On 9 April, the Secretary of State for Education advised Ofqual that assessments for vocational and technical qualifications (including Functional Skills) cannot proceed as planned this summer, given the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting Government measures put in place.
Since then, NCFE has been working closely with Ofqual through the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB), to put a robust process in place, allowing impacted centres to submit estimated grades for their learners.
Download this guide to find out more about the process of estimation, particularly relating to Functional Skills qualifications. We have now added new/updated information on the following which is highlighted in purple:
- objectivity in grading, and an NCFE statement on equality
- information on where to find past papers, mark schemes, and pass marks for FSQ
- clarification on initial and diagnostic tests and how to use these as evidence for CAG judgements
- rank ordering and Functional Skills.
As referenced in our Functional Skills Guidance (above), we have now released our pass descriptors for the reformed Functional Skills maths and English at Level 1 and 2 to enable you to make an informed decision for those learners currently going through the Calculated Assessment Grade process.
Paper based external assessments
The paper based external assessments will no longer take place for the foreseeable future. We are not however turning off our online assessment system Surpass and will still allow online assessments to be completed on demand. These assessments should still follow our Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment. You can find more information in the Functional Skills FAQs below.
Legacy Functional Skills assessments
Ofqual has confirmed (see page 16 of guidance document) that the legacy Functional Skills qualifications certification date has been extended to 31 December 2020, to give learners who are currently registered on these qualifications (but yet to be certificated) an opportunity to complete them.
We will communicate a full timeline relating to the legacy Functional Skills qualifications as soon as possible.
DfE Functional Skills in apprenticeships requirements
The DfE has published a COVID-19 response document that lays out changes to Functional Skills in Intermediate Apprenticeships. Apprentices who are due to take their end point assessment up until 31 July 2020 should be passed through gateway to sit their EPA without the need to attempt the Level 2 Functional skills English and maths assessment. Providers should retain evidence if an apprentice did not take the Level 2 assessments due to COVID-19. A Level 2 apprentice will still require a Level 1 Functional Skills in English and/or maths in order to complete apprenticeship. The position will be reviewed in July 2020 to determine whether the suspension should continue. Apprentices undertaking a Level 3 or higher apprenticeship are still required to hold or achieve an approved Level 2 Functional Skills English and maths qualification, before they can successfully complete their apprenticeship. Read more
Functional Skills FAQs
If we are continuing to run online Functional Skills external assessments, and our planned invigilator is not available, can we use a colleague or other suitable person to invigilate?
Yes, any suitable person who is trained and aware of their responsibilities can act as an invigilator. They must be trained and act in line with the Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment Section 3.10.
The Head of Centre is responsible for the recruitment and training of external assessment staff and ensuring that they are equipped to carry out their duties appropriately. Please refer to section 3.10 on the recruitment of invigilators.
We have informative videos available online showing the key areas of invigilation and good practice that can be used to advise anyone carrying out invigilation duties, along with the appropriate regulations. We recommend using these for anyone being assigned as an invigilator. If you have additional invigilation training needs, please contact us.
What do we do if we have Functional Skills paper-based tests but are unable to access the site for tests, can we move the learners to another window?
Currently our online Functional Skills offer is still available, therefore we recommend that centres consider this as an alternative to paper-based where possible.
These assessments must still be completed in line with our Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment.
If your learners require a paper-based option, and you intended to book them onto a forthcoming reformed Functional Skills paper-based window, we advise that you continue to make this booking, even though the assessment window is currently cancelled or rescheduled. External Assessment papers will not be sent out to centres for paper-based assessment bookings currently.
Are there any plans for the ‘Online Proctoring Software’ to be made available for Functional Skills external assessments, the same as there are for the MCQ for EPA?
NCFE are currently exploring if this is a viable option for NCFE Functional Skills external assessments. However, until we have further information, please continue to ensure all NCFE Functional Skills external assessments are invigilated in person, in accordance with our Regulations for the Conduct of External Assessment.
Can we use remote methods of observation for the Speaking Listening & Communication (SLC) assessments? (Updated 15/04/20)
You can use remote methods of observation. To maintain compliance during a remote observation your centre must produce a comprehensive plan to evidence how all the regulations for the conduct of controlled assessments will be met considering the following questions: How will you check the learner’s identity? How will you ensure that the environment is suitable for the SLC assessment for all participants? How do you intend to ensure the learners are in a ‘supervised controlled environment’ when the assessor / learner is remote?
To maintain compliance during a remote observation your centre must produce a comprehensive plan to evidence how all the regulations for the conduct of controlled assessments will be met considering the following questions:
- How will you check the learner’s identity?
- How will you ensure that the environment is suitable for the SLC assessment for all participants?
- How do you intend to ensure the learners are in a ‘supervised controlled environment’ when the assessor / learner is remote?
How can we distribute the assessment tasks to the learners when they are not permitted to email live assessment documents? (Updated 15/04/20)
Centres aren’t permitted to email live assessment materials however if you would like to deliver these assessments remotely you can post the materials to the learner by special delivery or courier or share the assessment materials remotely via a secure controlled platform such as www.wetransfer.com.
Is there any information that can help inform around invigilation and best practice? (Updated 15/04/20)
We recommend for anyone being assigned as an invigilator to watch our invigilation training videos. If you have additional invigilation training needs, please contact us.
Can we use remote methods of observation for the Speaking Listening & Communication assessments? (Updated 03/04/20)
Yes, you can use remote methods of observation such as online video technology to complete these assessments. To maintain compliance during a remote observation centres still need to adhere to the regulations for the conduct of controlled assessments and should ensure that:
- learners are fully prepared for the assessment and fully briefed as to how the assessment will run using the video technology
- all assessments are recorded and securely stored
- learners are clearly identified at the beginning of the assessment
- learners should be in a suitable environment that both meets assessment criteria and upholds safeguarding measures.
We recommend that only learners who will be comfortable in this environment are observed remotely and that they have had the opportunity to do a practice assessment using this format. The Assessor should complete the usual Learner Observation and Achievement Record to show how the learner has performed.
The below documents may support you:
Are you able to relax the 2-week window due to the virus?
The 2-week window is set from the date you make the booking. If your learners are unable to attend the assessment, then this should be cancelled and a further booking made for a later date. Bookings can be made on the day of the assessment to allow flexibility for centres.