As a business owner, I love nothing more than planning my strategy for the year. This includes what educational gaps I may have that fulfil a need in my target market or purely out of interests and knowledge-sakes. When searching for courses we are welcomed with an endless amount available to us which can be overwhelming at times – but it is invigorating all the same!

A multitude of courses are available to those looking for a new profession, career, or upskilling. From the convenience of your phone, you can hop on and go through course offerings from all the education providers out there that suit both our interests and skillsets. But with so many choices out there it is hard to know where we should start!

It is a buyers’ market, right?

Wrong, it is an educator’s market, and here is why; there is an abundance of industry professionals looking for the next ‘thing’ to solve their cashflow problems or give them that edge over another establishment and more competitively, the price they are willing to pay.

Here is the thing, education has moved and morphed into something entirely different, and that has only accelerated over 2020 into 2021 through lockdowns. There are many mediums in which you can train in the modern world. The way in which we educate or receive education as we go forth into the future will be ever evolving, it should be embraced but structured, that is a conversation for another day.
One of the most important parts about education is knowing what type you are getting. There are many mediums in which to train, and they each have their differences; but it is not just that! You will want to know if your course has been accredited or is regulated by Ofqual before signing up.
But, and it is pretty big but, do you know the difference between an Ofqual regulated qualification, an Accredited qualification and a CPD course?? All three are quite different in approach and outcome, the outcome completely affects your insurance and more importantly your ability to make a successful claim should the worst occur.



When talking about education in the UK, you may have heard of OFQUAL and usually in the context of discussing, primary, secondary and college education. They are an independent government-approved auditing authority that ensures a balanced/ fair grading system, that standards are unilateral and adhered to amongst other duties.

At the top of our industry sector lies Habia.

Habia are our industry authority for the Hair and Beauty sectors and the only industry authority, so naturally sit at the top of our hierarchy of organisations within education.  Habia is the standard setting authority for our sector, right now the industry standards are being released after being in draft form and undergoing consultation and feedback from industry during quarter one. You can find the current National Occupational Standards (NOS) by clicking the link with the new ones being added currently.

The NOS is a critical aspect of education, these standards are written by industry professionals (Salon owners, therapists, technicians, stylists) detailing what should be expected from competent employees in the field and practice in a real working environment. These public documents are available for anyone to view and download; solo therapists/technicians, salon owners, educators, and colleges. We will come back to this element in a moment.

student reading

What Are You Signing Up For?

Awarding Organisations (Bodies) are the next section in that hierarchy under Habia.  Organisations such as VTCT, City & Guilds, ITEC, CIBTAC and CIDESCO, use the standardised course content of the NOS which is disseminated into their own unique structures and implementation strategies. What is important to remember is that whilst they are very individualistic in their approach, the course curriculum content (NOS) remains exactly same across all of them.

These qualifications are part of the framework under Ofqual and make up the formal qualifications you see in further education colleges and private centres. i.e., Level 2, Level 3 Nail services in the Award, Certificate and Diploma format.

Each body audits the centres who provide courses in their name, this is performed at least twice per academic year. The body has the right to prevent certification if the internal and external audit proves that the centre is not satisfactory and will strike off a centre if they fail to improve with an improvement plan and support.

CPD (Continued Professional Development) is a great way to expand knowledge and keep skills up to date. CPD helps you stay on top of the latest developments in your area or investigate new areas that may interest you. CPD can also help with career development.

For example, a Further Education Lecturer who assesses formal qualifications via an Awarding Organising (AO), must complete 30 hours of CPD pro rata per academic year to maintain their assessor’s status. Failing to do so could result in actions for the centre from the AO and invalid assessment judgements made.

The CPD can be in a variety of formats, such as practical skills – both short and long courses, whole qualifications, seminars, educational visits, the list goes on.

Equally industry associations may also require their members to maintain a level of CPD per year to retain the membership and comply with the code of ethics they agreed to upon sign up.

How much CPD is required for membership in industry associations? Associations may require their members to maintain a level of continuing professional development per year. They award points and often map out the hours that it takes each skill, such as 4 hours equals 4 points.

The one you have been waiting for.

Accreditation. This is where an insurance broker, supported by an underwriter, insures a course to run by the educator or training academy. Now, it is true that not that long ago we did not have this system, brand educational certificates were accepted by the insurance broker and we did not need accreditation, now you will struggle to get insured without it.

What the accreditation system has brought is a sense of validation and the ‘rubber stamp’ seal of approval to all courses advertised and approved as such. It started off incredibly well.

At the time of its inception, this accreditation system was a fantastic way to validate new course providers and legitimise their courses. This led to an incredibly successful boom in accredited courses with students from all over the country, sometimes the world signing up for these courses because they were seeing it as a valid alternative. As the system proved a profitable one and a source of validation, particularly for those who could not attend more formal qualifications or where the NOS does not yet exist for the skill, the sector boomed. Training and the opportunity to be an independent training academy was there and welcomed.

However, the unregulated part of the sector is an obstacle for professionals and newcomers alike. Each accreditation company hold their own unique criteria and standards, very few or neither directly correlates to the NOS. You will find a variation of courses available on the same subject, which differs from price-point, i.e., a basic manicure course that could be 2 hrs or 2 days in length.

Unfortunately, there are some amazing educators and academies who utilise the wonderful NOS resources that ensure their accredited courses match those criteria. Then there are others with identical credentials, but they do not use these same materials to educate students so it’s difficult to identify and compare. In the accreditation arena both sit as equal, one is not favoured over the other nor identified as such. 

One of the major drawbacks to the current system is that each company sets their own standards, some higher than others. This means that insurance brokers often do not insure other accreditors qualifications and can leave learners with an uninsurable qualification and having to seek alternative insurance, bolt-on’s or retrain at sometimes great expense.

Other issues arise when a claim is made against the professional. Every insurance claim is scrutinised by the underwriters and loss adjuster, who must ensure that it was a professional’s original teaching or training of their skill which caused them to make an error. The only standards in which they can compare any incidents comes from NOS (National Occupational Standards). Therefore, if the course is not deemed fit for purpose, the claimant/professional may become personally liable, the insurance will not pay out and they may need to pay from their own personal assets.

With all this in mind, is it any wonder why we are in such disarray when it comes to training?

So what can you do?
When searching for courses, it really helps if you set yourself some criteria before starting so that you do not find any unhelpful courses alongside potential gold mines!
Ask questions of providers, check to make sure they are listed as current with the awarding organisation or accreditation company, ask if they are mapped out to the NOS if it is an existing skill. Any provider worth their time will answer your questions without any qualms or hesitations. Right now you must take it upon yourself to check this information to protect your business and your clients.

One of the Federation’s projects is to raise the standards in education and celebrate those who go above and beyond, help us by joining as a supporter now and our membership when it launches.

Donna Clayton
Director of Education