Exam boards will be left to decide which of the thousands of BTECs and other technical qualifications can be graded based on teacher assessments this summer.
The exams regulator has launched a temporary “extraordinary regulatory framework”, which says that as the vocational and technical qualification (VTQ) landscape is “complex”, it requires awarding organisations to “determine how best to deliver results to learners”.
Schools and colleges can either grade qualifications by calculating results, adapting assessments, or, as a last resort, delay assessments until they reopen.
However Ofqual will not provide a definitive list of the qualifications that can be graded in the same way as the cancelled A-level and GCSE exams.
Ofqual’s chief regulator Sally Collier said: “It is vitally important that learners taking vocational or technical qualifications are not prevented from progressing in their studies or careers because of the unprecedented challenges this summer.
“We have worked quickly across the sector to develop an approach which gives awarding organisations the flexibility they need to deliver results for as many learners as possible during the current crisis, while ensuring a process which those who rely on these qualifications can trust.”
Last year, 160 awarding organisations offered more than 14,000 qualifications. More than 5.8 million certificates were issued learners.
Ofqual has broken VTQs down into three categories.
For qualifications used for “progression to further or higher education”, the exams regulator says that teacher calculated grades should apply in the majority of cases, like for GCSEs and A-levels.
Calculated results may be based on the “outcomes of any completed assignments or modules, and/or centre judgements (for the whole qualification, or for uncompleted modules or units)”. The results must be what the learner “would most likely have achieved had they been able to complete their assessments in summer 2020”.
For qualifications which are used to “signal occupational competence”, Ofqual says it would “not be suitable for these learners to receive a calculated result because it would not be clear they possessed the skills required for the job, which could have health and safety – or other professional – implications”.
They propose that the starting point for these qualifications is for awarding organisations to “adapt” the assessment or delivery model so that assessments can be completed “under the current public health restrictions”.
And for those qualifications with a “mixed purpose”, awarding organisations will need to consider whether it “more closely aligns with the primary purpose of supporting progression to further or higher education, or whether it is more closely aligned with signifying occupational competence”.
Ofqual said that where learners “do not feel that their result properly reflects their ability”, they propose that further assessment should take place “as soon as possible” in the autumn term.
The regulator admitted that the introduction of its proposed regulatory framework will have cost and resource impacts on awarding organisations, as well as on schools and colleges.
Ofqual is “keen to hear views from the sector about the resource and operational impact, which we will consider carefully before implementing our proposals”.