Exams and other assessments have not gone ahead as normal for a second year, due to a combination of public health concerns and worries about fairness. Learners have had more factors to contend with in 2021, such as interrupted and lost learning and the impact of previous disruption caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
For many learners taking vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs), the journey to gaining their qualification was not what they expected. But the vast majority will be able to get their qualifications and progress in their education or career.
This positive outcome will be the culmination of hard work by everyone involved, not least learners themselves. We have placed trust in the system, and particularly in teachers and tutors, to do their best for learners and they have risen to the challenge. Thank you to all those teachers, tutors and centre staff who have committed many hours to collating evidence, quality assuring and submitting grades to awarding organisations.
Vocational and technical qualifications are developed for a wide range of purposes. As we all know, people who take those qualifications are part of our everyday lives. They work in all sectors of the economy, from construction to health, and from the arts and media to our public services. Many of these qualifications provide a crucial licence to practice for those working in professions such as accountancy, engineering or horticulture.
How VTQs have been awarded in 2021
We designed the 2021 framework for VTQ awarding to accommodate this diversity. We wanted to enable learners to progress with results that are sufficiently valid and reliable. In some cases, results will have been decided using teacher-assessed grades, like those used for A levels and GCSEs. Others will have been determined using normal assessment routes. And others will have been determined through adapted assessments, such as remote invigilation.
In all cases the results will have been quality assured. VTQ qualifications already have a high proportion of internal assessment built in and awarding organisations must have robust systems and processes in place to ensure the results they issue are correct. This means that employers and educators can be confident in the results, which reflect what learners know and what they can do.
It’s worth remembering that in 2020, the number of VTQ certificates awarded to learners between July and September was nearly 2 million. This was during a time of delayed assessments, centre closures and furloughed staff. It is an incredible achievement. Data from awarding organisations, which covers the last 4 years, shows there has been no significant change to numbers of learners taking VTQs.
That indicates that yet again VTQs are enabling learners to gain the knowledge and skills they need.
Next steps for VTQ learners
Results for VTQs used for progression to higher education will be coming out in the same week in August as A level and GCSE results. During this time, training providers, colleges, universities and employers will need to continue to work together to support learners as they take their next steps.
Further and higher education institutions and employers will find that they are welcoming new students or colleagues who have had a different learning experience than usual. And, despite the great challenges faced and the effects that this will have inevitably had, many will have also developed a high level of personal resilience.
Most importantly, they will have a qualification that they can have confidence in. All they need now is the opportunity to show the world what they can do.
Catherine Large OBE
Executive Director for Vocational and Technical Qualifications, Ofqual