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Coronavirus - the latest information and resources for school leaders

With the situation changing rapidly in reaction to the coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic, we've set up a central place for you to access the latest news and advice for school leaders.

Rest assured that we are firmly committed to supporting our members to the highest possible standard, without putting the health and well-being of our members or colleagues at risk.

You can access our general advice line (0300 30 30 333) between 9am and 5pm Monday to Friday, and our counselling line is open 24/7.

Awarding vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs): 2020/21

With regards to VTQs, the Extended ERF provides the framework for awarding organisations (AOs) to make adaptations to their qualifications to help mitigate the effects of the pandemic. A key principle of the framework is that learners taking vocational, technical and other general qualifications should not be disadvantaged (or advantaged) compared to their peers taking GCSEs and AS/A levels.

A number of adaptations have already been put in place for VTQs and other general qualifications – for example, changing the timing of assessments and allowing more assessment windows, changing the form of assessment to include more professional discussion, and moving to remote invigilation of assessments. Nevertheless, many schools, colleges and training providers continue to face significant challenges, and we are conscious that these adaptations, while appreciated, may not go far enough. 

On 3 December 2020, the Department for Education (DfE) announced contingency plans to enable exams and assessments for GCSE, AS and A levels to be taken this summer. It also confirmed that ministers are content for further changes to be made under the rules for VTQ Performance Table qualifications – for example, allowing a reduction in the number of units assessed. 

Ofqual is encouraging AOs to use the full flexibilities available to them under the Extended ERF. For qualifications taken as an alternative to GCSEs, AS and A levels and with similar structures and the same progression routes, many of the same measures as those now announced for GCSEs, AS and A levels would likely be appropriate. Other vocational and technical qualifications may be better suited to different adaptations.

Ofqual regulations allow for decisions on adaptations to be taken by awarding organisations on a case-by-case basis in a way that protects the integrity of the qualification. Ofqual will continue to monitor the AOs' implementation of the Extended ERF, encouraging them to be consistent in their approaches where appropriate.

Arrangements for awarding qualifications in 2020/21

Dame Glenys Stacey has written to the Secretary of State about the flexibility of approaches for assessing vocational and technical qualifications.

Ofqual's guidance on VTQ exams and assessments in 2020/21

Ofqual has published guidance on the assessment and awarding of vocational and technical qualifications in 2020/21. This guidance is for centres, teachers, pupils, parents and carers. It aims to provide answers to some common questions about the new arrangements. You can find the guidance here.

Ofqual sets out guiding principles on mitigations for 2020/21 vocational and technical qualifications

On 2 July, Ofqual set out its guiding principles that will determine its approach to mitigations in relation to vocational and technical qualifications. This is to account for the lost teaching time and safeguard against any further disruptions in the coming academic year. You can find the paper here.

We advise members to check the relevant web pages for Ofqual and your respective awarding organisations regularly, which may include the following:

First published 04 December 2020