Arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021

The continuing pandemic has led to some exams and assessments being cancelled in 2021. All parts of the education system are working together to ensure that learners are still able to get their results and carry on with their lives, whether that is to continue with their education, further their career, or go into the workplace.

The way that vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) will be awarded in 2021 allows for the challenges that are unique to this year – such as the fact that many learners will have missed teaching and learning due to multiple lockdowns, so not all will have covered all the content.  Ofqual has published a quick visual explainer of how the different qualifications are to be awarded in 2021.

These arrangements are not a perfect substitute for learners being able to study and get assessed as they would in an ordinary year, but they will enable learners to be awarded a qualification and to progress in their learning or employment.

On 25 February, the government announced the policy and scope of awarding vocational and technical qualifications in 2021.

It was confirmed that:

  • Alternative arrangements to written exams (similar to those being proposed for GCSEs, AS and A levels) are needed for those VTQs and other general qualifications most like GCSEs, AS and A levels. Many of these were subject to calculated results last summer, and it is likely that some form of teacher assessment will be most appropriate.
  • Assessments for on-demand qualifications, such as Functional Skills or ESOL Skills for Life, can go ahead if in line with PHE guidance. Where learners are unable to access FSQ assessments, an alternative method of awarding these qualifications is needed to ensure these learners can progress
  • Where qualifications are used to demonstrate occupational or professional competency or proficiency or to gain a licence to practise are necessary, then these assessments for these qualifications should continue when this is possible, subject to PHE

The Vocational Contingency Regulatory Framework (VCRF)

Ofqual has put in place the Vocational Contingency Regulatory Framework (VCRF) for Awarding Organisations (AOs) offering VTQs. These regulatory arrangements will enable AOs to be sufficiently flexible to support as many learners as possible to complete qualifications, whilst still retaining the integrity of their qualifications.

For qualifications most important for progression to further study or employment, the framework enables AOs to:

  • make awards when exams do not take place and/or not all internal assessments have been completed;
  • determine the most appropriate approach to awarding based on their qualification design and delivery;
  • determine what the minimum assessment evidence should be, so that valid and reliable qualifications are awarded; this should include consideration of completed assessments.

Ofqual also:

  • expects them to develop consistent approaches across different AOs, and qualifications, as far as possible; and
  • requires them to provide clear and timely guidance to teachers, on how grades will be awarded and what they need to do, and be mindful of the burden they place on teachers.

Qualifications where teacher assessed grades won’t play a part in awarding

  • Occupational qualifications/ Qualifications used as a Licence to Practise/Professional qualifications - including Performing Arts Graded Examinations (PAGE).

Approach to assessment and awarding: Adaptations already introduced by the AOs can continue under the VCRF; further adaptations are permitted if they are necessary to address the ongoing impact of the pandemic.

Qualifications where teacher assessed grades will play a part in awarding:

  • VTQs/Other General qualifications, most like GCSEs, AS and a levels, which are important for progression to further/higher study or employment, such as: Applied General qualifications, Tech awards, Core maths
  • VTQs that are important for progression to further/higher study or employment, but which include some assessment of occupational skills, such as: some Tech levels, other VRQs

Approach to assessment and awarding: For those VTQs most similar to GCSEs, AS and A levels, AOs are expected to take similar approaches to those used for those qualifications including the use of teacher judgement, appeals and measures for private candidates.

  • VTQs that are important for progression to further study or employment, but which are not delivered in the same way as GQs and don’t share all the same key characteristics, such as: Functional Skills Qualifications (FSQs) and ESOL Skills for Life.

Approach to assessment and awarding: Assessments may continue where viable but where learners can receive a result through a teacher assessed grade where they cannot access an assessment.

FSQs and other qualifications taken ‘on demand’

For qualifications that are taken on demand, such as Functional Skills, there are three ways that learners will be able to access an assessment:

  1. Assessments can continue to take place, in a college, training provider, school, employer premises, or alternative location, where it is safe for them to do so in line with public health guidance.
  2. Assessments can be taken online in a wider range of venues, including at home.
  3. Where neither of these options is possible, and learners need a result to progress, then a teacher assessed grade may be used.

If none of these options are possible, the assessment may be delayed or the learners moved to a different AO.


Ofqual is collecting data from all AOs about how results for each type of qualification will be awarded and will publish this information in the next few weeks in an interactive ‘explainer tool,’ that will be made available on: https://analytics.ofqual.gov.uk/apps/AllQualifications/summer2020tool/

This will be similar to the one that was made available over the summer and will help you find out quickly how results for relevant qualifications will be awarded this year.

Useful links:

Further Guidance

More detailed advice and guidance, will be added to this web page to confirm the following:

  • The approach to awarding FSQs outlining exams and assessments will continue to be made available
  • How centres should determine teacher assessed grades, including internal and external quality assurance; arrangements for results days; deadlines to submit information; and any changes to adaptations
  • Guidance to centres on what you will need to do to submit Teacher Assessed Grades to us
  • Confirming any special consideration, enquiries and appeals policies and processes to support the approach to Teacher Assessed Grades

We will not be able to finalise our guidance, policies and processes until we know the outcome of Ofqual’s technical consultation.  However, we will try to provide you with as much information and support as possible and as early as possible.