Over 1,300 penalties issued for VTQs in one year

The highest number of these penalties was issued to students, followed by centre staff and centres, says Ofqual

Julia Belgutay

Ofqual has published a breakdown of penalties issued for VTQs in 2019-20

A total of 1,381 penalties were issued by awarding organisations for malpractice in higher stakes vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) for the academic year 2019 to 2020, Ofqual has reported.

The data from the regulator said this included student, staff and centre offences, and was set in the context of just over 1 million certificates issued in 2019 to 2020 for these types of qualifications.

The highest number of these penalties was issued to students (78 per cent), followed by centre staff (13 per cent), and centres (9 per cent), said Ofqual, with no penalties reported for examiners. The majority of malpractice cases resulted in a single penalty.

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According to the Ofqual report, published yesterday, the most common type of penalty issued to students was a “warning” (41 per cent of student penalties), followed by a “loss of marks” (36 per cent of student penalties). For centre staff, the most common types of penalties issued were “written warning” and “training”, which both accounted for 40 per cent of centre staff penalties. For centres, the most common types of penalties used were “withdrawal of approval for a specific qualification” and “written warning”.

The number of penalties was highest in paper-based exams (73 per cent), followed by online exams (19 per cent) and lastly, performance-based tasks (7 per cent). The most common type of malpractice for students in 2019 to 2020 was “plagiarism”, which accounted for a third of penalties – likely reflecting the high proportion of internal, coursework-based, assessments in VTQs. For centres and centre staff, “maladministration” was the most common type of malpractice offence.

Ofqual’s report covers all VTQ performance table qualifications (PTQs), functional skills qualifications (FSQs) and other general qualifications, and data was collected from the relevant awarding organisations and focuses on the 2019 to 2020 academic year. Comparisons between the 2019 to 2020 and previous academic years are not provided, because the changes to assessment as a result of the coronavirus pandemic meant Ofqual does not think valid comparisons can be made.


Association of Employment and Learning Providers chief executive Jane Hickie said: “This report is testament to the sector’s determination not to let standards and fairness slip in very challenging circumstances. It’s been a remarkable achievement by all concerned and shows that the government can trust the sector when alternative arrangements have to be put in place.

“AELP believes that the desire and need to maintain high standards is partly driven by the healthy level of competition in the awarding organisation market.  Employers and providers want to be assured that there are alternatives available to them when things go wrong. It is a lesson that the policymakers should take on board in the context of the wider reforms that are being taken forward in the sector.”

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Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay

Julia Belgutay is head of FE at Tes

Find me on Twitter @JBelgutay

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