Whose certificates?

By now you should have a realistic expectation of the challenges ahead of you and you have committed to exceeding the minimum requirements to deliver first aid training.

The next question is likely to be, who will certificate you courses?

Prior to 2012, the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) monitored the provision of First Aid at Work courses, ensuring only accredited bodies who met their standard could do so.   The HSE relinquished their responsibility of this and placed responsibility of due diligence on the employer or customer to ensure the training received was appropriate and credible.

There are currently four methods of certification

Membership of an Awarding Organisations

The vast majority of Training Providers will already subscribe to one of the Awarding Organisations (which must be recognised by Ofqual) to accredit their courses.  This route has an inherent Quality Assurance process built in; the Awarding Organisation sets standards for the training provider to operate at.

Employers do not need to perform their own due diligence on courses certificated by an Awarding Organisation.

The Awarding Organisation will visit the Training Provider to ensure these standards are being met and also to observe the quality of the teaching.

Some of the more well-known Awarding Organisations include:

  • Pearson Education Ltd

  • Qualifications Network Ltd

  • Qualsafe Awards Ltd

  • Future (Awards and Qualifications) Ltd

  • ITC First aid Ltd

  • AoFA Qualifications Ltd

  • Highfields Qualifications Ltd

The Awarding Organisation will often provide the resources required to administrate and deliver the course e.g. lesson plans, scheme of work, PowerPoint presentations and assessment materials which means that, for a fee, the new company or instructor can deliver a first aid course ‘out of the box’.   A lot of the preparation and planning has already been done for you.

Once the candidates are registered the Awarding Organisation can print the certificates.

Fees vary enormously; some will charge a one-off joining fee whilst others will charge an annual administration fee to cover things like your annual External Verification visit and updates on new guidance.

Some will not charge annual fees but will charge more per certificate.  Certificate fees range from £5.00 to nearly £50 so it certainly pays to shop around.   Ask the Awarding Organisation:

  • What is the initial joining fee?

  • Does that include training materials or do they have to be purchased in addition?

  • Are there annual fees?

  • What are the certificate fees?

With this information you can begin to work out which would be best for you financially.    If you are not running many courses but paying a high annual fee that might not be as wise as paying a higher certificate fee but without the annual fee, meaning you only pay for what you get.

Voluntary Ambulance Service

Red Cross, St John Ambulance and St Andrew's First Aid continue to provide training under their own brands.

Whilst not featured on the Regulated Qualifications Framework, due diligence is not required for courses certificated though one of the voluntary ambulance services.

Membership of a First Aid Industry Body

While Awarding Organisations have expertise in educational process, Industry Bodies have the expertise in the subject matter.   Trade Bodies are often amongst the first to promote new standards and best practice and are, very often, quicker to respond to these changes than Awarding Organisations.

The Trade Body conducts their Due Diligence on you and your business before granting membership.  Only once you have been granted membership can you use the Trade Body’s logo on your certificates, reflecting the Due Diligence which has already taken place on you.

Membership of an industry body alone not necessarily assure credibility as there are many others unregulated alternatives. As such due diligence by the emplyer is required.

The Independent Training Provider

Independent training providers are now able to deliver both the EFAW and FAW courses with no membership to an Awarding or Professional body as long as they are able to demonstrate their capabilities and competencies as demonstrated by a Due Diligence process.

This seems like the easiest and cheapest route as essentially you are printing your own certificates without any expenses associated with the membership of an Awarding Organisation or Trade Body.    It is also presents the easiest route to corruption.  As the onus is now on the employer to undertake due diligence to satisfy themselves of your credibility you are relying on their conscientiousness. 

Many employers will undertake due diligence on your company before engaging with you and many will check the validity of an employees certificate.  But many won’t because it is added effort in which case the easiest thing for them is to simply avoid independent training providers and trust the quality assurance that has been conducted by an Awarding Organisation or Trade Body.

In practice, operating as an independent training provider can require considerably more effort.

As you are responsible for the quality of the training provided (and lets not forget that the worst case scenario would be a court inquiry following the death of a casualty who was treated by someone who you had trained) everything you do must be current, accurate and accountable.   You will need to be able to demonstrate as a minimum:

  • The minimum first aid knowledge and experience of you or your trainers.

  • The minimum educational training of you or your trainers.

  • Your quality management system:

    • Do you have a feedback mechanism?

    • Do you review your trainers?

    • Do you conduct internal and external verification?

    • Do you have a complaints policy?

  • What are your training standards:

    • Student to instructor ratios

    • Quality and quantity of equipment

    • Quality of your training venues

  • Your awareness of current first aid guidance

  • Do you have policies for malpractice? Special Considerations? Appeals? Child Protection? Recognition of Prior Learning?

