Functional skills grades to be 'calculated'

Guidance on assessment is welcomed by some sector leaders - while others say it is 'hugely complex'

Kate Parker

Ofqual announce more detail on technical qualifications

Students will receive a "calculated grade" for functional skills and other technical qualifications, Ofqual has announced. 

In a statement published today, the exams regulator says they are working "with awarding organisations to finalise a list of qualifications that we will advise the secretary of state should be in scope for learners to receive a calculated result."

This, Ofqual said, would 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". 

However, Ofqual have said that this will not be possible for all vocational and technical qualifications, and in some cases, it may be better to “adapt assessments or delivery models” even though centres are closed.

The organisation said that it was still working with awarding organisations to identify the qualifications that cannot receive calculated grades and will publish a full list of these after Easter.

Calculated grades

Where grades can be calculated, Ofqual has said that results will draw on a range of evidence, depending on the structure of the qualification.

The statement said: "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. Our aim is for students to receive results alongside outcomes for GCSEs, AS and A levels."


Background: Teachers to rank order pupils for GCSEs

More: Grades plan imperfect but fair say leaders

Need to know: 'Disadvantaged students will lose out with assessment'


David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said that the announcement was a "welcome step forward for hundreds of thousands of students". 

He said: "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."

Tom Bewick, chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies, said that the model outlined was "hugely complex and will be extremely resource intensive for awarding bodies".

He said: "Moreover, the timescales for awarding organisations 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 awarding organisations 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 awarding organisations, and the potential for unfairness to learners as a result of the estimation process."

David Phillips, managing director of City and Guilds: “We have just received advice from Ofqual regarding the grading of vocational and technical qualifications during the Covid-19 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 Covid-19.”  

Nansi 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".

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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