Ofqual’s Extraordinary Regulatory Framework (ERF) is now live and can be viewed here. You can also see Ofqual’s news story here, which includes links to important information including: consultation decisions, analysis of the consultation, updated information for the Head of Centre and FAQs.
You can use Ofqual’s ‘Summer 2020 Qualification Explainer Tool’ on their statistics web page to search for a specific vocational, technical or other general qualification to find out how results will be generated for most learners (i.e. whether it follows a calculated/adapted/delayed assessment approach).As the proposals in Ofqual’s consultation are now approved, this means we can finalise our proposed approaches to awarding results this summer. You can access the following here:
In its published outcomes, Ofqual has recognised the importance of ensuring non-bias in Centre Assessment Grades during this time and has provided additional guidance to Awarding Organisations and Heads of Centres to support this. Where relevant we have also made references in our guidance in recognition of this. If you need support or guidance please do contact our sector specialists, whose details are here.
Appeals for vocational and technical qualifications
Ofqual has issued further guidance to highlight issues to consider when handling appeals this summer, and has stated it expects the approach to align to that for GCSE/AS and A Level.
We will be reviewing what the consultation outcomes mean for our current appeals process for vocational and technical qualifications and we will be issuing you with further guidance as soon as we can.
Autumn assessment opportunity for vocational and technical qualifications
Ofqual has stated that where Awarding Organisations normally have an autumn assessment opportunity, they should continue to do so. They have also stated that there should be an autumn assessment opportunity where there is sufficient demand, or where it would be unfair not to.
Most of our externally assessed units are available either on-demand, or in the January and May/June series, therefore we do not anticipate making additional opportunities available. We will revisit this based on Ofqual’s guidance, and whether there is sufficient demand. We will keep you updated.
As ever, I’ll continue to keep you updated on the latest updates as they become available. Please continue to visit our dedicated support pages to keep up to date on the latest news and support available to you.
Thank you once again for your patience and collaboration during this unprecedented time.
For BTEC Level 3 Nationals, BTEC Level 1 and 2 Firsts and Tech Awards, where we expect to be able to calculate grades, we do not require or expect any formal assessment for BTEC to take place while learners are studying at home.
We therefore expect to collect centre assessed grades from teachers and tutors for any incomplete work and these estimates will be used in the calculation of a final grade where relevant.
However we are continuing to support schools, colleges and training providers to enable learners to continue with their studies from home. We are encouraging continued learning so when learners return to school or college they have the knowledge and skills they need to continue with their course. We also support the benefits that learning and a structured day have on general health and wellbeing and we want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to best support you and your learners at this time.
We want to ensure we can support you in the best way possible over the coming weeks and months to enable learning to continue.
We've been speaking to educators and learners across FE colleges and Training Providers to find out how they have been responding to COVID-19.
Please see the video from our BTEC Ambassador Flex on the importance of continuing to learn at home during COVID-19. Please do feel free to use on your social channels.
Helpful links and resources
Explore links and resources to support you through Coronavirus (COVID-19):
Feeling a certain amount of concern or worry is natural when we encounter difficult or unsettling times. Practising mindfulness at times like these can help to rewire the brain to work in calmer and more positive ways. We've pulled together a number of resources which will introduce mindfulness techniques that you can practice.
How training providers have joined the academic ‘front line heroes’ as they support apprentices through the current pandemic
We spoke to Jonathan Bourne from Stockport-headquartered training provider Damar Training about how their business is responding to COVID-19 and how they are supporting employers and apprentices through this unprecedented situation to help them to ‘carry on learning’. Damar Training has a 40-year legacy of successfully delivering apprenticeship training and has worked with thousands of apprentices and many of the country’s leading employers.
There isn’t a single business in the country that hasn’t been significantly impacted by COVID-19 and ours is no exception. The outbreak and the measures introduced by the Government to tackle it have resulted in huge disruption and uncertainty for colleagues, apprentices and our partner-employers.
We work hard to plan apprenticeships in partnership with employers and apprentices, responding to the individual needs of both. In mid-March, those needs changed almost overnight as apprentices began to work from home, were furloughed or became busier than ever because they are front-line workers. Scheduled exam dates were cancelled as exams were put on hold and end-point assessments were no longer available for some standards.
As our partner-employers were impacted, their recruitment plans also started to change. Although some recruitment took place in March, most planned recruitment was put on hold and development programmes for existing employees were also postponed. That, coupled with a drop in completions, resulted almost immediately in a revenue shortfall which will of course grow over time.
Faced with declining revenue for an uncertain period and then what might be a long slow return to growth, an option for some businesses might be to go into hibernation, cut costs and place everything on hold before a return to a more normal trading environment. Our view is that such an approach should be a last resort for apprenticeships where some delivery can continue.
Even though most programmes cannot continue exactly as before in such exceptional circumstances, it is at times like this when apprentices’ needs are greatest. For most of us over the past few weeks, our working days, places of work and duties have changed beyond recognition. Apprentices are being forced to learn faster than ever before, are under increased stress and so our objective has been to support them and their employers.
The most obvious changes have been in how and where our apprentices are working. Whilst only a few apprentices have been made redundant, many more have been furloughed and almost all apprentices who are not in “front-line” roles (for example in the NHS or policing) are working at home.
At this point we don’t know exactly how many are finding the emotional and other stresses brought on by the crisis challenging or are facing financial difficulty. However, we know from feedback that many are. Our default thinking in these unprecedented times has been to assume our apprentices are struggling at the moment. We feel a great deal of empathy and responsibility for all our learners.
I have been heartened to see how supportive our partner-employers have been. Most are working extremely hard to support apprentices who are home-based or have been furloughed.
As soon as we had moved our team to home-working, we started speaking to our partner-employers and designed a programme of learning specifically around the skills and behaviours that we felt our apprentices would need at this time. These link to the requirements of the apprenticeship standards that we deliver but the focus is principally on individuals’ needs now.
Largely delivered using Damar OpenLearning (our virtual learning environment) our “Working Differently” programme looks at areas such as resilience and wellbeing, time management, communication and problem solving. So far, apprentices’ reflections on the content in their OneFile journal entries have been very positive, particularly about feeling better equipped to cope with the stress they are under now.
Despite the obvious challenges, it has been a time for accelerated learning for some who have been able to continue working remotely. They have had to adapt and find new coping strategies and previously untapped resilience and new skills have emerged which we’ve been able to help them record as part of their professional development.
I am an optimist by nature. We have already seen how, in only a few weeks, businesses have been able to make changes that normally take years. We can now build a hospital in a fortnight. In apprenticeships too there will be positive change, so long as we manage to retain sector expertise through and beyond this difficult period.
Delivery methods are already changing but I also think we will see changes in how we approach content. The last few weeks have reminded me of the importance of transferable skills and behaviours in apprenticeships. We honestly don’t know whether the jobs our apprentices are training for will exist in five years’ time. Inevitably, they will need to acquire new knowledge (or learn how to find it) as their lives unfold. COVID-19 has really exposed that and might provide a chance to reset our thinking.