Pearson and OCR reports explain 2022 VTQ results delays

Covid-19 adaptations and inexperienced exam officers were among the issues

Covid-19 adaptations and inexperienced exam officers were among the issues

15 Dec 2022, 14:08

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Complex Covid-19 assessment adaptations, poor communication from awarding organisations and an influx of inexperienced exams officers were to blame for “unacceptable” delays to thousands of level 2 and 3 results this summer, two new reports suggest.

Ofqual this morning reported that nearly 21,000 students didn’t receive their results in August as expected, prompting the exams watchdog to outline a series of measures to prevent a repeat in 2023.

The two awarding organisations at the centre of the controversy – Pearson and OCR – have today published their own reports on the errors.

They have pledged to introduce check points with colleges, schools and providers during term time to establish any missing data earlier, and invest in more training for teachers and exam staff through complex systems.

Pearson’s report says it will also release results under embargo around a week before the results are released, rather than 24 hours before.

OCR meanwhile, which had just under 11,000 delayed results, has promised to review risk logs for Cambridge Technicals more regularly and conduct a review of staff expertise, as well as bolster relationships with schools and colleges.

The earlier results, check points, training and improved communication measures were announced by Ofqual this morning.

Both Pearson and OCR will also be represented on a new taskforce of sector leaders to implement new measures in time for summer 2023.

A Pearson spokesperson said: “It was unacceptable that some students did not receive their results when they were expecting them this summer, and we apologise for Pearson’s role in this.

“We are part of Ofqual’s new 2023 VTQ taskforce and look forward to working with Ofqual and the wider education community on improvements for the future.”

OCR chief executive Jill Duffy said she accepted in full the findings of its report, carried out by OCR staff and overseen by the University of Cambridge’s Professor Graham Virgo.

She added: “It pinpoints what went wrong this summer, and it takes a pragmatic approach to identifying improvements that will not only prevent a recurrence, but improve the wider experience for students, parents, schools and colleges.”

Pearson was at the centre of the storm in August as thousands of BTEC students reported showing up on results day to find an empty box where their final grade should have been.

The awarding body’s review, led by former Education and Training Foundation chief executive David Russell, describes how missing or incomplete data from colleges and schools on students’ exams and coursework results led to most of the delays.

Administration processes were “more complex than usual” because students completing BTECs will have experienced a range of adaptations to their assessments due to the pandemic – all of which came with additional requirements on teachers and centres.

Pearson also cite survey evidence from the National Association of Examinations Officers stating that 22 per cent of exams officers were new in post in 2022, suggesting a large proportion of the exams workforce wasn’t experienced enough to handle “complex data collation processes”.

Pearson has said that 55 per cent of the delayed results came from just 7 per cent of its centres, which those impacted most tending to offer large numbers of BTEC programmes or have a large number of sites.

Jill Duffy

One of the criticisms of awarding organisations at the time was that errors in data supplied by centres was not spotted and fixed prior to results day.

To this, Pearson, which had just under 10,000 delayed results in England, said: “We alerted every centre where our system reconciliations showed unit grades were missing and provided reports listing all students with incomplete results so that schools or colleges could identify gaps.” 

However the report added: “Our findings show there are areas for improvement in how we communicate about missing data with schools and colleges, and it is clear that we need to check more carefully that information and data requests have been received and are being actioned.”

OCR meanwhile said it was not apparent there were issues until results day itself, when it began fielding calls from schools and colleges and prompted a hasty mobilisation of staff to process results. It said that most delayed results were able to be provided within a week but “some complex cases took until 7 September”.

It said that in “almost all cases of delayed results, OCR had not received the full details needed to process qualifications from schools and colleges for those students”.

The report said that the Covid adaptations – which included teacher-assessed grades, reduced assessment in coursework and allowance of assessed grades for students who couldn’t sit exams – in conjunction with a “significant increase in missing and incomplete results” was behind the issue.

Its report said the problem exposed a need for greater data sharing between OCR, schools, colleges and UCAS than existing processes delivered, and guidance to schools and colleges either did not reach or wasn’t understood sufficiently by those who needed to know how to handle complex processes.

The two organisations will now feed into the new task force to work on implementing changes for 2023, as well as look at potential tweaks beyond to create as efficient a system as possible

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