Ofqual consultation on awarding vocational and technical qualifications in summer 2020

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Following our publication of exceptional arrangements for providing students with grades for GCSEs, AS and A levels this summer, we are today, Friday 24 April, launching a consultation on our proposals for awarding other general, vocational and technical qualifications.

Our aim is to deliver a process which is fair to learners and ensures they have grades which are as valued as those in any other year, so they can progress to the next stage of their lives without further disruption.

The landscape for qualifications covered by our consultation is complex and large – last year, issuing more than 5.8 million certificates to a diverse range of learners. These qualifications serve a variety of purposes, including to support progression into further or higher education or to signal occupational or professional competence for entry into specific jobs. In these circumstances, a single approach is not appropriate, and in our recent response to the government’s direction we set out plans to award qualifications by calculating results; adapting assessments; or, where neither approach is appropriate, and only as a last resort, delaying assessments until such a time as public health requirements allow.

We are now proposing plans for awarding vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) and general qualifications (other than GCSEs, AS and A levels) in 2020 to:

  • provide a temporary extraordinary regulatory framework for qualifications that sets out how an awarding organisation (AO) should calculate results or adapt or delay assessments
  • allow AOs to provide clarity to schools, colleges and training providers about what evidence they should gather and consider, and what evidence they will submit, where required to calculate a grade
  • allow AOs to make clear which learners should receive a calculated result (and how it will be awarded), or be required to complete an assessment
  • enable AOs to access, adapt, or build the systems needed to issue results this summer and adapt assessments where this is necessary

Given the complexity of this qualifications landscape, our proposed regulatory framework follows a flexible principles-based approach. In line with current practice, it requires AOs to determine how best to deliver results to learners. We have set out the approaches that should be taken for the different categories of qualifications and we have highlighted the principles we suggest AOs should prioritise to allow learners to certificate this summer, including the approach they should take to calculate results or adapt assessments. AOs will determine the most appropriate way to deliver calculation or adaptation to make sure results are valid, and that learners receive grades that fairly represent their expected level of attainment.

Sally Collier, Chief Regulator, Ofqual, said:

It is vitally important that learners taking vocational or technical qualifications are not prevented from progressing in their studies or careers because of the unprecedented challenges this summer. We have worked quickly across the sector to develop an approach which gives awarding organisations the flexibility they need to deliver results for as many learners as possible during the current crisis, while ensuring a process which those who rely on these qualifications can trust.

Our consultation sets out arrangements for the following categories of qualifications:

  • qualifications used for progression to further or higher education. In line with government policy, and like for GCSEs, AS and A levels, where possible, learners should receive calculated results for these qualifications. Calculated results may be based on the outcomes of any completed assignments or modules, and/or centre judgements (for the whole qualification, or for uncompleted modules or units) of the result each learner would most likely have achieved had they been able to complete their assessments in summer 2020. AOs should set out the most suitable approach to calculation for their qualifications, and put in place appropriate quality assurance and an overall check on qualification level outcomes to satisfy themselves these are aligned with expectations
  • qualifications which are used to signal occupational competence. It would not be suitable for these learners to receive a calculated result because it would not be clear they possessed the skills required for the job, which could have health and safety – or other professional – implications. As such, we propose that the starting point for these qualifications is for AOs to adapt the assessment or delivery model so that assessments can be completed under the current public health restrictions. We will continue to engage with employer groups, professional bodies and other regulators as we develop the approach
  • qualifications with a mixed purpose. There are a significant number of VTQs which serve a number of purposes. AOs will need to consider whether their qualification more closely aligns with the primary purpose of supporting progression to further or higher education (in which case the starting point would be a calculated result, with an adapted assessment potentially being made available where this is not possible), or whether it is more closely aligned with signifying occupational competence (in which case the starting point should be the provision of adapted assessments)

Where learners do not feel that their result properly reflects their ability, we are proposing arrangements for further assessment opportunities to be available as soon as is possible in the autumn term.

Our existing rules already require AOs to have in place an appeals process and that would apply to decisions made under the extraordinary regulatory framework. We have proposed the introduction of further guidance for AOs to sit alongside our existing rules governing appeals.

One of our key aims in developing the exceptional arrangements needed to deliver qualification results this summer is to make sure they are as fair as possible for all students. We have undertaken an equality impact assessment, which we have published as part of this consultation, and we will consider any responses to these issues when finalising our approach.

We recognise that the introduction of our proposed regulatory framework will have cost and resource impacts on AOs, as well as on centres. These will also depend on whether there are costs that AOs might normally incur during this period that haven’t been incurred this year. We have taken steps to minimise any burdens that may result from the introduction of our proposed regulatory framework, and we are keen to hear views from the sector about the resource and operational impact, which we will consider carefully before implementing our proposals.

We have already consulted with a range of AOs, as well as with groups representing education and training providers, employers and professional bodies and learners. We hope these groups, and anyone else with an interest in the arrangements will read our proposals and respond to our consultation by the closing date of Friday 8 May 2020.

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