  • Are you compliant with current legislation:

    • Data protection

    • Health & safety in the workplace

    • Equal opportunities

As a member of an Awarding Organisation or Trade Body much of this will be done or provided for you.   As an independent training provider this is all your responsibility, as well as training first aid and running a business.

There are, however, a number of benefits to becoming an independent training provider

  1. Reduced overheads

    If you are time-rich but cash poor, being an independent training provider can save you some money but in return you will find yourself very busy, especially initially in setting up a business which is fully compliant. You will need to read up on lots of things which you may have no previous experience in.

    As time goes on and business increases this is where you will see more gains as you are now producing lots of certificates yourself without a charge attached to each.

    Reduced overheads is actually one of the least important benefits but I have listed it first as this is what most people think of. It is not completely free as you will need to pay an external assessor to quality assure your paperwork. This can cost between £250 and £1000 a year depending on how much work they have to do. You certificates are not completely free – photocopier paper is not good enough and neither is dodgy inkjet printer. You will need a high quality certificate template printed and you will need a quality printer to print the details. Laserjet toner cartridges can easily cost £200 for a set. This is all of the stuff that you membership or certificate fees go towards if you are a member of an Awarding Organisation or Trade Body.

  2. Increased freedom

    One criticism of Awarding organisations is that they are very prescriptive – some will go into as much detail as how long should be spent on each topic of a course.

    Being able to design (and document the process and content sources) of your own courses allows you more freedom. For a care home, for example you may want to spend less time on burns and poisons but considerably more on common medical conditions. The opposite may be true if you are delivering a course in an industrial setting.

    If you have an area of expertise you can incorporate more of this into a course for a particular client. Some Awarding Organisations do not afford that much freedom. Because they have to control so much of what is done to standardise the training they are certificating, the control they have may be quite strict.

  3. Reaction to change

    Things change in first aid – not as often as candidates often perceive – but there is often updated guidance. Being an independent training provider means you can respond to that change and incorporate current guidance faster than those who are certificated by an Awarding Organisation or Trade Body. For both of these it takes time for the change to be adopted, agreed upon and percolated down to their training providers.

  4. You will learn more

    Now the onus is on you to make sure you are teaching current guidance you have to be aware of the sources of changes to first aid guidance. You will develop the habit of constantly scanning the industry for these changes by joining mailing lists, subscribing to journals, engaging in forums and so on. As a trainer you will be much more current and informed than trainers who are happy to regurgitate what the Awarding Organisation prescribes.

  5. Some things are just wrong

    There are still Awarding Organisations which instruct the trainer to teach outdated techniques or information which, quite simple, has no evidence behind. Again, if you are happy to teach this, safe in the knowledge that should it all go pear-shaped the Awarding Organisation is essentially responsible for the content of their courses, that’s great. But if you are conscientious and would rather teach what the current evidence suggest, being an independent training provider allows that.


Which is best?

A better question is which is best for you?   If you already have extensive understanding of first aid guidance and legislation from a professional background, becoming an independent training provider may afford you the opportunity to capitalise on your expertise as long as you are prepared to put in the time required to ensure your policies and processes are robust.

If you are entering this industry from scratch, the best advise would be to subscribe to an Awarding organisation (or two or three) to begin with.  Work out which one is best for you:

  • Whose training materials and assessment processes do you prefer?

  • Which is the most cost effective?

  • Who has the best customer service (especially regarding responding to technical queries)?

  • Who provides the certificates quickest?

In time you will perfect your delivery technique, be able to deliver training without a lesson plan, extend your knowledge to be able to answer questions with confidence.  As your business grows you will develop a habit of producing your own policies and procedures.   There may come a point where you feel you no longer need an Awarding Organisation as you have developed a reputation of expertise and then may be the time to begin certificating your own courses.

Do customers have a preference?   In our experience and anecdotally, no.   The candidates – be they an individual or a company – don’t appear to have a preference over independent self-certified training and externally accredited training as long as the training is of a high standard.   But before you have a reputation to trade off, being externally accredited by an Awarding Organisation or trade Body offers some reassurance.

Another consideration is funding.  If funding is available for training it is usually stipulated that the funding can only be applied to an externally accredited course which feature on the Regulated Qualifications Framework.   Only courses approved by Ofsted feature on this framework and only Awarding Organisation can have courses approved by Ofsted.

If you are hoping to cash in on a funding stream which has become available in your areas, as an independent training provider, regardless how good your courses are, they are unlikely to satisfy the funding criteria.


Next article:  Financial planning