Calculate, adapt or delay – proposed arrangements for vocational and technical qualifications

Posted on by karen.smith

English | Cymraeg

Philip Blaker, Chief Executive, Qualifications Wales

A note from Philip Blaker, Chief Executive, Qualifications Wales

As the regulator of qualifications in Wales we monitor the compliance of awarding bodies, review existing qualifications, oversee the design of new qualifications and support the qualifications system. Through this work, we ensure that learners, practitioners and the public in Wales can be confident that qualifications, and the qualifications system, meet their needs.

Following Wales’ Education Minister’s announcement to close centres and cancel the 2020 summer exam series to help fight the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19), we have been working with a wide range of partners, across the UK to find the best possible solutions to arrangements for awarding qualifications this summer. Over time, we have been able to share answers to the ‘what next?’ question coming from learners and wider stakeholders.

Last week Ofqual issued guidance for centres on the awarding of vocational and technical qualifications, and other general qualifications, in summer 2020. The arrangements apply to most of the vocational qualifications taken in schools, colleges and work-based learning providers in Wales. These qualifications are available across the UK, so it is important that we take a common approach to ensure fairness for learners.

Awarding bodies will be drawing on a range of evidence to ensure that results will be as reliable and consistent as possible, so that they are worthy of public confidence and valued by education providers and employers as much as in any other year.

The key aim is 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
Given the complexity and diversity of the vocational qualifications landscape, it is not possible to implement a ‘one size fits all’ approach. So qualifications are being categorised so that the best approach can be applied as consistently as possible.

Category 1 – Qualifications used for progression to further or higher education
Category 2 – Qualifications serving a mixed purpose
Category 3 – Qualifications awarding occupational competence.

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

  • A calculated grade, if possible (Calculate) – this will be used for most Category 1 qualifications
  • 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)

A less prescriptive regulatory approach has been proposed, which will be a flexible, principles based “extraordinary framework”. This approach delegates responsibility to the awarding bodies for decision making around how they deliver results to learners. All providers and 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 applied the same principles when making decisions on vocational qualifications designed specifically to meet the needs of learners in Wales. 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.

The delay option is the least favored option. However, for certain courses this will be the only viable option, especially where calculation or adaptation is not appropriate and where occupational competence must be demonstrated. Each awarding body will offer further specific guidance on their own procedures.
I am fully aware of the complex challenges facing work-based learning providers and their learners in these unprecedented times, and you will, hopefully, already be working with your awarding bodies on their chosen process, for arrangements for summer 2020.

With one eye on today, we are also planning for tomorrow, scenario planning for all possibilities in relation to arrangements for exams and assessments in 2020-2021.

As the regulator for qualifications in Wales, we will be monitoring the implementation of the ‘exceptional arrangements’ over the summer for Welsh learners. We will continue to communicate with you through our website, and if you have any specific concerns or questions please contact

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