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Ofqual launches consultation on delivery of basic digital skills

Basic Digital Skills Qualifications aimed at helping people “fully participate in society” as well as giving them the skills needed for the modern workplace or for further education

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) has launched a consultation on the introduction of new qualifications aimed at improving basic digital skills in adults across England.

As well as setting out what the government hopes learners will gain from the qualifications, including the skills to navigate day-to-day life, the consultation seeks advice on the design and delivery of the qualifications.

Ofqual chief regulator Sally Collier said: “These new qualifications are designed to help learners access the many opportunities the digital world presents, giving them core skills and knowledge to operate confidently, effectively and independently. We have set out how we intend to regulate BDSQs [Basic Digital Skills Qualifications] to ensure they deliver these aims and I encourage anyone with an interest to give us their views.”

Research has shown that less than half of adults have the skills to complete basic digital tasks, such as downloading apps or using online maps, and 40% of people in the UK do not have the digital skills required for most jobs.

BDSQs are part of the government’s investment in increasing the level of digital skills in adults throughout the country, and the Department for Education (DfE) hopes to introduce a national entitlement to basic digital skills by 2020.

These basic digital skills could include those needed to “fully participate in society” as well as skills needed for the modern workplace or for further education, the DfE said.

BDSQs should support adults in gaining these digital skills, provide evidence that people have acquired these skills within the new national standards, and give learners over the age of 19 priority in gaining these skills.

The DfE has proposed that particular organisations or providers will be selected to develop, deliver and award BDSQs. The qualifications will be divided into two categories – Beginner for adults with no previous experience of digital or the internet, and Essential for adults with some experience – based on proposed national standards for basic digital skills set out by the department.

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Five skills areas are covered at both levels, as outlined in the DfE’s consultation on new national basic digital skills standards – handling information, creating and editing digital content, communication, transacting, and being safe and responsible online.

While the DfE believes providers should have flexibility in designing and delivering the qualifications, Anne Milton, minister of state for apprenticeships and skills, said they should follow existing naming conventions to make employers and learners more comfortable with the qualifications’ delivery.

A previous consultation by the DfE proposed that there should be a minimum of 45 guided learning hours for BDSQs.

Essential-level BDSQs will be marked by the awarding organisations, while Beginner-level qualifications will be marked by a centre agency. There will be a single grading model for the qualifications, awarding either a pass or fail grade.

The consultation, which is open to those interested in furthering basic digital skills in the UK, such as awarding organisations, teachers, tutors, employers or subject specialists, will be open until January 2019.

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