Open Source GCSE-equivalent qualification attracts DfE 16-19 performance points

On Friday 8th January, the Department for Education (DfE) approved an Open Systems IT Management (OSIM) Level 2 course to be eligible for 16-19 Performance Points counting towards the school’s league table attainment. It is an area of skills shortage identified by the DfE who are responding to an increase in demand for Open Source, Linux and Cloud expertise through UK industry.

This is the first time that a course at GCSE level that focuses on the use of Open systems and Open Source Software has achieved this formal recognition. Attracting performance points at 6th form and college levels, this course is of equal importance to other subjects. Following the DfE guidance in 2013 ( demanding better teaching of computing, and the various coding clubs active at Primary schools, there has been a need to allow pupils developing these skills to engage with qualifications to validate their learning.

To strengthen the case, there are changes in the league tables following the introduction of the Progress 8 measure ( in 2016. This encourages schools to provide a broader curriculum and requires schools to meet targets across a range of categories. The OSIM course will count towards the non GCSE category providing schools the option of following on Key Stage 4 IT qualifications at Key Stage 5. Without this course, further work within the IT curriculum would difficult and not provide students with additional challenges and force them to re-learn the same IT work, leading to disengagement and disaffection.

With the further endorsement of the Open standard principles in Autumn 2015 by the Rt Hon Matt Hancock, and the Government Digital Services manual being geared around Open Source technology, the demand for expertise is gaining momentum and this course will go a long way to enabling individuals to develop the necessary skills. Released a year ago by the Prime Minister’s Office, the UK digital economy vision ( describes some of the challenges identified, but young people have not had the opportunity to formally learn the relevant skills required to deliver this vision.

The units studied as part of the course are designed around practical needs in modern practical computing. They cover:

  • Understanding global software communities and their products

  • Using an Operating System efficiently

  • Computer hardware systems and networks

  • LOGOCarrying out an IT systems management project

Behind this course is The Learning Machine (TLM), a company based in Tamworth, Staffordshire. TLM took a professionally recognised qualification based on the Linux Essentials programme from the Linux Professional Institute (LPI) and turned in to a level 2 qualification structured in a language that schools and colleges can use.

TLM are the awarding organisation for this course, provide training to the assessors on the certification and moderation systems and schools fund the student for each qualification. TLM offer a range of models to support the varying ways schools fund these qualifications.LPI-Essentials-Logo-300X300-150x150

Paul Taylor, Director of Resource Development at TLM says “in the modern internet age, everything works on Open Source, but there has been no formal recognition of progress or ability within the UK education system. Now that the OSIM course is formally recognised and contributes to school league tables, it is in reach of every student in the UK.”

Working with DfE, OpenUK, LPI and other organisations, the course has been developed to focus on the skills in demand by the growing technology industry. Stuart Mackintosh, chairman of OpenUK says “It has been a significant achievement to have this course formally recognised on the performance tables and designed to fit in with teaching and curriculum requirements of schools and colleges across the country. As the Open Source industry association, the OSC supported the development of the qualification and is pleased with this result achieved by TLM

The OSC, with whom TLM are a long-standing member, provide a link to industry expertise across the UK where schools, colleges and any other organisation, can find expert support, and students can access resources, work placements and employment opportunities.

With this model proven, TLM are developing the Level 3 qualification to support further learning. Following this, level 1 and entry level courses will be developed to make the Open Systems more accessible to those younger and less able. TLM aspire to offer a full suite of approved courses through level 4 & 5 for further education and workplace study. Whilst these are being developed, students can use the existing LPI programmes, although these are not currently funded by the DfE.

To access the course, a student can either self-study or ask their school to register. The flexible engagement methods make it feasible for very small numbers of students to take the course whilst economies of scale lower the cost for schools who actively promote the course. Funding is now available from the Skills Funding Agency (SFA) of £941 per student to run the course owing to the DfE approval for performance points.

Full details of the course can be found here:

About The Learning Machine (TLM)

The Learning Machine Ltd (TLM). TLM is an Awarding Organisation Accredited by Ofqual and DAQW, the regulators for qualifications in England and Wales. TLM is responsible for developing and managing a new and innovative family of qualifications. The most popular of these qualifications is the Qualification for IT Users, the ITQ, based on industry standard needs for IT. This is referenced to the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) for broader industry acceptance. We produce a range of qualifications in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths) based subjects such as ICT, Computing, Design Engineer and Construct or Smart Product Design and Manufacture that provide headline points in the KS4 performance figures which are supported by free on-line guidance and resources.

Address: 4D-4E Gagarin, Lichfield Road, Tamworth, Staffordshire B79 7GN