Ofqual has set out its proposals for awarding technical and vocational qualifications, following the closure of colleges and other education settings because of coronavirus.
The exams regulator has set out a "temporary extraordinary regulatory framework for qualifications" that details how an awarding organisation (AO) could calculate results or adapt or delay assessments
Under the framework, qualifications would be split into three categories: those used for progression to further or higher education, qualifications that are used to signal occupational competence, and qualifications with a "mixed purpose".
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Ofqual said that due to the huge variety of technical and vocational qualifications a "single approach is not appropriate", and while some results will be calculated, others will have assessments modified.
The impact of coronavirus on technical qualifications
Sally Collier, chief regulator at 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.”
Qualifications used for progression to further or higher education
The guidance says: "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 that are used to signal occupational competence
The guidance says: "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
The guidance says: "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)."
Ofqual said that the framework should allow awarding organisations to provide clarity to colleges and training providers about what evidence to gather, and should enable awarding organisations to access, adapt or build the systems needed to issue results this summer and adapt assessments where this is necessary.
If learners do not feel that their result properly reflects their ability, Ofqual said it will "propose arrangements for further assessment opportunities to be available as soon as is possible in the autumn term".
The proposed plans are open for consultation. The consultation will close on 8 May 2020.
Last month, Ofqual confirmed that students will receive a "calculated grade" for functional skills and other technical qualifications.
At the time, the exams regulator said it was 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".
Simon Ashworth, chief policy officer at the Association of Employment and Learning Providers, said: “We’re seeing more common sense from Ofqual during these really difficult times. The measures on adaptive assessment, following on from the announcement about calculated results, are going to help providers and awarding bodies, and we particularly welcome the extension for learners on legacy functional skills.”
David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, said: "This is an important and helpful announcement by Ofqual, which will help to reassure students and colleges. The approach proposed to the awarding of grades for vocational and technical qualifications is fair and based on consistent principles. The emphasis outlined in the consultation document published today on enabling progression, combined with a focus on reliability and validity in what is a complex area, strikes the right balance.
"It's important that colleges respond to the consultation so that Ofqual can move on to provide the clarity that students want and deserve. The AoC will continue to work with Ofqual, awarding organisations and colleges to help ensure that every student is supported through these difficult and uncertain times."