The government has today outlined its final decisions for awarding BTEC and other vocational and technical qualification (VTQ) grades this summer.

Following a consultation which ran last month and received just over 3,000 responses, the plans are very similar to the arrangements adopted last year when exams were cancelled.

Awarding VTQs will again be based on three “broad” groups:

  • Group 1: those that are most like GCSEs and A-levels
  • Group 2: those that are used for direct entry into employment
  • Group 3: those not like GCSEs or A-levels but used for progression

Ofqual said it will provide, as they did last year, an online tool that sets out what individual qualifications sit in each category.

Here are the key things you need to know.


Teacher assessed grades for group 1

For VTQs and other general qualifications that are most like GCSEs and A-levels, such as many BTECs and Cambridge Nationals/Technicals, exams will not go ahead.

Instead, teacher assessed grades will be used, based on a range of assessment, including coursework, mock exams and internal assessments.

Awarding bodies will issue guidance to providers and colleges about what evidence is needed for teacher assessed grades and timelines for information to be submitted from today (February 25).



Assessments to go ahead for group 2

VTQs that are used for direct entry into employment and demonstrate occupational or professional competence will see their assessments go ahead as planned in a “Covid-secure way”.

The government says that “alternative arrangements” cannot be used to assess a learner’s competence so their assessment must be delayed and taken at a later date if they cannot be sat at the time scheduled. This might occur in cases where a learner’s practical training has been disrupted by the pandemic.

Subject areas commonly found in this group include construction, accounting, plumbing and automotive.


Teacher assessed grades for group 3 if exams  cannot be taken

Assessments for VTQs that are unlike GCSEs and A-levels but are still used for progression, such as functional skills and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL), should still go ahead in a Covid-secure way or remotely.

If neither of those options are possible then “alternative arrangements” can be used, namely teacher assessed grades (read the full story here).

Again, individual awarding bodies will set out what evidence is needed in such cases from tomorrow.


What about T Levels?

Teacher assessed grades will be used for T Level core components this summer.

This is a change from what was proposed in the consultation, which said the assessments should be delayed until the Autumn.

The government said the decision to use teacher assessed grades avoids putting too much pressure on students by delaying assessment until the second year of study.


When will students receive their results?

Results for level 2 and 3 VTQs that are needed to secure college or university places will be issued on or before August 10 and 12 to align with GCSEs and A-levels.

But results for other VTQs, such as teacher assessed grades for functional skills learners, will continue to be issued throughout the year like usual but only from April.


Appeals will go to schools and colleges first

The government has confirmed its plan set out in the consultation which will allow students who believe their teacher had made an error in their grades to appeal to their school or college in the first instance.

However, there has been a change to the grounds for escalating an appeal to exam boards.

The consultation proposed that appeals could be submitted to exam boards on the basis that a school or college had not acted “in line with the exam board’s procedural requirements”.

But the government said this “did not sufficiently take into account the workload it would place on teachers, as well as the importance for students of having their appeal heard by a third party”.

Under the revised plan, schools and colleges will only have to check for errors and whether their own processes were followed in the first instance.

Then, if students want to take it further, exam boards will review both the school’s or college’s processes and the evidence used to determine a students’ grade to confirm whether the grade was a “reasonable exercise of academic judgement”.

Where the student disagrees with the final result issued by the exam board after the appeal, and believes the process has not been followed correctly, an application can be made to Ofqual’s Exams Procedures Review Service.

There’s no threshold for students to apply, but the grade can go up or down as in normal appeals.