Sector Response to @GavinWilliamson’s ministerial direction to @Ofqual on vocational #technical #qualifications and #FunctionalSkills 

The period since the Secretary of State for Education announced exams and assessments would be cancelled this summer to help fight the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) has been unsettling for all students and learners, including those taking vocational and technical courses.

Ofqual welcome the direction the Education Secretary has issued today (9 April 2020), which sets out how the government expects vocational and technical qualifications to be assessed and awarded in the coming weeks and months.

Ofqual recognise students taking qualifications, alongside or instead of GCSEs, AS and A levels, to progress to further or higher education urgently need to know what arrangements will be put in place for them. Ofqual have worked closely with the Department for Education, awarding organisations and regulators in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland to develop their approach and are today confirming that these qualifications will be awarded a calculated result.

Learners due to take assessments for Functional Skills qualifications before the end of the summer will also receive a calculated result.

Sally Collier100x100Sally Collier, Chief Regulator, Ofqual, said:

"The wide range of young people and adults taking vocational, technical or other general qualifications to progress to further or higher education can be reassured that they will not be disadvantaged against their peers taking GCSEs or A levels – and that results will be issued fairly and in time for them to move on as planned."

Sector Response

Tom Bewick July19 100x100Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) said:

“The Federation was clear from the outset that we had some fundamental difficulties with a blanket-wide approach to adapting and estimating vocational technical qualifications, including estimation of functional skills.

“We support such an approach where the VTQs operate more like GCSEs and A-Levels in terms of delivery; but this can’t be said about the vast majority of other vocational qualifications which will require a significant amount of work on them to continue to meet high standards of validity and reliability.

“We are pleased that Ofqual has taken some of our concerns on board, by moving away from a one-size fits all approach (which is the model adopted for the cancelled summer academic exams). Of course, we support the principle that learners should not be disadvantaged by the effects of Covid-19.

“But equally, we think the model outlined today is hugely complex and will be extremely resource intensive for awarding bodies. Moreover, the timescales for AOs to respond rather assumes it is business as usual in the sector and they have not, in some cases, already furloughed key staff. We call on government to make a specific fund available to support AOs to access the relevant expertise they will need.

“I wrote to the Chief Regulator on 8 April and raised these points. It is extremely disappointing that there is no acknowledgement of the additional impact and workload this will create for AOs, and the potential for unfairness to learners as a result of the estimation process.

“The other big disappointment about today’s announcement is the fact the Secretary of State has effectively used the imposition of an Extraordinary Regulatory Framework, to undermine the independence of Ofqual, in terms of the role they have, reporting to Parliament, to ensure public confidence in qualifications in England.”

david hughes 100 x100David Hughes, Chief Executive, Association of Colleges (AoC) said: 

"Ofqual's announcement on assessment for Technical and Vocational Qualifications including Functional Skills is a welcome step forward for hundreds of thousands of students.  The approach is both sensible and fair.  It will help to  reassure students and parents/carers who will be able to look forward to their hard work and dedication being rewarded with the qualifications they need to progress into employment or higher education.

"College teachers and leaders will be keen to see greater clarity on many details of the announcement and AoC will continue to work with OfQual and awarding organisations to help achieve that. It is very positive that students can benefit from a calculated grade for those qualifications focused on progression including functional skills that have a similar purpose to GCSEs and A Levels.

"It is also clear that some licence to practise and safety related assessments do need to be deferred until the lockdown is fully ended. That means extra work in the autumn term for students and colleges, which will inevitably have a cost implication for colleges which will need to be assessed by the Department for Education.  The priority in autumn 2020 will be to get as many as the students who would ordinarily have completed this summer ready for work as early as possible in the autumn."

David Phillips Mar20 100x100David Phillips, Managing Director of City & Guilds and ILM calls for the sector to embrace new methods and digital solutions for the teaching and assessing of both Vocational and Technical Qualifications:

 “We have just received advice from Ofqual regarding the grading of Vocational and Technical Qualifications during the COVID19 lockdowns, including the calculated grade approach for Functional Skills. Whilst we are disappointed that our opportunity to use the innovative online solutions we have developed more broadly for remote invigilation will be limited in relation to Functional Skills, we will of course adhere to the requirements specified.

“We will continue to develop our innovative online solutions and look to apply to other areas such as Apprenticeship End Point Assessments, so we can ensure learners continue to progress, and employers get the highly skilled workers they need during these unprecedented times. The use of digital solutions in all facets of our working lives has been accelerated because of this crisis, and things will not go back to the way they were before. As a sector we must embrace this change and move with the times to ensure we remain relevant as we start the task of rebuilding the nation post COVID19.”  

Nansi Ellis 100x100Nansi Ellis, Assistant General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

"The NEU recognises that the Vocational and Technical Qualification landscape is very complex and Ofqual are right to say that one form of assessment will not fit all. 

'Schools and colleges will need the detail of what Ofqual proposes as soon as possible to ensure that students and teachers have the confidence and clear guidance on how to proceed. 

'The NEU is working with Ofqual to get as much detail as possible for our members and to make sure that processes are fair for students and staff".

Calculated results for qualifications used for progression to higher and further education. Arrangements for other qualifications to be issued after Easter.

The complexity of the landscape for vocational and technical qualifications means a single approach is not appropriate.

Calculated results will draw on a range of evidence, depending on the structure of the qualification. They may be based in part on teacher, trainer or tutor judgements of the result each learner would most likely have achieved had they been able to complete their assessments in summer 2020. Any centre assessment grade will be based on a range of evidence held by the school, college or training provider. Depending on the structure of the qualification, centres may be asked to provide a centre assessment grade for the whole qualification, or for uncompleted modules or units. There might be some instances where they are asked to provide a rank order of learners (as with GCSEs, AS and A levels). Where appropriate, statistical techniques based on students’ results in previous years, on these and on their academic qualifications, will form part of the adopted approach.

The awarding organisation offering the qualification will use any centre assessment grade, combined with other relevant information (such as marks for completed assessments in some modules or units), to determine the most appropriate calculated result. The aim is for students to receive results alongside outcomes for GCSEs, AS and A levels.

Ofqual are working with awarding organisations to finalise a list of qualifications that they will advise the Secretary of State should be in scope for learners to receive a calculated result. It will include many BTEC Nationals, Cambridge Technicals, and UAL Diplomas as well as general qualifications such as the International Baccalaureate, Cambridge Pre-U and qualifications included under the umbrella term ‘Core Maths’.

Ofqual are discussing the process for generating calculated results with awarding organisations, who will provide detailed information to their centres in the coming days and weeks.

Some qualifications are primarily designed to support progression to or through employment, rather than to further or higher education or to an apprenticeship. Ofqual are working with awarding organisations to identify qualifications in this group where it might still be possible to generate a calculated result. Where this is not possible, Ofqual will encourage awarding organisations to adapt assessments or delivery models (for example, changing invigilation requirements or moving to remote moderation) as long as this does not undermine the reliability of the result and only where assessments can take place within the current social distancing rules. In some cases, where qualifications directly signal occupational competence or function as a licence to practise, it may not be safe or meet employers’ requirements to do either of these, and there may be no option but to wait until normal assessments can take place again.

Ofqual are working closely with awarding organisations to finalise the lists of qualifications in scope for each category (the award of calculated results; adaptation of assessments; and rescheduling). Ofqual will set out after Easter further details of the approach for each category, and to outline those areas where they will need to consult.

The overriding priority for all qualifications is to develop a process which is applied fairly and consistently, so that standards are maintained and all those who use qualifications can continue to have confidence in their value.

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