Ofqual's proposals for awarding vocational and technical qualifications: A speed read

Ofqual has today published a consultation on how it proposes to award vocational and technical qualifications this summer. Here’s what you need to know

 

The new framework’s ‘key principles’

Ofqual is proposing a new “extraordinary regulatory framework” to let awarding organisations deliver results “using approaches that would not be allowed in ordinary circumstances”. It will be based on “key principles” for AOs to prioritise, and will be “designed to give awarding organisations the flexibility they need to deliver results”.

The principles are that an awarding organisation must seek to:

  • issue results to as many learners as possible in spring/summer 2020, provided that those results are based on evidence which ensures that they are sufficiently valid and reliable
  • ensure that each result it issues is as reliable as possible
  • ensure that its approach minimises burden and maximises deliverability as far as possible
  • maintain standards, as far as possible, within the same qualification in line with previous years
  • maintain standards, as far as possible, across similar qualifications made available by the awarding organisation and by other awarding organisations

Where there is conflict between two or more principles, the awarding organisation “must consider the principles in the order in which they are set out here”.

 

So what qualifications are covered?

The framework will cover vocational and technical qualifications and any general qualification which is not covered by the government separate plan for GCSEs and A-levels.

Where a qualification isn’t in scope, AOs will determine whether they should offer learners a “calculated result”, adapt their assessments or delivery models, or delay assessments.

Ofqual plans to produce some guidance to “support awarding organisations in their decision-making in these circumstances”.

The consultation applies to three categories of qualifications. These are:

  • qualifications used for progression to further or higher education
  • qualifications serving a mixed purpose
  • qualifications signalling occupational competence

Ofqual is proposing different approaches to qualifications depending on which group they align with.

The postponement of assessments, leading to a delay to results, should be a last resort, Ofqual says.

 

Use ‘trusted’ evidence for results

Calculated results must be based on “at least one source of trusted evidence”, Ofqual says. This could include a centre assessment grade, or a sufficient percentage of banked evidence.

There also needs to be a “sufficiently robust means of quality assurance”.

It will be up to AOs to decide what’s appropriate, but Ofqual is proposing to implement “a range of technical requirements that will support their decision making, secure that results issued under the framework remain valid and trusted, and that this summer learners receive grades that fairly represent their expected level of attainment”.

AOs will have to provide “effective guidance” to centres on what information they require to calculate results.

 

Ranking can be used

Schools and colleges have been told to rank their GCSE and A-level pupils within each grade.

Ofqual says the same method could be used for vocational and technical qualifications, if an awarding organisation deems it necessary.

However, it will depend on each individual qualification and is a decision that each awarding body should make itself.

“Awarding organisations may also ask for other information in order to support an approach to calculating grades such as a rank order for learners,” the consultation says.

“This might involve an overall rank order of learners or a rank order of learners in each grade.”

 

AOs could be forced to provide autumn assessments

The government’s policy is that learners who don’t feel this year’s results reflect their ability should be given an opportunity to compete another assessment.

Ofqual says that for many vocational and technical qualifications, another assessment opportunity “would typically be available in the autumn term in any event”.

The regulator is proposing that where an AO normally provides an assessment opportunity between September and December, it “should be obliged to continue to provide that opportunity”.

Where awarding organisations do not normally provide an assessment opportunity in the autumn term, Ofqual thinks additional assessment opportunities “should be made available where sufficient demand exists and where meeting that demand would not create a disproportionate burden on awarding organisations or centres”.

If no assessment opportunity is made available Ofqual “may require that an additional assessment opportunity must be made available”. However, relevant AOs would be consulted on the feasibility and impact of such an imposition.

 

No change to appeals policy, but extra guidance

Ofqual says its existing rules are in line with the government’s policy on appeals, which gives learners the right to appeal “if the relevant process was not followed correctly by the awarding organisation”.

But Ofqual plans to publish additional guidance to “promote consistency in approach and to make clear what awarding organisations should consider in relation to the conduct of appeals this year”.

In particular, the guidance will “make clear that awarding organisations are not obliged to consider appeals submitted by individual learners or their representatives unless that is the only way to secure an effective appeal”.

 

What about private candidates?

Where learners are private candidates and studying qualifications independently, AOs should seek to issue results in the same way as they will for other learners “where possible”.

Calculated results should only be issued to private learners “where sufficient evidence is available and where the right detail can be properly submitted on the learner’s behalf”.

Where learners don’t have sufficient existing evidence, have not engaged sufficiently with centres, or where assessment adaptation is unsuitable for private candidates, it is “likely then that the most appropriate option may be for those learners to wait until the next opportunity provided by the awarding organisation to take their assessment”.

 

And functional skills?

The government’s policy is that learners due to take functional skills tests before the end of the summer should receive “a calculated result rather than an adapted or postponed assessment”.

But Ofqual recognises AOs may not be able to issue safe and valid calculated grades for all learners.

AOs should “work towards” providing a calculated result, but where this is not possible, they will be allowed to offer adapted assessments.

“We recognise that there will be some functional skills qualification learners who still will not receive a result this summer, because they are unable to receive a calculated result, cannot access an adapted assessment, have had their apprenticeship suspended, and/or have decided to delay taking their assessments.

“We expect those learners to be offered opportunities to sit their assessments at a later date, and as soon as reasonably possible, ideally no later than in the autumn term.”