Ofqual

Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation
Ofqual logo 2018.svg
Agency overview
Formed 8 April 2008 (8 April 2008) (part of QCA)
1 April 2010 (1 April 2010) (independent)
Preceding
Type Non-ministerial government department
Jurisdiction England
Headquarters Earlsdon Park, 53-55 Butts Road, Coventry, CV1 3BH
52°24′22.2″N 1°31′26.5″W / 52.406167°N 1.524028°W / 52.406167; -1.524028
Employees 192 (2017/18)
Annual budget £17.5 million (2018/19)
Agency executives
  • Jo Saxton, CEO and Chief Regulator
  • Ian Bauckham, Chair (Interim)
Website www.gov.uk/ofqual

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) is a non-ministerial government department that regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England.[1] Colloquially and publicly, Ofqual is often referred to as the exam "watchdog".[2]

History

Ofqual was established in interim form on 8 April 2008 as part of Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), taking over the regulatory functions that had previously been undertaken by the QCA directly through its regulation and standards division.[3] It was always intended that Ofqual would be an entirely separate body from the QCA. This was achieved on 1 April 2010 when Ofqual was established as a non-ministerial government department under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009.

In 2020, Ofqual was involved in an GCSE and A/Level grading controversy during the COVID-19 pandemic.[citation needed]

Role

Ofqual's role is "to maintain standards and confidence in qualifications."[4]

Area of governance

Ofqual regulates exams, qualifications and tests in England. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are regulated by each respective national government. However, the Scottish Qualifications Authority is also accredited by Ofqual.[5]

Ofqual collaborates closely with the UK government and the Department for Education on general qualifications, such as GCSEs and A levels, and with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on vocational qualifications such as NVQs and BTECs. In Northern Ireland Ofqual regulated NVQs on behalf of the Department for Employment and Learning until May 2016; this responsibility has since been handed to the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment.[6]

Ofqual is the authority which regulates and accredits British examination boards offering GCSEs and GCE A levels while it is the Joint Council for Qualifications which regulates administration of actual GCSE and A Level examinations.

Modular versus linear syllabi

The Conservative Party under Prime Minister David Cameron initiated reforms for A Levels to change from the current modular to a linear structure.[7] British examination boards (Edexcel, AQA and OCR) regulated and accredited by Ofqual responded to the government's reform announcements by modifying syllabi of several A Level subjects.[8][9] However, in 2014 the Labour Party announced that it would halt and reverse the reforms and maintain the modular A-Level system if it got into government.[10] The universities of Oxford and Cambridge have expressed support for the modular system.[11][12]

Recent reports reveal that the linear examination approach and the toughening educational reforms initiated by Ofqual provoked many schools to "play the system" by requesting test remarking and supplementary aid for students (e.g. special consideration and extra time) in order to uphold high exam grade levels so as to not drop in league tables.[13]

Rising numbers of students taking GCSEs and GCE A Levels over the past decades has led to an increase in the quantity of examination results being enquired for re-marking and reported to Ofqual.[14]

Ofqual's remit and responsibilities are established in law by the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009[15] and the Education Act 2011.[16] As a Non-ministerial department Ofqual is accountable to Parliament, through the Education Select Committee. It is not accountable to government ministers and is independent from ministerial government. Whereas Ofqual regulates and accredits British examination boards (e.g. Edexcel, AQA, OCR etc.) and their GCSE and GCE A-Level specifications; the examination board CAIE (Cambridge Assessment International Education) which offers international GCSEs and GCE A-Levels predominantly for schools outside the United Kingdom operates independently without British governmental intervention. Therefore, although CAIE qualifications are accredited by Ofqual, they are not regulated by it and thus may differ significantly in subject content and exam structure from UK GCSEs and GCE A-Levels.[17]

Structure

Ofqual has four directorates:

  • Strategy, risk and research
  • Vocational and technical qualifications
  • General qualifications
  • Regulatory and corporate services

Chief Regulator

The Chief Regulator is the leader and figurehead of Ofqual.

Originally, the Chief Regulator was also the Chair of Ofqual. When the Chief Regulator position was vacant during 2010 and 2011, the Deputy Chair, Dame Sandra Burslem DBE, took on 'many of the responsibilities', though was never formally named Chief Regulator or Chair.[18]

On 1 April 2012, in line with the Education Act 2011, the Chief Regulator role transferred from the Chair of Ofqual to the Chief Executive of Ofqual. When the Chief Regulator post was vacant in 2016, the Chair acted as the Interim Chief Regulator.

