Assessment and awarding of Vocational and Technical Qualifications (VTQs) in 2020 has been quite different to any previous year. Yet despite the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis leading to the cancellation of exams and most assessments, learners still need to be able to move on as planned – whether to university, college or sixth form, an apprenticeship or job.
In line with the government’s policy intention, Ofqual developed 2 new regulatory frameworks – one for General Qualifications and one for VTQs – following consultation on an almost unprecedented scale, to enable as many learners as possible to receive valid and reliable results.
Students taking GCSE, AS and A levels will receive calculated grades this summer – as is the case for most learners taking VTQs alongside or instead of these qualifications – to progress in their education. Neither group is disadvantaged in relation to each other, or to learners in previous or subsequent cohorts.
But many VTQs are employment focussed and need to be assessed with practical tasks to prove professional competence – so that everyone can have confidence in the safety and proficiency of tomorrow’s electricians, for example. Over 15,000 VTQ qualifications of different shapes and sizes, fulfilling a range of different purposes and assessed through a range of different assessment approaches, are offered by over 160 awarding organisations.
Because of this diversity, a ‘one size fits all’ approach would not be appropriate and instead our rules, summarised below, set the framework for VTQ awarding organisations to award their qualifications via a calculated result or adapted assessment, giving them the flexibility to determine the right approach for their qualifications. Our interactive tool helps learners, and qualification users, find out the main approach used to arrive at results in each case.
The VTQ Model
VTQs and other general qualifications primarily used for progression to Higher and Further Education:
- Most students will receive calculated results, using evidence from results already achieved and grades from their teachers and tutors who have considered their performance across the course, awarding organisations' quality assurance and checks on overall qualification outcomes.
- Awarding organisations have had to establish at least one source of reasonably trusted evidence to underpin calculated results, along with a sufficiently robust means of quality assurance and an overall check on outcomes – to ensure that users of qualifications can continue to have confidence in those results.
VTQs primarily used for progression to and through employment (where a calculated result isn't appropriate, because practical skills need to be tested or there's insufficient evidence available)
- Where possible, students have taken adapted assessments, such as online assessment instead of face-to-face, or a practical simulation instead of a workplace observation
- Adaptations were agreed by awarding organisations, where relevant supported by industry professional bodies
There are some qualifications where the only option was to delay the assessment, for example because there was no way to safely or authentically carry out an adapted assessment.
To maximise the number of valid and reliable results that they could award, awarding organisations have considered what evidence is available and developed the most appropriate approach. This has depended on the purpose of the qualification, its assessment design and how it is delivered – which can legitimately differ between similar qualifications.
Although our framework affords awarding organisations flexibility, we have continued to engage with schools, colleges and training providers and their representative bodies, to listen to their feedback and intervene where necessary. Our rules encouraged consistency across the sector, and we have brought together groups of awarding organisations and professional bodies to agree common approaches in some particularly troublesome areas.
In all cases awarding organisations will have implemented new systems and processes to respond to the challenge of awarding qualifications in this new way. Schools, colleges and training providers have responded with agility and innovation. In particular we recognise the hard work involved in gathering the information that awarding organisations have needed in order to calculate results, and in running adapted assessments. We thank everyone involved for their professionalism and commitment through what we know has been a challenging time.
Ultimately, all this effort means that the vast majority of learners will receive results this summer to allow them to progress. Awarding organisations will have appeals processes in place where students via their centres feel something has gone wrong. Those learners whose assessments were delayed, and those who are not happy with their calculated result will be able to take the assessment at the next available opportunity.
For many vocational and technical qualifications, there is already an assessment window in the autumn or in January 2021 and this year some awarding organisations are offering additional opportunities. Details of the next assessment opportunity will be added to our interactive tool in the coming days.
Learners can be reassured that their results will be recognised by universities, colleges and employers as they progress. Employers, colleges and universities can trust this year’s results and have confidence that qualifications intended to signal occupational competence are just as reliable. And in line with UUK’s agreement on fair admissions practices in 2020/21 universities recognise the need for flexibility in admissions decision-making as they welcome this autumn’s intake.