Will EQA visits still be happening during the national lockdown period?

We have, for the most part, continued to deliver remote EQA visits since the first lockdown restrictions were eased in June, and now as we approach the second national lockdown, we do not envisage this changing or causing a problem. All EQA visits will be conducted remotely for at least the next four weeks unless this causes any major concerns for you. If so, please contact your EQA who will be happy to discuss this and consider what other options may be available.

When will we have the qualification specific details for how the blueprint will be applied?

We have now confirmed how the blueprint will be applied to each qualification, and the detail of this can be accessed through the individual qualification pages on our Qualhub website.

Will any adaptations require us to recruit more teaching and/or support staff?

For all adaptations, we have considered the potential impact on centre resource, and have not made any adaptations that cannot be reasonably applied.

Will there be further changes to this blueprint, or are these adaptations fixed?

The blueprint is aligned to the existing Covid-19 environment and the current EERF. We will only look to make further amendments based on any changes to the external environment and/or any changes made to the EERF or regulator guidelines.  Based on specific sector partners and or regulator guidance, the application of this blueprint to some qualifications may vary slightly.  Where this is the case, we will make this explicit within the adaptation addendum on qualhub. 

What adaptations are you making for internal assessments?

For all forms of internal assessment, whether knowledge or skills based, we believe that the existing flexibilities available to you are sufficient to mitigate Covid-19-related risks, so expect that all relevant qualification content must still be delivered and assessment criteria met.

We would encourage you to consider how digital solutions might help gather and store evidence, such as using video or photo, and where access to specialist facilities, personnel, and equipment is required, you could consider the following:

  • using expert witness testimonies to confirm the observation of student competence over time where direct observation is not possible
  • using observation of simulated activity to evidence the demonstration of competence where direct observation is not possible
  • using digital solutions to capture evidence remotely where students can access required facilities / equipment away from the centre, but teaching staff cannot observe at that location
  • carefully considering how you schedule teaching, learning and assessment activity during the year, recognising that you may not be able to access specialist facilities / equipment in all weeks.

There’s more information, advice, and guidance available on our website here

What adaptations are you making for work placements?

This depends on whether the work placement is an optional part of the qualification, or an essential part e.g. a licence to practice requirement.

For optional work placements, we typically don’t require that students complete a minimum number of placement hours, and rather want to see that the placement will support the student’s progress.

Therefore, while placements are incredibly valuable, they do not contribute to the overall grade for the qualification, and so are giving the option to remove optional placements during the 2020/21 session and still claim certification.

For essential work placements, where they are mandated as part of the qualification due to license to practice or industry expectations, we still require all relevant qualification content to be delivered and assessment criteria met. However, we are working with relevant partners and organisations to decide on an appropriate course of action where this may not be possible.

Where possible without compromising either progression or regulatory requirements, we will look to:

  • remove the requirement that a minimum number of placement hours are complete, allowing flexibility to support progression through alternative demonstrations of competence
  • encourage you to use existing flexibilities to capture evidence for student portfolios or from observation. For more information, see our guide available here

Once adaptations to work placements are confirmed, we will provide an update as soon as we are able.

How do I find out if the work placement element within a qualification is mandatory or optional?

Please refer to the relevant qualification specification and key facts document (where available), which can be found on the qualification search on our Qualhub website. Further detail can also be found in the forthcoming adaptation addendum and executive summary, which will be available for each qualification within our portfolio.

What do we do if we cannot find an employer offering work placements for qualifications with a mandatory work placement element?

Please contact our customer service team on [email protected] / 0191 239 8000 who can put you in touch with our sector managers who may be able to support. 

If you are still unable to secure a placement for a qualification that has a mandatory work placement, then you will need to consider delaying that element of the qualification. 

What adaptations are you making for MCQ and short answer question external assessments?

These assessments are on-demand and have the flexibility of online or paper-based formats, therefore there are existing flexibilities already available. In addition, we have recently updated our Invigilation Exception Request for Functional Skills, and our assessment variation options, to allow for changes to test centre locations. For more information on these, please see our website.

