T Level exams issues could be more widespread than first thought, Ofqual reveals

Ofqual raises concerns over core papers in education and childcare T Level as well as health and science

Ofqual raises concerns over core papers in education and childcare T Level as well as health and science

12 Oct 2022, 13:39

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More T Level exam papers have been called into question by Ofqual.

The exams regulator published an enforceable ‘undertaking’ signed by awarding body NCFE today following issues reported in this summer’s health and science T Level core papers which impacted on 1,115 students and culminated in results being regraded.

Ofqual has now revealed that it wrote to NCFE in June 2022 about the education and childcare T Level the awarding body also offers, raising concerns about the targeting of assessment objectives in the November 2021 core exam papers.

The exams watchdog also warned that “given the range of issues identified in the health and science and education and childcare technical qualifications”, Ofqual “considers that there is a risk that similar issues may be present” in NCFE’s digital T Levels.

As a result, NCFE has promised to deliver an action plan and provide Ofqual with a copy of core exam papers and mark schemes within 24 hours of those exams being delivered.

In addition, it must provide Ofqual with an evidence statement of assurance for each of its T Levels confirming that actions in the plan have been delivered, and that issues raised in 2022 no longer remain in its papers.

Those statements must be provided before NCFE’s final sign-off and printing for each core exam paper.

The news comes during National T Level Week aimed at celebrating the flagship new government qualifications.

Each T Level is offered and awarded by a single exam board. NCFE scooped more contracts – nine – to deliver T Levels than any other awarding body. No T Levels offered by other awarding bodies have had issues raised by Ofqual.

A spokesperson from NCFE said: “NCFE has agreed an undertaking with Ofqual to review our T Level autumn 2022 series and to provide assurance that all assessments will be robust. We know how important it is that both providers and students are confident in the validity of the assessments.

“We have therefore reviewed existing processes to ensure that any issues with the papers are rectified, as well as rolling out a comprehensive package of targeted resources, developed closely with providers to support teaching staff in maximising successful outcomes for T Level students in their 2022/23 assessments.”

Many first year health and science students in the summer reported lower-than-expected grades, citing exam questions on topics they had not been taught and the textbook only being available a few weeks before the exam.

Angry students set-up a petition which gained more than 1,200 signatures.

A letter sent to colleges and students by the Department for Education last month following an Ofqual investigation said that issues included “question errors, inadequate mark schemes, and questions covering areas not explicitly in the specification”.

It added that “given the breadth and volume of issues, Ofqual has determined that the assessments do not secure a sufficiently valid or reliable measure of student performance,” which it dubbed a “significant finding and a serious matter”.

Ofqual’s written undertaking this week confirmed that “fundamental issues” were discovered in all six core papers in the health and science T Level, and meant the exams were “not fit for purpose”.

The Institute for Apprenticeships and Technical Education (IfATE) is understood to be conducting a separate review on the health and science T Level exams investigating concerns that assessment criteria was too broad and too advanced for first-year students.

During an education select committee session on Wednesday morning, Ofqual chief regulator Jo Saxton told MPs that the DfE had signed off dummy papers for the health and science T Level, but that the final papers were “significantly different” and “actual material failed to live up to that standard”.

Less than an hour before Ofqual published NCFE’s undertaking, Association of Colleges chief executive David Hughes warned that “the whole T Level reputation is at risk in this,” and added: “I am worried this is not the only T Level where this will happen.”

He continued: “It shows the risks of new qualifications, it shows the risks of defunding existing qualifications that OCR and Pearson deliver too quickly, because this isn’t the only time this is going to happen.”

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  1. Lecturer T Level

    What the AOC have said is true.
    Next Academic year is the last year we can run a vocational course for health and social. After that the T Levels are the only route in to nursing for FE and we are heavily disadvantaging a huge number of students that are not able to achieve the kind of academic requirements needed for these current T levels.
    On top of that, we have no options social care or ‘unknowns’, those that are unsure if they want to do nursing or Speech and language or any other facet of healthcare.
    We are shoe horning students in to specifc careers far too early, health and social care allowed for those unsure to gain a broad knowledge and experience of healthcare.
    The placements will also be a major issue going forward, it is a very difficult job to find placements within Midwifery and paediatric nursing specificually, and the lack of available placements is rarely considered.
    Neither is the ability to recruit staff, you must have a suitable practitioner to teach these courses due to how specific they become in year two, the midwives I have spoken to have said the curriculum is far to deep for a level 3 and way out of scope for the students responsibilities on the ward.

    The failure of these T Levels has seen a delay of 12 months for 10 of my students as they switched to anotehr route in to health. 1 student left healthcare altogether and I’m sure I’m not alone. This will impact the NHS greatly.

    Farcical, and entirely avoidable if they had just listened to us lecturers.

  2. The ESP core exam also had significant marking issues too. Does anyone know if this is being investigated?
    Having looked at the mark scheme and the awarded grade for my son it doesn’t appear to match the grade that was issued. Very harsh. We’ve asked for a remark of his paper.
    I suspect issues around the whole country with regard to consistency in marking.
    Very disappointing from NCFE and still no apologies for the upset and anxiety caused to students, tutors , colleges and parents.