Update 20: OCN NI VTQ Assessments 2021

Dear Colleague, 

Following the lockdown announcements on 5th January from the Stormont Executive and the very fluid situation relating to learning and health which is foremost in our minds, OCN NI has been working to understand the implications for our centres, learners and qualifications. We acknowledge the need for clarity regarding delivery and assessment of our Essential Skills and Vocational and Technical qualifications in light of the hard work centres and learners have already engaged in. 

January assessments

OCN NI notes the communication from the Department of the Economy Minister on 5th January to facilitate learners taking vocational qualifications in January 2021. Please read this statement from Economy Minister Diane Dodds on upcoming vocational qualification exams and assessments

As a result, OCN NI will support centres to deliver assessments in January, where it is safe to do so and if learners are ready to do so, so that they can demonstrate their knowledge and the skills they have acquired. If it is not possible for learners to take January assessments, we will provide the opportunity to take assessments at a later date. In the event that is not possible, arrangements will be put in place to ensure those learners are not disadvantaged. 

We would encourage all learners to continue engaging with their training providers, as it is crucial that education continues (where relevant) to facilitate learning and progression as much as we can during these challenging circumstances. Education and Training providers will in many instances revert to online delivery and provide access to learning resources throughout this period.

 February and beyond 

OCN NI also recognise that stakeholders (centres, learners and parents) need reassurance about how our qualifications will be assessed and awarded this summer. Therefore, we are currently in discussion with the Department for the Economy, Ofqual and CCEA Regulation, and we will be in touch as soon as we hear the outcomes from these discussions.

The key objective is to ensure that assessment and awarding is fair and consistent and that no learners are disadvantaged. While the emerging situation is fluid and disruptive, we are still asking centres to ensure that adapted assessments continue to take place where they can, and that these should be banked as soon as they are carried out. DfE and qualification regulators are currently reviewing a number of contingency options and we will update centres on progress and next steps as soon as an agreed path has been approved.


Ofqual are collecting responses through the following consultation: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-alternative-arrangements-for-the-award-of-vtqs-and-other-general-qualifications-in-2021 - this consultation will guide the decision making process for alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications. We would encourage all our centres, tutors and learners to respond to the consultation which will remain open until 11.45pm 29th January.

Our priority is to ensure that learners receive fair and equitable results that reflect their efforts and allow for due consideration of progression pathways, whether that be to further study or into employment.

Thank you for your patience and understanding during these challenging times and remember that the OCN NI team are here to support you, and answer any questions or concerns relating to the delivery and assessment of our qualifications. 

Best wishes,
Simon Hamilton
Director of Compliance & Audit