant Programme. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  10. ^ "GEM Professional Services Recruitment Feature Jobs". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  11. ^ 2007: 77th (Small Companies)
  12. ^ "Sunday Times List 2007 – Top 100 Small – Macdonald & Company". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  13. ^ 2011: 30th and 2* Accreditation (NFP)
  14. ^ "Best Places to Work in the Public/Third Sector 2011 – 26-50". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  15. ^ 2012: 60th and 1* Accreditation (NFP)
  16. ^ "Best Places to Work in the Not For Profit Sectors 2012 – 51-75". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  17. ^ 2013: 15th 2* Accreditation (NFP)
  18. ^ "Best Not-For-Profit Organisations to Work For 2013 – 1-25". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  19. ^ a b "NCFE closes the skills gap with apprenticeship frameworks". FE News. 15 February 2011. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  20. ^ "Foundation Learning – Children and young people". 21 August 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  21. ^ "NCFE 2012-2013 Issue 1" (PDF). Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  22. ^ "NCFE apprenticeships help employers succeed". ApprenticeEye. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  23. ^ "Closing the skills gap with traineeships". FE News. 7 August 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  24. ^ "Traineeship programme will boost youth employability skills". FE News. 20 February 2013. Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  25. ^ "Traineeships : Department of Education" (PDF). Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  26. ^ "Traineeships – Children and young people". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  27. ^ Richardson, Hannah (31 January 2012). "BBC News – Most GCSE equivalents axed from school league tables". Retrieved 12 October 2013.
  28. ^ "A Cut Above the Rest, using NCFE's unique accreditation scheme". FE News. 19 June 2008. Retrieved 12 October 2013.