Accountability for Awarding

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Ofqual has today (19 September 2019) confirmed how awarding organisations will in future be expected to scrutinise the assessment judgements of training providers, schools and colleges (collectively known as ‘centres’) offering their qualifications. Our decisions follow a consultation that ran between 25 February and 20 May 2019, and strike a balance between ensuring an appropriate level of awarding organisation control over centres while ensuring that qualification delivery meets the needs of users. This is an important issue that we are tackling within an overall strategy of improving the controls that awarding organisations have over centres.

As a result of our decisions, all awarding organisations will be required to introduce Centre Assessment Standards Scrutiny processes by no later than September 2021, although we will expect them to be working towards meeting them sooner where they can. Through these, awarding organisations will be able to design the most effective controls for their qualifications in the context of the centres that deliver them, subject to minimum requirements.

Some qualifications – for example GCSEs, A levels and Technical Qualifications that will sit within the new T Levels, will continue to be subject to a process of moderation. This is a particular form of scrutiny, and requires awarding organisations to check the results for each group of learners, and make any adjustments they consider necessary, before they are issued. Awarding organisations may consider that moderation is appropriate for some other qualifications too. However, there are other forms of scrutiny, which could take place before or after results are issued on a periodic basis, which awarding organisations may consider more effective in other cases.

Our proposed new rules minimise the extent of regulatory burden, while ensuring that awarding organisations consider carefully the risks to qualification standards when they do not make assessment judgements themselves. We have termed this, ‘accountability for awarding’. As part of their consideration, awarding organisations will need to think carefully about how they approve centres to make these judgements on their behalf and how they use the data and evidence available to monitor these centres to make sure they are doing so effectively. We will be continuing our programme of work focussed on centre controls more broadly.

Phil Beach, Executive Director for Vocational and Technical Qualifications, said:

We have taken a thorough look at the controls awarding organisations have in place with centres in recent years. We have found some significant areas of weakness that are not contained to specific sectors or types of qualifications, and are prevalent in delivery models based on ‘direct claims status’.

We recognise that a degree of delegation from awarding organisations to centres can be necessary for some qualifications to be delivered. However, the right balance needs to be struck, and this flexibility shouldn’t come at the cost of qualification standards, public confidence or, in extreme cases, public safety. Awarding organisations must be accountable for all their qualification awards.

Alongside today’s decisions and analysis of the consultation responses, we are also launching a technical consultation that includes proposed Conditions, requirements and guidance.