We are also currently working on a remote invigilation solution for our assessments available online that would enable students to complete assessments remotely, and working to forge partnerships with a national range of test centres to allow assessments to still take place even when a centre’s own facilities are not accessible.

We will provide updates on remote invigilation and alternative test centres as soon as we are able.

Will the remote invigilation option have a cost, and what will the requirement be on a centre and student if this is required?

We are still working to finalise the details of our remote invigilation offer and will provide further updates as soon as they are available.

However we can confirm at this stage that our offer will:

  • have an additional cost associated
  • will be fully invigilated in line with all other equivalent external assessments
  • require students to have a computer that meets the minimum technical specification required
  • not require the centre to provide an invigilator.

What adaptations are being made for Functional Skills Speaking, Listening and Communication (SLC)?

We already allow remote assessment for our reformed SLC assessments, and have already communicated the suggestion that centres can minimise student travel and disruption by accommodating SLC preparation time around occasions students are already in centre to complete other components.

We are also now allowing legacy SLC to be completed remotely and allowing SLC preparation time to be completed remotely via video conferencing software if necessary.

More information on arrangements agreed by all awarding organisations for SLC can be found on our website here 

What adaptations are you making for set date and time external assessments?

We have already provided additional assessment opportunities for some of our external assessments with a first opportunity in autumn 2020 and have also updated our assessment variation option to allow further flexibility. For further details on these, please see our website here

We recognise that at points throughout the 2020/21 session, there may be times when you won’t be able to stage invigilated external assessments, therefore we are also investigating other options such as delivering more of our assessments through our online assessment platform, and a remote invigilation solution for students who cannot attend a centre.

Where a third opportunity has been added for an external assessment, has the maximum number of attempts allowed also been extended to 3?

No, the number of attempts allowed for any external assessment is unchanged in 2020/21, regardless of additional opportunities added.

By adding a third opportunity for some external assessments, we are giving additional time to prepare students, and providing flexibility for centres. However, they must still consider the maximum number of attempts allowed when planning and making bookings.

Will there be further changes made to the external assessment timetable in 2020/21?

Whilst we currently have no plans to further change our external timetable beyond those already announced, we also appreciate that there may be additional change required in response to ongoing discussions with JCQ and Ofqual, or to further mitigate risk associated with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.

If further changes are required, we will update all centres as soon as we are able.

Why have you not aligned your external assessment timetable with GCSEs and A Levels in June 2021?

Unlike GCSEs and A Levels, almost all of our qualifications have exams throughout the year, and in many cases students are allowed at least two attempts. Therefore, aligning all of our external assessment dates to the GQ Summer 2021 timetable would remove these features, which are one of the many reasons they were selected in the first place, and would create additional timetabling concerns in a now further condensed summer period. 

At this time, our timetables will take place as advertised, with the additional amendments we have already announced.   For further details and future updates, please see this page of our website

Will you lower grade boundaries in 2020/21 to account for the ongoing disruption?

We will not lower grade boundaries in response to the disruption, as that would not allow us to maintain fair and reliable assessment over time.  Instead, we will be following our blueprint for adaptations to assessment to ensure students are still able to access the most valid and reliable assessments under the current circumstances.

We will carry out our usual awarding processes to ensure we issue the appropriate and consistent result to all students and any adaptations will be made to the assessments themselves, not the grade boundaries.

Which external assessment opportunity shall I book my students on to in 2020/21?

It is the responsibility of the centre to decide when a student is ready to be booked on to an external assessment opportunity. However given the ongoing disruption, we would encourage centres to, wherever possible, consider the earliest assessment opportunity, rather than planning for later dates, to give students the best opportunity of completion in-year.

Where is the nearest national test centre to us - how do I make a booking there, and will there be an additional cost to use this service?

We are still working to finalise the details of this arrangement and will publish full details of this adaptation as soon as possible.

What do we do if a student misses an external assessment for Covid-19 related reasons?

If a student cannot attend an external assessment they were booked to complete due to a requirement to isolate, or following a positive Covid-19 test, you can notify us by submitting a Special Consideration.

A member of our Assessment Delivery Team will be in touch to discuss ways in which we can support you and your students.

