Calculate, adapt or delay – the way forward for vocational qualifications

In a previous blog I explained why solutions for vocational qualifications in this extraordinary summer are not straightforward.

 By Philip Blaker, Chief Executive, Qualifications Wales 

Since then, we’ve been able to share many more answers to the question of ‘what next’ for learners anticipating results. 

This week we have been able to give you more clarity on the approaches to awarding vocational qualifications this summer in response to the Covid-19 pandemic 

Earlier this week we announced that learners due to complete their Essential Skills Wales qualifications this summer will receive results. Today, we published this summer’s approach for Health and Social Care and Childcare qualifications in Wales.  

Also, today, Ofqual has launched its consultation on the proposed arrangements for vocational and technical qualifications this summer. The arrangements being consulted on apply to many of the vocational qualifications taken in schools, colleges and work-based learning providers in Wales, including BTECs and other key progression qualifications. These qualifications are available across the UK, so it is important that we take a common approach to ensure fairness for learners. We continue to work closely with our fellow UK regulators to achieve this aim.  

Given the complexity and diversity of the vocational qualifications landscape, it is not possible to implement  a one size fits all approach. Therefore, a less prescriptive regulatory approach is being proposed, which will be based on a flexible, principles based “extraordinary framework”, which delegates to awarding bodies the decision making around how they deliver results to learners. Centres will have a key role in making sure that any new arrangements work effectively and that results, or alternative assessment arrangements, can be provided to learners.  

We are applying the same principles when making decisions on vocational qualifications designed specifically to meet the needs of learners in Wales. Wherever possible, we will make sure that learners due to complete their qualifications this summer get a result. However, this will not be possible, or the right thing to do, in all cases. Our recent work on agreeing the way forward for Health and Social Care and Childcare qualifications is a good example of where we had to balance the desire to issue results this summer with the need to make sure learners have demonstrated the professional competence necessary to work in this important sector. 

For anyone with an interest in vocational qualifications, I would urge you to look at the Ofqual consultation which outlines the “exceptional arrangements for assessment and grading in 2020” 

The key aims are to ensure learners can receive grades this summer so they can progress to their next stage, while providing assurance that the grades will be valued and that the approach is fair. 

Qualifications will be differentiated into one of three categories 

Category 1 - Qualification used for progression to further or higher education (treated very much like GCSEs/A Levels) 

Category 2 - Qualifications serving a mixed purpose 

Category 3 - Qualifications awarding occupational competence. 

Awarding bodies will decide which of the following principles should be applied: - 

  •  A calculated grade, if possible (Calculate) 
  • Where calculation is not possible, consideration should be given to adapting existing assessments (Adapt) 
  • Reschedule assessments where it is clear that neither calculation nor adaptation are possible (Delay) 

As we are not consulting separately on these arrangements, I would encourage you to take the opportunity of Ofqual’s consultation to make your voice heard. The timeline is tight due to the extraordinary circumstances surrounding this consultation and the need for arrangements to be confirmed as quickly as possible.  

The Ofqual Consultation on the assessment and grading of vocational, technical and other general qualifications is open until 8 May 2020. 

Published 24 April 2020