This is an unusual time for a blog, a period of pause, similar to the time between Christmas and New Year. The consultation on alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021 has been released and we are crafting our response and awaiting the outcome.
Alternative arrangements for VTQs in 2021
The consultation states the following for Functional Skills: In summer 2020, many students and other learners received calculated results for FSQs whilst others continued to take assessments as normal where this was possible, and we propose adopting a similar position this year.
We now just have to wait for the outcome. In the meantime, Functional Skills go on. Many centres are closed to the majority of learners and though assessments are continuing, they are not on the typical scale. Our adaptations are there to support you and your learners. While we have our general adaptations on the webpage, we are constantly working with centres to help assessments continue and have agreed other adaptations on a bespoke basis.
This has included a process to allow employer invigilated paper based on demand assessments and a process for remote invigilation for ICT assessments. If you would like more information on these or if your learners need to access tests and our current adaptations do not cover your needs, please contact us and we can explore any viable alternative solutions. We continue to work with Ofqual to ensure that the needs of our customers and their learners are met and do recommend that you take to time to look at, and respond to, the consultation to ensure your voice is heard.
Gathering evidence to inform approach
It is important that our customers inform what we do, so I have been gathering evidence to inform the approach Pearson takes with the response to the consultation. The first thing that is clear is that assessment is not continuing as normal and that for many centres they have taken a decision not to test their learners.
While online / remote teaching and learning is continuing, many feel that their learners could potentially go off the boil a little with their exam readiness, similarly, some centres are concerned about the scale of assessment that needs to take place and whether that is feasible in the current situation. Obviously, there are still centres that are continuing to assess their learners using our adaptations. Apprentices still need their Functional Skills to access gateway and complete their qualifications and I can see a number of you have made use of our adaptations to continue testing. However, I also appreciate that testing is not always possible so need to understand what you think suitable alternative arrangements might look like for Functional Skills to ensure those learners who cannot access a test can progress.
Learning in Lockdown
In addition to this work, I have also started to record some more podcasts. The first set look at Learning in Lockdown and are focused on all aspects of post 16 education. They will be released on a weekly basis over the next few weeks. They are an important look at what is happening now in post 16 education. The first three have been recorded and cover diverse topics ranging from mental health in young adults in lockdown to approaches to English and maths in an FE college. There are also planned recordings on the importance of sport and exercise, the approaches taken by a work-based learning centre to support teaching and learning and a learner’s viewpoint on lockdown and education. The first recording, is with Jonathan Kay, the Head of Teaching, Learning and Assessment at Newcastle College, which is out now and available here: Learning in Lockdown | Episode 1.
What comes across in all the recordings so far, is that we are still feeling our way in the current situation. Both Jonathan and Alex Lindsay (North Warwickshire and South Leicestershire College) talk about how their teams and learners are adapting and the key word is adapting as it is a continuing process. Interestingly, both comment on the need for face-to-face contact to develop learner / tutor relationships. Liz Swanson (Choice Support) talks with me about the mental health challenges young adults are facing and we discuss how they can be supported. These are important conversations and they can provide support and, hopefully, reassurance that things are being done for the right reasons and that the learner is the focus of everything.
Chris Briggs, Sector Manager Post-16 English and Maths