Guidance on Occupational Standards and Qualifications - Probation Institute

Professional Development Framework


Guidance on Occupational Standards and Qualifications

National Occupational Standards

National Occupational standards (NOS) provide the building blocks for creating all round competence and provide a clear and objective framework for what someone needs to do and what they need to know in a particular occupational area and/or role. NOS are descriptive rather than prescriptive giving them flexibility whilst creating a common language for competence across your organisation.

NOS are UK wide and are developed by Standard Setting Bodies (such as Sector Skills Councils) working with employers from the relevant occupational areas. NOS are approved by UK Commission for Employment and Skills (and through the relevant regulatory bodies in the devolved nations). Each NOS includes Performance statements (what you need to do) and Knowledge statements (what you need to know).

These statements can be used to:

  • Write job descriptions
  • Write interview questions/develop recruitment exercises
  • Define learning and development outcomes
  • Assess knowledge and performance
  • Identify skills gaps
  • Develop accreditation (qualifications/training programmes)
  • Identify promotion requirements

As they are National Standards they can be contextualised to take account of any legislative, regional or local requirements whilst retaining the overall essence of the area of work they cover.

NOS are at the core of vocational qualifications and Modern Apprenticeships in Scotland and underpin vocational qualifications and the majority of Apprenticeships in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

National Occupational Standard (NOS) can be used with other organisational standards and/or behaviours/values and together can create a robust, quality assured model for workplace excellence and ongoing organisational development.

As well as this Professional Development Framework for those delivering Probation, Community Justice and Rehabilitation Services the MOJ Community Justice Learning (CJL) Framework is underpinned by National Occupational Standards as are the Policing Professional Frameworks for England & Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. All of these frameworks provide clear and measurable benchmarks for occupational competence in a bespoke way that complements and adds value to HR/L&D processes.

The diagram "Using National Occupational Standards" in the documents section of the Professional Development Framework shows where National Occupational Standards (NOS) can and are being used across the Justice and Blue Light sectors, ensuring the right people with the right skills are doing the right things, where and when they should be.



Vocational and work based qualifications did, until 30th September 2015, sit on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF) where they were given a Level and a number of Credits through the accreditation process with OfQual.

From 1 October 2015, QCF no longer exists and has been replaced with RQF (Regulated Qualifications Framework). This is currently only relevant to England. Existing QCF qualifications automatically transferred to the new framework however Awarding Organisations have two years from 1 October 2015 to ensure all qualifications are compliant with the new regulatory framework. Awarding organisations are now wholly responsible for submitting qualifications and any other organisation with a ‘submitting body’ status has had this withdrawn from 30 September 2015.

The main changes for qualifications developed from 1 October are:

  • No QCF in the title
  • No requirement for Award/Certificate/Diploma
  • No need to express qualifications in ‘credits’ unless an Awarding Organisation intends to allow Recognition of Prior Learning/Achievement – if credits are to be used, this will be a TQT (see below)/10
  • No mandated requirement for the qualification to be built in ‘units’
  • No requirement for the ‘Mastery Approach’
  • Qualifications will have to have a Total Qualification Time (TQT) expressed – this is the number of Guided Learning Hours (GLH) + any directed (but not supervised) hours a learner will spend in preparation, study or any other form of learning

The RQF will have eight levels as did the QCF however the descriptors for each level have changed

Employers who are looking at qualification development will need to ensure that Awarding Organisations are on board in the early stages. Sector Skills Councils and Training Providers continue to support and facilitate qualification development however this will have to be with an Awarding Organisation.

Download "OfQual Qualifications and Component Levels"