Functional skills: Where teacher-assessed grades apply

Teacher-assessed grades for functional skills should be the last resort, says new guidance

Kate Parker

Functional skills: How teacher assessment will work this year

Teacher-assessed grades (TAGs) for functional skills should only be a last resort and centres should not request that TAGs be submitted for whole cohorts, according to new guidance published today. 

A new document from the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB), published as part of the Department for Education’s guidance on functional skills assessments this summer, says TAGs should only be requested where entries can clearly demonstrate learners are assessment-ready but are unable to access an assessment safely.

In the guidance, the FAB says this approach to TAGs has been agreed across all functional skills awarding organisations, but that how each awarding organisation operates may differ and each will produce its own guidance based on this document. 


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Functional skills: Guidance on assessment this year

However, all awarding organisations must follow the same six “overarching principles”. 

  1. Live testing will continue, as this is the preferred method of assessment for functional skills. This testing could take place face-to-face or using adaptations, such as being delivered remotely. 
  2. Centres must investigate all live testing and adaptation options before approaching their awarding organisation with an application for a functional skills TAG. Centres will need to evidence how all options have been explored and exhausted for each learner. 
  3. As live testing should be the primary method of awarding, and TAGs should only be requested when centres can clearly demonstrate learners are assessment-ready, unable to access an assessment safely and as a "last resort", centres should not request to submit TAGs for whole cohorts. 
  4. Implementation of any TAG arrangement will start once Ofqual’s regulatory framework comes into effect and will remain in place until 31 August 2021 as per VCRF requirements. Only learners that the centre expected to be entered for assessment between 1 August 2020 and 31 August 2021 and deemed to be eligible, with suitable evidence to support a pass grade against the assessment, should be put forward. 
  5. Learner eligibility will be determined by criteria clearly defined by the awarding organisation, in line with policy positions from the Department for Educaton that centres must follow.
  6. Centres must retain suitable evidence, of both a learner’s eligibility and what has been used to support any TAG judgements, as this may be requested for review by awarding organisations. 


The guidance from FAB adds: “Any TAG approach will need to replicate, as far as possible, the needs of centres and learners who require results. Most awarding organisations operate an on-demand testing model while a smaller number offer these tests in short windows. 

“Awarding organisations will operate an approach which enables centres to explore all possible live testing options including adaptations, select learners for a teacher assessed grade (TAG), gather appropriate evidence, complete internal standardisation and for awarding organisations to complete quality assurance activities and issue results in a timely manner.”

In February, Ofqual confirmed that functional skills assessments can continue to take place in a training provider, college, school, employer premises or alternative location, where it is safe for them to do so in line with public health guidance.

The exams regulator said assessments could be taken remotely or online, and where neither of these options is possible, and learners need a result to progress, a grade can be awarded through alternative arrangements.

Demonstrating eligibility for TAGs 

The guidance says each centre may be required to provide evidence before an awarding organisation can approve the TAG. 

It adds that a learner who has completed their course of study could be considered for a TAG application provided the centre can demonstrate:

  • The learner’s end date is in the past.
  • The learner would have been eligible for a TAG at the time they intended to take a live test.
  • The centre has supporting evidence to demonstrate the learner was assessment-ready.
  • The centre can demonstrate it is not safe to invite the learner back to take a test and has explored all possible adaptations to test.

Centres must demonstrate that normal assessment arrangements are not safe and that the learner cannot: 

  • Access an assessment face-to-face.
  • Access an assessment utilising adaptations such as remote invigilation or assessment.
  • Delay the assessment.

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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