How can we run external assessments whilst maintaining social distancing?

All of our external assessments must be completed in line with the relevant assessment regulations, as detailed in our regulations for the conduct of external assessment. However, to support centres in adhering to this as well as observing prevailing public health advice, we have created an annex to these regulations that provides additional advice and support. This annex will be published on the assessment regulations page of our website

What is the difference between a Special Consideration and an Assessment Variation?

An assessment variation can be submitted in advance of any external assessment to request a change to the start time, date, or assessment location where an issue is known in advance, and alternative arrangements can be discussed with the Assessment Delivery team. These must be submitted in advance of the scheduled date and time of the assessment for review.

A Special Consideration should be submitted immediately before, on the day of, or up to 5 days after an external assessment if a learner may have been disadvantaged due to an adverse circumstance during the assessment. This includes instances of a student missing an external assessment following a requirement to isolate for Covid-19 related reasons.

What adaptions are you making for controlled assessment and synoptic projects?


Where NCFE set the window and deadline for grade submission, our assessment variation option can allow for flexibility where required. Please see our website for further details.

We have extended the submission deadline for our Level 1/2 Technical Award V Cert Synoptic Project in 2020/21, whilst keeping the release date the same, to allow further time for completion.

What adaptations are you making for T Level employer-set projects?

As well as the existing assessment variation options available, we are also currently consulting on making changes to the assessment window dates, and/or adaptations to the assessment conditions for the T Level employer-set project.

Until we confirm further details, the employer-set project must still be completed as currently required.

Can NCFE support our students who may not have the money to buy technology required to remote learning and assessment?

The Department for Education (DfE) is providing laptops and tablets to schools to help children and families access remote education during coronavirus (COVID-19).


  • disadvantaged children in years 3 to 11 who do not have access to a device and whose face-to-face education is disrupted
  • disadvantaged children in any year group who have been advised to shieldbecause they (or someone they live with) are clinically extremely vulnerable
  • disadvantaged children in any year group attending a hospital school.

This offer applies to maintained schools, pupil referral units, academy trusts and hospital schools, as well as sixth-form colleges who have enrolled 14 to 16-year-olds.

16-19 learners

You could get a bursary (up to £1,200) to help with education-related costs if you’re aged 16 to 19 and:

  • studying at a publicly funded school or college in England - not a university
  • on a training course, including unpaid work experience.

A publicly funded school is one that does not charge you for attending it.

If you’re 19 and over

You could also get a bursary if you either:

What a bursary is for

A bursary is money that you, or your education or training provider, can use to pay for things like:

  • clothing, books and other equipment for your course
  • transport and lunch on days you study or train.

Are Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs) available as part of adaptations in 2020/21?

No, Ofqual have been clear that Centre Assessed Grades (CAGs), which were introduced specifically in relation to the cancellation of assessments in summer 2020, are not an adaptation in 2020/21.  

Will adaptations apply to all students, or only those in their year of certification?

Adaptations will be applied at qualification or assessment level, not to subsets of students within a Centre depending on their progress or year of completion.

Have these adaptations been created with consideration given to students requiring reasonable adjustments or access arrangements in mind?

The adaptations within this blueprint offer additional flexibilities that are aimed at mitigating the risks associated with the coronavirus pandemic and support all students. We have been conscious of ensuring that there are no adaptations that are intended to create additional restrictions or difficulties for students, or contradict our existing Access Arrangements and Reasonable Adjustments policy.

We are unable to assess our students for access arrangements or reasonable adjustments due to the pandemic -  what can we do to ensure they get the support they may require?

Please contact our Customer Support Team in the first instance if you are experiencing difficulties arranging the necessary student assessments.

Following the government announcement on new measures for 2021 exams / assessments, will NCFE be changing its approach to adaptations?

At NCFE, we welcome the positive action the government is taking to ensure no learner is disadvantaged in a challenging year. We will now be looking across all our VTQ and PTQ qualifications to see what further assessment adaptations can be made - we will update you on this as soon as possible.  These adaptations are likely to offer more support around qualifications that have work-placement and could see more changes to the exam timetable.