Advice from our Independent Chair on Qualifications

When is a qualification not a qualification?

In the UK right now we’ve got some really confusing times around coach education in the Parkour community. This advice will clarify a few basic points & bust some myths.

In a separate (non-conflicted) role I am an Independent Chair of an Ofqual regulated awarding organisation & I have spent most of my professional career in the skills/education & training space. For clarity I am also Independent Chair of Parkour UK, a role which I have broadly enjoyed for over 6 years. Everything below is factual and from a position of authority, with no vested interest. I understand skills and qualifications sector very well. I work in it every day.

Qualifications in the UK, and beyond, are more often than not regulated. Qualifications ordinarily have formal assessment. Qualifications tend to be ‘awarded’ by a regulated Awarding Organisation, such as the Parkour UK’s awarding organisation – 1st4sport Qualifications or Pearson, City and Guilds etc. and are delivered by approved centres, with a whole heap of due diligence in between – safeguarding, inclusion, tutor standards, internal and external quality assurance, as well as various rigorous policies and procedures that are in-line with industry standards. Qualifications tend to align to other formal educational structures and/or educational frameworks. Qualifications don’t automatically unlock insurance, but they can provide the insurance market with a strong starting point for ascertaining potential levels of risk.

Insurance, however is a far more complex landscape. Within reason any insurer can promise you insurance cover if you say the right things – what you’re insured for, what that actually covers, who is covering you, what liabilities and whether (in a court of law around e.g. coaching negligence or a safeguarding concern) you’re deemed qualified, competent (against national standards) safe & protected is a very different conversation, although these are clearly connected.

‘Certifications’ can be good. They are often called certifications because they don’t have any regulation, assessment and/or verification and often can be self-certificated by a company or in some case an individual(s). In some case, they can supplement qualifications as they tend to be used for CPD or additional learning to enhance or supplement qualification outcomes. Certifications might have brilliant content, and they may also have brilliant tutors. They might equip learners with great supplementary knowledge, and they might be delivered in wonderful shiny learning environments.

However, they might promise lots of things and they might be misleading. They might be powered by self-interest and propaganda, with tremendous marketing power behind them. They might misrepresent what they actually are. They may lull potential learners into thinking they’re something they’re not. They might be a self-interested view of their own framework. They may do all or some of the above.

In the UK, now and historically, particularly where private providers are providing Coaching ‘Certifications’, all I can suggest is people ask themselves some questions before making a decision or purchasing a ‘certification’;

  1. What am I choosing to study / learn? What is my desired outcome? Is my employer asking me or am I choosing this route as I see a career or opportunity to apply for a job(s)?
  2. Comparing different products, who owns it and does it call itself what it is? Is it what it says on the tin? Is there price differential? What can I call myself when I complete the certification? Is there guidance around additional needs, complaints or dispensations?
  3. Does the NGB (officially recognised and not for profit) qualification offer seem most suitable. And if there is an alternative, am I comfortable with where my money is going and who might be benefiting from any exchange of monies. Have I used Companies House free company check to ascertain what type of company I am buying from or who owns it or who owns the majority shares?
  4. Is there any form of independent assessment / validation? For example, in the UK, the Association for Physical Education guidance for Introducing Parkour/Freerunning to Schools states very clearly that coaches should be qualified with a Parkour UK coaching qualification. So for Parkour delivery in and around educational settings, a private certification is clearly insufficient and in breach of such guidance. Might that risk my ability to earn money or put children at risk if I am unqualified? 
  5. Does it link to broader educational standards and policies in that country? Is there a recognisable link to other standards or organisations with a formal role in defining professional competence or endorsing qualification design and delivery? Does it use terminology such as levels, and does that help my decision or confuse me?
  6. Are there any other actual valid endorsements attached? or does it seem like some logo bingo might be used to perhaps further confuse me? When messages are pushed out on social media are they tagging the NGB or lots of other organisations who seem connected to each other?
  7. If I asked decision makers locally (School Governors, Local Authorities, County Sports Partnerships, Sports Councils etc), what would their guidance and counsel be?

For absolute clarity, and there is no debate here whatsoever – if you want to be qualified as a parkour coach at Level 1 or Level 2, there is only one available option. These qualifications are awarded by 1st4sport, regulated by Ofqual and created and owned by Parkour UK. Our formal qualifications are also endorsed by the Chartered Institute for the Management of Sport and Physical Activity (CIMSPA).  CIMSPA provides leadership, support and empowerment for professionals working in sport and physical activity and a single unified voice for the sector. Parkour UK are a CIMSPA Training Development Partner. Parkour UK work closely with afPE, the Youth Sport Trust, Child Protection in Sport Unit, Ann Craft Trust and UK Coaching – as well as many other national organisations as the recognised NGB for our sport.

It may also be ironic in terms of some companies and/or individuals choosing to host these ‘certifications’, some may appear to be members of Parkour UK, adopting an alternative approach. I’ll let you make your own judgements here as to why and how. Poor form? Financial incentive? Confusion? Parkour philosophy and principles coming up short? Short cutting the recognised formal system for personal or organisational benefit? Attempting to play games with the NGB?

It should also make people ask the question as to how/why/where these are linked to brands and/or commercial aspirations, which as I understand it is very ‘anti parkour community and philosophy’, monopolise the global market place and buy or sponsor things to paint a different picture. Again, do your own due diligence. Ask the difficult questions. Ask how, why and for what end benefit – is somebody making lots of money through this approach? or ask your NGB as your recognsied representative body, with elected directors, and without prejudice – and they certainly aren’t profiteering. The guidance online has been there for some time, and supplements this information and can be found on our website.

For clarity, some products or brands stating ‘qualifications’ or under an alias, may not actually be qualifications at all . . . appropriate due diligence tells us all we need to know.

Steve Mitchell

Independent Chair, Parkour UK

If you would like further information and/or clarification relating to these matters feel free to contact me directly via[email protected]