What is the context? Changes have been made to the applied general qualification (AGQ) from the QCF to the RGF. The assessment now includes an external test(s), as well as the internally assessed components, which students must pass in order to be awarded the overall qualification. As expected, because of the difficulty of the tests, many students failed this external element. Because of the high number of failures Ofqual belatedly encouraged awarding organisations to "consider changes" to their grade boundaries to provide a ‘safety net’ for students who narrowly missed a pass on one or more externally-assessed units. This resulted in a new 'N' grade and meant students were now eligible to achieve the full AGQ award. However, many students who received the original fail grade had already left their schools or colleges or started new qualifications.
ASCL position: ASCL welcomes the introduction of the N level pass for the new framework (RQF) applied general qualifications (for example, BTEC). However, this is a solution to a foreseeable problem in the implementation of vocational qualification reform. Late corrections such as this mean that a generation of students has been disadvantaged. We hope that lessons learnt will improve the planning and implementation of the Transition Year and the new T levels.
Why are we saying it? Along with other organisations, ASCL repeatedly warned that the changes to the AGQ, especially the introduction of the external tests would result in many failures as the tests were too difficult. However these recommendations were ignored and resulted in many young people having disrupted educational experiences including becoming NEETs. It also meant that schools and colleges missed out on funding as the students did not progress to their next year.