Ofqual has set stringent results deadlines for level 3 vocational and technical education awarding bodies in an effort to avoid a repeat of last summer’s delays.
Awarding organisations must also have a senior designated contact for exams at every school and college to quickly resolve issues.
The regulator told awarding organisations in guidance issued on Thursday that they must have agreed with schools and colleges by May 26 which students expect to receive grades on level 3 results day in the summer.
June 23 is the latest date awarding bodies must agree with school and colleges what remaining evidence or information is needed for each student.
The deadline for issuing VTQ results to schools and colleges is August 14 – three days before the level 3 results day when thousands of students find out their A-level, T Level and other level 3 results like BTECs.
In December, Ofqual said it would introduce a checkpoint midway through the summer term to check up on missing units, which is the June 23 deadline, and said it envisaged that final results would be issued to centres about a week before level 3 results day.
Ofqual has also said that awarding organisations must collect and maintain details of senior contacts responsible for delivering exams in schools and colleges, so that errors, issues or clarifications can be addressed as quickly as possible.
It is unclear how many awarding bodies already had this provision.
Awarding bodies will also be required to work with the university admissions service UCAS to track students applying for higher education courses to ensure a smooth transition.
Ofqual said it will shortly launch a VTQ “information hub”, which will bring together key information – including the new deadline dates – in one place.
An Ofqual spokesperson said: “The chief regulator, Jo Saxton, came to this post committed to parity of esteem between general and vocational and technical qualifications, and with students as her compass. The deadlines announced today provide key milestones towards delivering this.
In August last year, around 21,000 BTEC and Cambridge Technicals (CTEC) results were issued late, leaving students in limbo.
Ofqual figures published in December revealed that 12,346 level 3 results were affected, and 8,573 level 2 results.
Affected students received blank results slips, triggering a barrage of calls to the awarding bodies.
The regulator launched an investigation and shortly before Christmas published an action plan to avoid a repeat of the failures. They included a hard deadline for VTQ results and a taskforce of senior sector leaders to work on new requirements and refine existing processes.
Ofqual’s action plan also set out provision for bespoke training for exams officers, administration and academic staff.
Pearson, the awarding body for the BTECs, and OCR for the CTECs were members of that taskforce but also published their own internal investigations into the summer results failure.
The reviews found that most delays came from missing or incomplete data from colleges and schools on students’ coursework or exams that had not been spotted earlier, as well as more complicated administration processes as a result of adaptations from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Also published in the latest guidance is a list of 14 awarding bodies which have pledged their commitment to the new rules.
According to Ofqual, all awarding organisations delivering high stakes performance table qualifications that attract UCAS points and operate claims-based systems have signed up to the deadlines.
Tom Bewick, chief executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies – one of the taskforce members – said that he welcomed the action plan and Ofqual’s announcement on the deadlines.
“Inevitably it means some significant changes to ways of working but we’re confident the plan being put in place is one of ensuring expectations are managed properly; there is clarity about what is required, by whom and by when; and that AOs are able to communicate with centres and stakeholders in a manner that will ensure every student who is eligible for a result is able to receive one without delay,” he said.
Bewick added that in addition to Ofqual’s work, the federation and Joint Council for Qualifications had set up an operational communications group of awarding bodies involved in the summer results to ensure that communications processes were aligned.