The Minister said: “As we continue to cautiously embark upon the recovery phase from the pandemic, it is important to provide timely clarity on the way forward for vocational education in the forthcoming academic year. My priority remains to ensure that vocational learners are afforded every opportunity to receive fair and equitable results to facilitate progression pathways, whether that be to further education, training or employment, and we will continue to do everything possible to support them.
“In conjunction with my Ministerial colleagues in England and Wales, we have therefore agreed that vocational exams and assessments will go ahead in the 2021-22 academic year.
“Whilst a range of extraordinary assessment and awarding arrangements were necessarily put in place to mitigate, as far as possible, the disruption caused by the pandemic over the past 18 months, moving forward, exams and assessments are the fairest way for learners to evidence their knowledge, understanding and skills.
“All vocational qualifications taken after 1 September 2021 will therefore be awarded based on evidence from exams and other assessments and will not be based on Teacher Assessed Grades. Given the ongoing effects of the pandemic on vocational education, and in recognition of the significant disruption to teaching and lost learning, a range of adaptations will also be made available to appropriately support learners and learning centres.
“It is imperative that vocational learners are treated equally in comparison with their peers taking GCSEs, AS and A levels and this aligned approach will ensure important consistency across the UK to optimise the portability of qualifications and opportunities for learners, as well as maintaining the high standards we expect of vocational qualifications.
“In addition, Essential Skills qualifications will also see a return to normal arrangements and external assessments from September 2021 with provision for a range of contingency measures if necessary during the year.
“The safety and interests of our learners remains of the utmost importance. Given the unprecedented levels of disruption experienced over the past 18 months, my Department will continue to work with key delivery partners both locally and nationally to monitor the situation throughout the year and consider any necessary contingency measures to ensure that learners are kept safe and supported.
“I would like to take this opportunity to again pay huge tribute to the teachers, tutors, learners and their families for their considerable efforts and dedication during these exceptionally challenging times.”