As qualifications regulator, our main concern is always students. It is important that students taking qualifications that are used for the same purposes are not advantaged or disadvantaged. This includes students taking vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) when compared to their GCSE and A level peers.
Over the past 12 months – because of the ongoing disruption of the pandemic – Ofqual has enabled awarding organisations (AOs) to adapt their assessments so that students can demonstrate their knowledge and skills. Our focus has been on protecting the validity and reliability of the qualification. Most importantly we’ve sought to make sure that the qualifications students achieve show what they know and can do, so they can progress confidently to further learning or employment.
Changes to VTQ formal assessments in 2022
Ofqual required AOs to consider adapting assessments to free up time to recover lost teaching and learning hours, and to help assessments continue to take place. We knew no single approach would work for all vocational and technical assessments. Instead, our rules gave AOs scope to decide on adaptations that were most appropriate to their qualifications, for example adjusting work experience or placement requirements. Many VTQs did not require such extensive adaptations as they did in the last 2 years.
Ofqual also encouraged AOs to respond pragmatically to the practical issues faced by centres. In some cases, AOs allowed centres to choose how they delivered assessments, for example using online rather than paper-based tests and carrying out assessments remotely rather than face-to-face. Some AOs also introduced remote assessment and remote invigilation.
VTQ results in summer 2022
Given the disruption of the past 2 years, we should expect that this summer’s results will look different, despite exams and assessments taking a big step towards normality.
We have set out the approach we expect exam boards to take to grading GCSEs and A levels. We’ve asked AOs to award overall grades that are right for this very specific year of assessment, taking account of the expectations set for grading GCSEs and A levels where they can. This also applies to T Levels. Some AOs will have qualifications where they can adopt a similar approach to GCSEs and A levels. For example, this is the case for International Baccalaureate results this year.
Grades for vocational and technical qualifications taken in schools and colleges will be based on outcomes from a range of assessments. Many students will have carried forward a result based on Teacher Assessed Grades for units that were assessed last summer. Some may also have Centre Assessed Grades from summer 2020. AOs will use these, plus other assessments taken during a student’s course of study, when determining grades.
It is natural to want to compare results from one year to those of a previous year. This summer, comparisons should be with 2019 results, when exams and other formal assessments were last taken.
What’s next for VTQ students in 2022?
The return of formal exams and assessments has been widely welcomed. Students see them as the fairest way to be assessed. But we also understand some students will be anxious about their results, or may be comparing their experience with friends who took other qualifications. That’s natural. Above all, however, students should take pride in their results this summer. They will demonstrate what students know and can do to the best of their abilities.
Let’s focus on and celebrate those achievements and recognise the hard work put in by all involved.
Associate Director VTQ Standards and Issues