Update 21: OCN NI VTQ Assessments 2021

Dear Colleague, 

As you will be acutely aware, the COVID-19 pandemic has required government to take additional measures to control the spread of the virus. The rapid rise in COVID-19 has meant that Northern Ireland had to move into a new phase of restrictions, resulting in all primary schools, secondary schools, colleges and other training providers having to move to remote education, until at least February half-term 2021.  As a consequence, you will have heard the decision by Peter Weir, NI Minster of Education, to cancel all GCSE, AS and A levels exams due to be taken in summer 2021.

 While a similar decision is yet to be reached for learners taking VTQs (Vocational & Technical Qualifications) and Essential Skills this summer in NI, I want to provide all our centres with an update on the current position. 

Yesterday, the Secretary of State for Education in England, wrote to Ofqual (Qualifications Regulator in England) and asked them to consult on alternative arrangements for GCSE, AS and A levels which should involve the awarding of grades based on teacher assessment. In his letter, he also asked Ofqual to consult on views on alternative arrangements for learners taking VTQs, so that learners are awarded a qualification and can access the same progression opportunities. 

As the leading VTQ awarding organisation in NI, OCN NI are working closely with our local Government Departments and Qualifications Regulator (CCEA Regulation) to ensure that learners taking OCN NI Qualifications are not disadvantaged in comparison to their peers taking GCSEs, AS and A levels.  

So, what happens next?

Ofqual have launched a two week consultation period which we will share with you as soon as it is open.  OCN NI would encourage all our centres (including tutors, teachers, college leaders, learners and their parents)  to submit their views, so that the summer awarding arrangements for VTQ learners are as fair as possible, while ensuring confidence in the qualifications awarded. (You can submit your views through this link: https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/consultation-on-alternative-arrangements-for-the-award-of-vtqs-and-other-general-qualifications-in-2021)

Following the two-week consultation period, the Qualifications Regulators will develop regulatory arrangements which will enable awarding organisations to take decisions regarding the most appropriate  approach to awarding based on their qualification design and delivery. It will then be up to our local Government Departments and CCEA Regulation to adopt similar arrangements in NI.

OCN NI Qualifications 

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.  For the vast majority of OCN NI Qualifications internal assessment occurs throughout the year, and we have already published guidance on our alternative assessment arrangements. Therefore, in line with this statement from Economy Minister Diane Dodds on upcoming vocational qualification exams and assessments, would ask you to continue with internal assessments (including remote learning), wherever possible,  taking into consideration a range of factors including health and safety and the personal circumstances of your learners. 

We are acutely aware that this is an extremely frustrating and difficult period for all learners and their parents and carers and teachers. OCN NI is committed to working with you and following the consultation, will make sure that the fairest possible arrangements are rapidly put in place so that learners can be awarded OCN NI qualifications this academic year. 

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. 

Keep safe everyone.

Martin Flynn,
Chief Executive