How will vocational training be graded in 2021?

The government has now outlined the method for grading vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) in 2021.

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Education has been one of the most hotly debated topics of the pandemic.  How can teachers deliver lessons remotely?  When will pupils return to school?  How will A Levels be tested?  Such questions have become commonplace in recent months. 

With schools taking the headlines in recent weeks, news on colleges and vocational training seems to have taken a backseat.  Fortunately, the government has now outlined the method for grading vocational and technical qualifications (VTQs) in 2021.

How will courses be graded this summer?

As was the case last year, VTQs will be placed into three “broad” groups:

  • Group 1: those that are most like GCSEs and A-Levels.
  • Group 2: those that are used for direct entry into employment.
  • Group 3: those not like GCSEs or A-Levels but used for progression. 

Ofqual will provide an online tool outlining what qualifications sit in which category.

Group 1:

Qualifications in this group are those most like GCSEs and A-Levels.  Both BTECs and Cambridge Nationals/Technicals fall into this category. 

Exams will not go ahead for qualifications in this group.  Instead, teacher assessed grades will be used.  These grades will be formulated from a learner’s portfolio.  Coursework, mock exams and internal assessments will be taken into consideration. 

Group 2:

Qualifications which fall in this category are used for direct entry into employment.  Assessments for these VTQs will go ahead if planned in a “covid-secure way”.  It has been determined that alternative assessment cannot be used for these qualifications.  As such, delays to assessments may occur if the pandemic is not under control by the summer. 

Accounting, plumbing and construction are common subject areas which will fall under this group.

Group 3:

Functional skills and English for Speakers of Other Languages fall into this category.  VTQs in this group are considered unlike GCSEs and A-Levels but are still used for progression.  Exams and assessments for these qualifications should still go ahead in a “covid-secure way”.

In exceptional circumstances, alternative arrangements, such as teacher assessed grades, should be used.

When will learners receive their results?

Results will be issued on or before 10th and 12th August for level 2 and 3 VTQs to align with GCSEs and A-Levels.  Teacher assessed grades, however, will continue to be issued throughout the year but only from April.


Learners will be able to appeal if they believe their school or college has not acted “in line with the exam board’s procedural requirements”. 

Colleges will be required to check their own processes to ensure learners were graded fairly.  If the pupil still feels they have been graded unfairly then the exam board will review the evidence used to determine a learner’s grade and decide whether it accurately assesses the student.    Following this, an appeal can be made to Ofqual’s Exam Procedures Review Service.

Craig Robinson, ADC at Bud said:

“It is great to hear that the government has confirmed its final decisions for awarding BTEC and other vocational and technical qualification (VTQ) grades this summer. This gives everyone clarity during what is an uncertain time.”

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