Accreditation and Equivalences of Outdoor First Aid Courses

Accreditation and Equivalences of Outdoor First Aid Courses

It is over 25 years since I attended my first Outdoor First Aid course. Over the years I have, like most instructors of hill walking, climbing, paddling, biking and skiing I have done a course every three years. This keeps my National Governing Bodies awards valid. I like many of you have been confused about the accreditation and equivalences of Outdoor First Aid courses over the years. This was the spur to write this article.

The name of the course has varied between Outdoor First Aid, Remote First Aid, Wilderness First Aid, Outdoor First Aid at Work or Advanced First Aid. To meet the NGB requirements they have been two or sometimes three days long. Luckily now most providers have settled on the name “Outdoor First Aid”. However in the last few years there appear to be numbers associated with some of the provider’s first aid courses – Level 3 (L3) or Level 4 (L4) or Level 6 (L6). Some providers use their brand names, as a prefix to their courses ITC and REC would be examples. Hence you can have a REC L3 Outdoor First Aid course and variations on this. Remember also that there are two organisations running first aid courses with the acronym REC!

It is a very confusing sector and I hope in the next few hundred words to clarify some of the jargon around the ‘Level’ of courses. I have taught Outdoor First Aid for twelve years now, I have been a trainer with both ITC & REC, run SQA, AOFAQ and Highfield first aid courses. How are you doing with the jargon so far?

The first aid sector has been as series of changes, which have been brought about by the regulation and accreditation of first aid certificates. This was designed to simply and standardise how first aid certification took place. Unfortunately this has not been the case.

Before we move to the levels of first aid courses and their equivalences, it is worth remembering that there are now four ways you can accredit first aid training in Britain as laid down by the HSE. First aid training providers can only run courses if they fit into one of these categories –

  1. Belong to a first aid trade body
  2. Meet the HSE due diligence requirements for training providers
  3. Runs ‘regulated’ courses as a Centre of an Awarding Body or Organisation
  4. Are one of the traditional voluntary sector organisations (Red Cross / St Johns)

So on to the ‘level’ of a course and its equivalences. By Level here we mean how academically rigorous the training course is and how challenging is its content (how hard is the course to achieve).

Since 2009 and Awarding Organisations / Bodies have become involved in first aid training accreditation, first aid courses have been given ‘Levels’. This is to try and give a value to the academic rigor of the qualification. There is a Scottish qualification framework (SCQF) and an English qualification framework (RQF). On the Scottish framework an Outdoor First aid course is at Level 6 and on the English framework it is at Level 3. This is not saying the course run in Scotland is harder than the course in England! The variation comes around as Scotland and England have separate educational systems, each has developed its own qualification framework (based on criteria laid down by European regulations). Each has set the levels for academic standard of qualifications differently. For example an A level in England is at Level 3 on the RQF and an Advanced Higher in Scotland is at Level 6 on SCQF. But both are equivalent in standard.

So you may be doing a Level 3 or a Level 6 Outdoor First Aid course and they are the equivalent standard, just one is from the English qualifications framework and one is from the Scottish Framework.

Confused yet?

What else?

Some organisations like REC (Remote Emergency Care) have brought in their own standards framework REC courses described as 1 to 5. A traditional 2 day Outdoor First Aid course would be a Level 3 course with REC. Note here that there are actually two organisations who go by the acronym REC, the other being REC (Rescue Emergency Care). These REC level qualifications are not designed to sit alongside the national qualifications frameworks. This means there are three systems that try and describe the academic rigor of first aid courses.

And there is more?

The Institute for Outdoor Learning (IoL) tried a few years ago to step into the outdoor first aid training sector and created a system where their were four levels of Outdoor First Aid qualification. This was loosely based on first aid providers current courses. To my knowledge this attempt at reviewing the UK outdoor first aid sector has not come to fruition. The IoL was proposing a system with four levels of course and traditional 2 day outdoor first aid course would sit at Level 3.

When an expedition company asks an outdoor instructor to have a Level 4 outdoor first aid certificate, to take the post of Expedition Leader, you can see how this is all very confusing.

First Aid Training Co-operative.

In the outdoor sector we are another brand of Outdoor First Aid course, we have decided not to put levels against our courses as this part of the industry is already confusing and doesn’t need more numbers attached to courses. However our courses have equivalence to the RQF, SCQF, REC and IoL qualification levels.

The Co-operative delivers Outdoor First Aid courses, Advanced First Aid course sand Expedition First Aid courses. Contact our office for more details of their equivalent level to other providers.

We have very skillful trainers who can tailor a an outdoor first aid course to specific activities and run powerful outdoor scenario sessions.