An inquiry is underway into claims by a vocational course student reports Lucy Ward.
An investigation has been launched into why a private training firm allegedly awarded a 16-year-old a vocational qualification said to be equivalent to four GCSEs after only seven days' study.
Hertfordshire Training and Enterprise Council this week began an emergency inquiry into further allegations that Hatfield-based Intereurope Training Ltd had claimed the full six weeks' worth of funding for the student even though he says he attended the training centre for such a short time.
The investigation is also examining suggestions that the company misled students by advertising the information technology course as "leading to a national vocational qualification diploma" and allegedly telling trainees they were gaining an NVQ level 2 when in fact they were working towards a different qualification.
The course led to a City Guilds 7261 diploma in computer applications - a forerunner of the NVQ in information technology but treated as an equivalent by the TEC and the Department for Education and Employment for funding purposes.
No time limits have been set down for completion of the diploma, but according to awarding body guidelines the three modules covered in the Intereurope course should have taken between 180 and 270 hours.
Teenager Wayne Coughlan, who had used computers at school but had had no specialised IT training, claimed he studied for seven days - totalling fewer than 60 hours - before being told he had passed.
Preliminary TEC investigations of Intereurope records confirm he completed all the assignments. Serious questions over the rigour of assessment procedures are likely to be raised if his claims over the course duration are upheld.
Mr Coughlan, now 17, of Welwyn Garden City, Herts, also said he was informed by Intereurope that his qualification, as an NVQ 2 equivalent, was equal to four grade C GCSEs or one A-level.
But when he applied to go to college education guidance officers told him the diploma, which he offered along with his two C grade GCSEs acquired at school, would not qualify him for an advanced course. Mr Coughlan, who is now embarking on an intermediate GNVQ in IT at Oaklands College, said: "I was really disappointed - I had thought I had the right qualifications for the course I wanted and could stop worrying, but then I had to change all my plans."
The TEC accepted an NVQ 2 requires more of students than the diploma, including the assessment of competences in the workplace. Deputy chief executive Judy Green admitted it was "an enormous difficulty" if local colleges and schools were attaching different values to the same qualifications compared with training providers.
The TEC inquiry has confirmed Intereurope received six weeks' funding for Mr Coughlan's training, paid out at the rate of Pounds 27-a- week plus Pounds 750 for completing the qualification. As The TES went to press, investigators were still checking his claim that he had attended for only seven days.
Intereurope confirmed students were told they were gaining an NVQ 2 equivalent qualification, but refused to comment further.