Ofqual to announce teachers will ‘calculate’ BTEC and other qual results but delay detail

Teachers will calculate student grades for the majority of cancelled BTEC and other vocational qualification exams, but a full list of those in scope will not be ready until after Easter.

In a briefing to the FE sector this morning, Ofqual said that vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs), such as BTEC Nationals, Cambridge Technicals, UAL Diplomas and functional skills, which are “used for progression to higher and further education”, will be graded the same as A-levels and GCSEs this summer.

In “some instances”, teachers may be asked to “provide a rank order” of learners, as with GCSEs and A-levels.

However, Ofqual has reiterated that this approach will not be “appropriate” for all VTQs, such as those designed to support progression straight into employment and signal occupational competence.

The exams regulator said it is still working with awarding organisations to identify those qualifications where it would be better to “adapt assessments or delivery models” so that they can still take place even though centres are closed.

In cases where qualifications “directly signal occupational competence including a licence to practise”, there may be no option but to delay their assessments until students return to their training provider.

A list of VTQs where grades cannot be calculated is being worked on but further arrangements will not be announced until after Easter.

Ofqual explained that calculated results for VTQs could be based in part on teacher judgements of what grade each learner would “most likely” have achieved had they been able to complete their assessments in summer 2020.

They must “draw appropriately” on a “range of other evidence” held by the school, college, training provider and the awarding organisation offering the qualification.

Evidence which “might be useful” in the estimations includes “actual achievement data for candidates – exams or internal assessments which have (or haven’t been through moderation, centre risk profiles” and “historic data on centre outcomes”.

Ofqual said any estimation should have three elements: professional judgement and evidence from teachers and component results from already moderated assessment by awarding bodies; quality assurance such as comparison to historic centre outcomes and evaluation of the algorithm for calculating grades; and a check to see if there appears to be a reasonable profile of grades, similar to previous years.

Learners who do not feel their result reflects their ability will be able to complete an assessment once their provider reopens.

In a letter to chief regulator Sally Collier yesterday, seen by FE Week, Federation of Awarding Bodies chief executive Tom Bewick warned about the overbearing additional resource load for his members in estimating VTQ grades and called for a “resource fund” to be made available.

“Where flexibilities are introduced in awarding, these need to consider constraints of implementation – both around the data available to allow an AO to estimate grades reliably, and the capacity that AOs have to complete this work within the desired timeframe,” he said.

“It is essential that the volume of additional resources required to implement these temporary assessment arrangements is fully understood by all parties.”

Bewick’s letter added that Ofqual has a “duty to make the case to the Department for Education for a specific capacity building and resource fund, to be accessed by AOs, to meet the additional requirements of implementing an emergency regulatory framework”.  

“Adaptation and/or the estimation of qualifications, including up to 9,000 VTQs active in the marketplace, is a hugely demanding piece of work.

“The only way to give AOs the confidence that they can take staff off furlough arrangements will be if they are assured by the department and the regulator that any additional costs of this exercise will be met by government in full.”

Ofqual’s guidance for grading VTQs can be found here.

And their press release can be found here.

The education secretary’s ministerial direction to Ofqual can be found here.