Realigned AAT professional qualification offers great opportunities for colleges and employers

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As of this year colleges and training providers in Scotland will be able to offer an exciting range of accountancy courses thanks to a relevelling of AAT qualifications.

From September, they will be able to offer a new AAT pathway designed to dovetail with school and pre-university qualifications. The changes are designed to make it more straightforward for students, school leavers and those pupils who are still at school to gain a well-respected professional qualification that is in high demand with employers.

The relevelling of the qualifications, undertaken to match the HNC and HND qualification pathway, offers a fast track into a career as a chartered accountant or entry to university. It also helps those students who are still at school to choose the right entry-level course for their career ambitions. For colleges and training providers, it offers an exciting opportunity to enable students to study for a professional qualification that can facilitate a career as a chartered accountant or entry into university.

While an AAT qualification can be a great entry level course for students, it can also count towards university entry. It offers student fantastic job prospects. Scottish employers take on 29,000 apprentices every year, which includes many starting out in their accountancy careers. What’s more, three-quarters (75%) of Scottish businesses who have hired apprentices believe their new learners have boosted productivity.

What are the new AAT pathways?

From 1st September 2022, AAT Level 2 Certificate in Accounting will be a SCQF Level 6 in Scotland (Highers equivalent), AAT Level 3 Diploma in Accounting will be a SCQF Level 7 in Scotland (HNC equivalent), and AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting remains a SCQF Level 8 (HND equivalent).

This new AAT qualification pathway provides a flexible progression route into higher education. It also presents a fast-track opportunity to becoming a Chartered Accountant.  

The re-levelling also opens new funding opportunities to support a student’s  AAT studies. For example, AAT Level 3 Diploma in Accounting (SCQF L7) will now attract Student Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS) funding, giving an opportunity to gain a well-respected professional qualification that is in high demand.

By completing AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional Accounting, which is on a level with the Higher National Diploma SCQD L8, students have the opportunity to apply to university or to pursue a professional accounting qualification.

What is the current situation?

Previously AAT qualifications at Level 5 and Level 6 were seen not offering a challenging enough breadth in the curriculum to school leavers. They were also felt to be too long for some mature learners. Now with the releveling the AAT qualifications are on the same level of Scottish qualifications (SQA) and align with AAT’s academic place in England.

What the financial benefits of studying the new relevelled qualifications?

The changes mean that under the Student Award Agency Scotland, there are new funding opportunities.

These include:

  • AAT Level 3 now attracts £600 funding towards costs – increase of £600.
  • AAT Level 4 now attracts between £1049 -1124 funding towards costs – increase of additional £449 – £524

While L3 will need to be delivered over a year to attract full funding, L4 can be delivered over 2 years attracting the same funding but will be pro-rota over this period.

The minimum number of credits to be eligible for SAAS funding is 30 SCQF credits or £321 per year.  L4 can be split Y1 min 30 SCQF Credits Y2 Min of 30 SCQF Credits. Funding will be given once per academic year meaning courses can have flexible start dates – August 1st to July 31st..

What are the benefits of the realignment of qualfications?

The AAT qualification offers a fast track to employment with huge career development potential. It provides a recognised in-demand professional qualification which has now been relevelled and realigned in order to mirror the HNC/HND traditional route. This makes it easier for students at school or school leavers to pick the right course and qualification for their needs.

With clearly defined pathways to chartered or Higher education, AAT could even get students into University, should they decide to study the AAT Level 4 Diploma in Professional accounting, which is on a level with the Higher National Diploma SCQF L8.

The qualifications are now aligned at the correct education level and provide the same progression opportunities as the SQA. For your prospective students, this will offer freedom of choice. It will enable a training provider or college to offer a professional qualification which they can be complementary to the current SQA provision.  

What does AAT qualification re-levelling in Scotland mean to a Training Provider?

The new relevelled AAT Qualification is now more attractive to students as it offers comparable levels of qualification to Scottish Highers/NC, HNC and HND courses. It also offers clear progress and routes into Chartered Accountancy qualifications or Universities.

Training providers and colleges have the option to add value to HNCs & HND courses with the inclusion of AAT Bookkeeping at Level 6 & Level 7. Both of these courses provide students with skills that employers are looking for.

Funding is available for these courses through the Flexible Work Force Development Fund (FWDF), Individual Training Accounts (ITA), Scottish Funding Council (SFC) and the Student Award Agency Scotland (SAAS).

SAAS Funding is now available for AAT Level 7, and there has been increased funding made available for Level 8. All AAT Units have SCQF credits attached and the AAT qualifications are included in the Modern Apprenticeship and Foundation Apprenticeship framework funded though Skills Development Scotland.

Modern apprenticeship opportunities

AAT Accounting Qualifications are universally respected and internationally recognised. Organisations such as Sainsbury’s, P&G, Morgan Stanley, the Ministry of Defence and many more continue to hire AAT qualified members for their knowledge, skills, diligence and enthusiasm, because AAT represents the highest standards of professionalism

In Scotland there are more than 70 different Modern Apprenticeship Frameworks and they are all designed to deliver a training package around a minimum standard of competence defined by employers.

There are four different levels of Apprenticeship in Scotland: SCQF 5 (SVQ 2), SCQF 6/7 (SVQ 3), SCQF 8/9 (SVQ 4) and SCQF 10 (SVQ 5). They all contain the same 3 basic criteria:

• A relevant SVQ (or alternative competency based qualifications)

• Core Skills (Career Skills at AAT L4/SCQF L8)

• Industry specific training

Employers who have taken on MAs are positive about the experience: 96% say those who’ve undertook a Modern Apprenticeship are more able to do their job. They also commented that MAs helped to improve productivity, staff morale, and service and product quality.

Accountancy MA Frameworks have been developed by the Financial Skills Partnership (FSP), the Sector Skills Council for finance, accountancy and financial services. 

There are currently 13 AAT accredited training providers in Scotland, 9 colleges and 4 private providers. A further 5 are in the pipeline and are close to full approval status.

What are the Modern Apprenticeship Framework details?

SCQF Level 5: Aimed at people who are hoping to or are currently working in roles including accounts assistant, cashier, credit control clerk, finance assistant, purchase ledger clerk or sales ledger clerk.

SCQF Level 6: Aimed at people who are hoping to or are currently working in roles including trainee accounting technician or assistant accountant.

SCQF Level 8: This apprenticeship will enable people to become a qualified accounting technician or accounts manager.

For more information on how your college or training centre can provide this training, contact your Regional Account Manager Team or find out more information here.

More information and further reading:

Marianne Curphey is an award-winning financial writer and columnist, and author of the book How Money Works. She worked as City Editor at The Guardian, deputy editor of Guardian online, and has worked for The Times, Telegraph and BBC.

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