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Ofqual to probe into malpractice among providers

The government watchdog will also look at making the costs of vocational and technical qualifications more transparent

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The government watchdog will also look at making the costs of vocational and technical qualifications more transparent

Awarding organisations for technical and vocational qualifications are to be placed under scrutiny by Ofqual in a bid to tackle malpractice and improve transparency over the fees charged for qualifications, it has emerged.

In its new plan of work for the next three years, released today, Ofqual reveals its intention to focus on awarding bodies involved in technical and vocational qualifications.

Its corporate plan for 2018-2021 has “the validity and safe delivery of all vocational and technical qualifications” as one of its key goals. It states: “In 2018-2019 we intend to focus particularly on awarding organisations’ arrangements with centres, and their handling of malpractice."

Writing in the report, Roger Taylor, Ofqual chair, says the watchdog will also “consider measures to improve transparency in the price of qualifications."

Ofqual will regulate technical and vocational qualifications with “the same seriousness and focus” as it does general qualifications such as GCSEs and A levels, he adds.

In her foreword, Sally Collier, Ofqual's chief regulator (pictured), warns: “When awarding organisations fail to meet our requirements, we will take action."

Referring to vocational and technical qualifications, as well as end-point assessments for apprenticeships, the Ofqual plan says: “It is important that learners, higher education institutions and employers value, are confident in and understand these qualifications and assessments so they have currency."

More transparency needed

One of the areas of concern is the lack of openness over the amounts charged for different qualifications. Ofqual remains “vigilant to emerging issues and risks that can arise in individual awarding organisations or systemically”, according to the report.

“Unlike for GCSEs, AS and A levels, we are aware that information regarding the fees charged for vocational qualifications is not always publicly accessible," it adds.

“We want to gather stakeholders’ views and then consider whether to take steps to improve price transparency."

During the coming year, the watchdog intends to “undertake systemic work to address malpractice” and “review the transparency of fees charged for vocational qualifications”.

It will also begin a “long-term research programme into performance-based assessment, including to inform the reform of national technical and vocational qualifications”.

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