Ofqual calls time on estimated grades for BTECs and other vocational qualifications

Ofqual has ruled out the use of calculated grades to award vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) again.

Following this year’s exams fiasco, the regulator ran a consultation on how to grade BTEC and other vocational learners next year should Covid-19 continue to disrupt normal assessments.

The outcome has been published today and states that rather than using centre-assessed grades, awarding bodies will instead be given the freedom to adapt their assessment arrangements to mitigate any impact of the pandemic.

This could include, according to Ofqual, “widening assessment windows to provide greater flexibility, streamlining assessments to free up time for teaching and learning, or changing some assessment requirements to deal with the impact of any ongoing social distancing measures, such as group performances”.

However, Ofqual has made clear that if VTQs can progress as normal, their assessments should not be adapted.

The approach announced today only applies to VTQs, not GCSEs or A-levels.

Centre-assessed grades were introduced for some VTQ learners this year to replace exams and assessments which had been cancelled owing to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Others were allowed to have their assessments adapted by, for example, using online tests, while the rest had their assessments delayed.

Dame Glenys Stacey (pictured), acting chief regulator at Ofqual, said: “In many cases, awarding organisations will be able to deliver VTQs as normal, but where this is not possible it is important that any changes continue to deliver qualifications that are a valid and reliable indication of knowledge, understanding, skills or practical competence.

“We will continue to work with awarding organisations to support their decision-making on when adaptations are necessary and what adaptations are appropriate for different qualifications. The work we are already doing to facilitate the development of common approaches across similar sectors and types of qualifications will also continue.”

Ofqual is currently working up a plan B for awarding GCSE and A-levels next year, which could include online tests if traditional exams cannot be sat.

The regulator said there was a “high level of agreement” to the proposals in its consultation for awarding VTQs in 2020/21, and that all of its recommendations (click here) will now be implemented in full.

Ofqual’s second draft extended extraordinary regulatory framework, on which it has launched a new consultation today, sets out the “regulatory arrangements and guidance with which awarding organisations must comply when adapting their qualifications”.

The regulator said it is important that schools, colleges and training providers receive information about VTQ adaptations in a “timely and consistent way” and they are working with stakeholders to “agree deadlines by when awarding organisations will provide qualification specific information to their centres”.