Multiple answers to complex vocational questions

As the grip of Covid 19 continues, in a phenomenal effort to tackle the pandemic, frontline workers are testing their skills and knowledge like never before.

 By Philip Blaker, Chief Executive, Qualifications Wales 

Our health and social care workforce is fighting to protect our most vulnerable. People employed in manufacturing and engineering are putting their skills to the test working against the clock to produce sufficient equipment to tackle the challenge. Meanwhile logistics managers work out a swift and efficient distribution process for essential goods to supply supermarkets and pharmacies across the UK.   

The spectrum of skills and knowledge needed in this simple and limited summary of industry illustrates why vocational qualifications are necessarily diverse in range and nature.   

With exams and assessments cancelled and learners not facing the usual methods of assessment in 2020, the diversity of the vocational qualification offer brings challenges for finding a solution to the current crisis.  

With the dominant headlines around GCSEs and A levels, you could be forgiven for thinking vocational qualifications have been neglected. This is far from the case. Discussions are ongoing but the detail is different, reflecting the richness of the vocational offer and the complexity of the challenge.    

Unlike publicly funded A levels and GCSEs in Wales, which are primarily offered by the Wales-based awarding body, WJEC, vocational qualifications are delivered by a number of awarding bodies. 

For qualifications taken only by learners in Wales, we are working closely with awarding bodies and stakeholders to make the right decisions for our learners. They include Essential Skills Wales and the new suite of health and social care qualifications. Because these are specific to Wales, we can make decisions independently and we hope to provide an update on these shortly.  

Over recent weeks, we’ve also been working together across the UK nations to work out the answers to some extremely difficult questions. We needed to think through every aspect carefully and what sort of extraordinary measures we might need to put in place. We have to balance a complex series of needs including those of learners, employers, awarding bodies, schools, colleges as well as training providers and universities.  

Due to the wide range of vocational qualifications it was never going to be possible to implement a ‘one size fits all’ approach.   

We are working closely with colleagues at Ofqual - the qualifications regulator for England - who are co-ordinating the response for vocational qualifications and are aiming to share an update as quickly as possible.   

We’re working together to develop solutions that have the same broad principles across types of qualifications, with the aim of protecting learners and ensuring fairness in these most exceptional circumstances.  

While the principles will be consistent, the details for each qualification will differ. We are advising centres and education professionals in Wales to communicate with their awarding bodies to understand how the awarding process will work this year.   

We have established a coronavirus hub on our website, which includes a set of frequently asked questions (FAQs) which you can click here to access. As answers become clear, awarding bodies will have their own versions of this and will be ready to answer the specific questions you may have.   

To everyone in Wales who has been keenly waiting for news on this, thank you for helping us to help you and for your patience in these difficult times.   

The speed and complexity of the challenges we face are without precedent, solutions will not be quick or easy but will be well thought out and measured ensuring fairness and equity for all.  
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Published 30 March 2020