Reflexology Training Today: a Short History
Those of you who have been following the recent Facebook threads concerning different levels of qualification and training within reflexology, will know that we have promised to try and clear up the obvious mis-information concerning the subject. Also to explain the events which have led to the current position regarding reflexology training in the UK. Because these events have taken place over 15 years this must be a précis.
Prior to, and perhaps up until, the end of the 1990’s reflexology training was run largely by reflexologists with the desire to pass on their knowledge. You could train on a Saturday afternoon in a village hall or six weekly evening classes to full-blown training courses but sadly the training standards varied enormously.
First class reflexology training was, at that time carried out by a number of private schools under the guidance of such member organisations as the International Institute of Reflexology, the Association of Reflexologists, the British Reflexology Association and International Federation of Reflexologists. During this time an increasing demand developed both amongst the profession and the public for reflexology to be recognised. This, along with the growing use of CAM therapies, led the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee to produce a report which was published in November 2000. There were of course many recommendations within that report but the ones we will concern ourselves with are those regarding training and education among reflexologists.
The aim of the report in respect of reflexology training was to try to bring together the various forms of training available and create a universal standard. However this also meant that the examination and qualification should cease to be the remit of the various membership organisations.
The AoR followed the recommendations and appointed an outside awarding body, the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance (AQA), to handle the examination/qualification of its accredited school’s students. Other reflexology organisations continued with their own qualifications.
Awarding Bodies by the way are privately run companies, not government bodies.
By mid 2003 the AQA specification was finalised and AoR Accredited Schools started teaching to the new syllabus from the following autumn. After a relatively short tenure AQA ceased to provide this service and the baton was passed to ABC Awards. Other awarding bodies were producing their own specifications at level 3 largely for use in further education colleges, however the difference in the content and standard of these still varied considerably.
During this period, because of the continued distancing from a membership organisation, the specification for training of reflexologists became increasingly controlled by awarding bodies and more remote from reflexologists and those who were teaching the specification.
The Reflexology Forum had been formed in September 2000, bringing together the various reflexology membership associations who were to develop National Occupational Standards for Reflexology. The resulting Core Curriculum for Reflexology was published in 2005. This was intended to be taken up by all those with an interest in reflexology training and produce the ‘level playing field’ that everybody could understand and trust. To date the only specification to comply fully with the Core Curriculum is Level 5, more of which later.
During 2009 the system of credits and units was, somewhat belatedly, introduced to reflexology training in England and the newly devised level 3 specification, designed to be universal across awarding bodies, was launched in 2010 and became mandatory for all new courses starting after 1 January 2011.
This proved to be far from 'the level playing field' that we had all hoped because, from the start, within the specification there were two qualifications with either five or seven units, both designated 'Level 3 diploma in Reflexology'.
This new qualification was a generic complementary therapy specification with only one of the units’ specific to reflexology. Fortunately many of the well-established schools who had, by this time, become affiliated to Professional Reflexology continued to teach the high level of additional content that they had always included in their courses. This Level 3 has subsequently been superseded by another with reduced (by about one third) hours and content. Again Professional Reflexology Affiliated Schools teaching at Level 3 continued to teach to their established high standards providing quality training to their students.
Awarding Bodies, not Reflexologists, Tutors or Membership organisations, were now well and truly in charge and no longer specified minimum contact teaching hours. The specification lent itself therefore to short and fast track ‘training’ leading to the possibility of the 4, 5 and 6 day courses that still exist today
So we had a situation whereby, far from having created this mythical level playing field, the standard of reflexology training had become even more confusing to the general public and prospective students than it had been prior to the House of Lords report.
Training was no longer controlled by reflexologists. It was controlled by the requirements of those involved in more general further education.
With this background one school decided to produce its own course.
Sue Evans the principal of that school, Inspira Academy in Cardiff, designed a course that was specific to Reflexology for her next group of students. She then discovered that because of Welsh devolution she could do what no school in England could do, and that was to have this course accredited by a Welsh awarding body.
With a lot of hard work and determination, and it must be said on a purely voluntary basis but with the backing of a number of independent schools around the UK, this course was accredited by the awarding body Agored Cymru in 2012.
To give it its full title the Centralia Reflexology Mastership (incorporating Agored Cymru units at level 5), following its accreditation, began to be taught around the UK by Professional Reflexology Affiliated Schools. The course has specific requirements for its tutors in that they must be practising reflexologists with a depth of experience and has a mandatory 160 face-to-face (contact) teaching hours ensuring the quality of teaching especially from a practical aspect.
Professional Reflexology had by this time become a verifying organisation for CNHC, and was chosen to ratify the new level 5 as being compliant with National Occupational Standards (NOS) and the Core Curriculum.
Schools, throughout the period from the year 2000, had tried extremely hard to influence policymakers in respect of their management of reflexology training. Schools did this because we believe wholeheartedly in our therapy and we do not want to see training watered-down to the lowest common denominator, and this is why those schools have continued to teach the way that they do.
To answer some of the more general points raised – ‘Bridging’ has not been discounted by schools because schools do not wish to offer it. It is because under the OFQUAL regulations in the UK Awarding bodies do not permit it.
For example students do a GCSE 0-level, then an A-Level, then a degree - you cannot ‘top-up’ one qualification to make it into another. That is the way qualifications are regulated and these are the rules that we have to abide by as Affiliated Schools. It is true that there are some schools offering ‘bridging’ or upgrades, but these are either therapy schools who are offering unregulated courses, or Universities who do not come under the control of OFQUAL . In fact the levels are assessed in University on a different basis. When ‘bridging’ courses were available for Reflexologists, they were not offering a top-up between levels of qualification. As we have already explained there was a real disparity of specification being offered at level 3. ‘Bridging’ was filling in the gaps between the lower end of the qualification to the upper level.
Professional Reflexology has campaigned assiduously both publicly and behind-the-scenes to draw attention, and hopefully put a stop, to the short courses the acceptance of which by some organisations brings, in our view, reflexology into disrepute. Our Affiliated Schools at level 3 all agree to a minimum of 100 hours face-to-face tuition. We have campaigned to get an agreement with our fellow reflexology membership organisations concerning setting minimum teaching hours. It may surprise you but we have been unsuccessful in getting any agreement to, what we and our members, consider to be an essential element of training.
One of the major reasons for the formation of Professional Reflexology was the promotion and maintenance of high quality training. Our Affiliated Schools, whether offering Level 3 or level 5, all offer training at the highest level.
We have always maintained that it is the quality of the training that matters for your future as a reflexologist; not merely the name given to your qualification.
Because we are the only reflexology membership organisation that publishes that minimum criteria for Membership taking into account the standards of your training establishment, in the eyes of the public, Membership of Professional Reflexology shows that, regardless of qualification, our Members are among the best trained reflexologists in the UK.
Martyn Finke PRM
MD Professional Reflexology