  • Amanda Spielman, 1 March 2016–24 April 2016[23][24] (Interim Chief Regulator)
  • Simon Lebus, 1 January 2021–17 September 2021[28] (Interim Chief Regulator)
  • Jo Saxton, 18 September 2021–present[29]

Chair of Ofqual

Until 31 March 2012, the Chair of Ofqual was also the Chief Regulator. When the Chair position was vacant during 2010 and 2011, the Deputy Chair, Dame Sandra Burslem, 'stepped in to provide continuity', though was never formally named Chair or Chief Regulator.[30]

  • Kathleen Tattersall OBE, 8 April 2008–2 July 2010[3][19]
  • Amanda Spielman, 14 July 2011–30 November 2016[18][31]
  • Roger Taylor, 1 January 2017–31 December 2020[32][31][33]
  • Ian Bauckham CBE, 1 January 2021–present[33] (interim Chair)

Chief Executive of Ofqual

  • Isabel Nisbet, 8 April 2008–28 February 2011[34]
  • Dame Glenys Stacey, 1 March 2011–31 March 2012[21][22] (continued as CEO and Chief Regulator)

On 1 April 2012, the position of Chief Executive ceased to exist as an independent role when it was merged with the post of Chief Regulator.

References

  1. ^ Gov.uk, Gov.UK Government, Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation, Retrieved 6 February 2014
  2. ^ "Exam watchdog Ofqual to check 'extra help' data". BBC News. August 2014.
  3. ^ a b c "House of Commons - Children, Schools and Families Committee - Minutes of Evidence". publications.parliament.uk. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  4. ^ "About us". Ofqual.
  5. ^ "Ofqual External Verification". Archived from the original on 26 November 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  6. ^ "Changes to qualifications regulation in Northern Ireland". Ofqual. 5 May 2016. Retrieved 14 November 2016.
  7. ^ "Changes to A levels - The Department for Education". Archived from the original on 30 April 2014. Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  8. ^ "Edexcel A levels". Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  9. ^ "GCSEs, AS and A levels: new subjects to be taught in 2016". Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  10. ^ "Labour pledges to halt A-Level reforms". Retrieved 14 November 2014.
  11. ^ "Oxford raises concerns over A-level exam reform". BBC News. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  12. ^ "A-level reforms 'will harm English pupils', says Cambridge". The Telegraph. 20 January 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  13. ^ "Ofqual: schools playing the system to boost pupils' grades". The Telegraph. 12 December 2014. Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  14. ^ "GCSE and A level exam enquiries have exceeded 450,000 say Ofqual". Retrieved 8 January 2015.
  15. ^ "Apprenticeship, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009". Office of Public Sector Information. 12 November 2009. Retrieved 1 December 2009.
  16. ^ "Education Act 2011". Parliament of the United Kingdom.
  17. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 13 November 2014. Retrieved 13 November 2014.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  18. ^ a b c "New Chair of Ofqual". GOV.UK. 7 June 2011. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  19. ^ a b "Exam Regulator Ofqual Chief Kathleen Tattersall Steps Down". Evening Standard. 2 July 2010. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  20. ^ Tattersall, Kahleen (May 2009). The first Report of the Chief Regulator of Qualifications and Examinations (PDF). Coventry: Ofqual. ISBN 978-1-84721-945-9. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  21. ^ a b c Annual Report and Accounts 2011-12 (PDF). Norwich: TSO. July 2012. pp. 37–38. ISBN 978-0-10-297861-2.
  22. ^ a b Offord, Paul (6 August 2015). "Ofqual chief Glenys Stacey to stand down". FE Week. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  23. ^ Whittaker, Freddie (26 February 2016). "Ofqual Chair Amanda Spielman to Replace Glenys Stacey as Interim Chief Regulator". Schools Week. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  24. ^ "Education Secretary Selects New Ofqual Chief Regulator". GOV.UK. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  25. ^ "Sally Collier named as Ofqual's new chief regulator". 8 March 2016.
  26. ^ a b Annual Report and Accounts 2016 to 2017 (PDF). Coventry: Ofqual. 19 July 2017. ISBN 978-1-4741-4435-3.
  27. ^ "Ofqual announces interim leadership arrangements".
  28. ^ a b "New Interim Chief Regulator of Ofqual". GOV.UK. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  29. ^ "New Chief Regulator at Ofqual". GOV.UK. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  30. ^ Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) Annual Report to Parliament 2010/11For the period 1st April 2010 to 31st March 2011 (PDF). London: The Stationery Office. 2011. p. 25. ISBN 9780102974171. Retrieved 6 February 2021.
  31. ^ a b Whittaker, Freddie (16 December 2016). "Roger Taylor Appointed as New Chair of Exams Regulator Ofqual". Schools Week. Retrieved 4 May 2020.
  32. ^ "Roger Taylor - GOV.uk".
  33. ^ a b "New Interim Chair of Ofqual". GOV.UK. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  34. ^ Ofqual Annual Report and Accounts 2010–2011 (PDF). London: TSO. 6 July 2011. p. 10. ISBN 9780102974164. Retrieved 4 May 2020.

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