Q-TAG for B2 Qualifications - Guidance and Instructions
Centre guidance and instructions: Reduced Unit Assessment (RUA) options and Qualification Teacher Assessed Grades (Q-TAGs) for B2 Qualifications - May 2021.
For B2 qualifications, we will offer a qualification level Teacher Assessed Grade (Q-TAG) as a last resort, where a centre can demonstrate it is not possible to assess individual learners who are assessment ready.
Some B2 qualifications will have the option to use Reduced Unit Assessment (RUA), to support learners to progress, this option must be exhausted before applying for a Q-TAG. This page sets out Pearson’s approach for all B2 qualifications (excluding Functional Skills).
On 24 March 2021, the DfE and Ofqual announced their arrangements for issuing results this year for Ofqual-regulated Vocational and Technical Qualifications (VTQs) in response to the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
We recognise that learners on the same programmes may be returning to teaching and learning at different times of the year. As a result, we have been working closely with Ofqual to manage the broad range of qualifications in the VTQ landscape.
The Ofqual/DfE consultation outcome ‘Alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021’ sets out three qualification categories:
- Category A – Qualifications with occupational skills or proficiency assessments
- Category B1 - Qualifications most similar to GCSEs and A levels
- Category B2 – Qualifications not similar to GCSEs or A levels
This guidance relates to qualifications that fall into category B2. To see a full list of qualifications and their categories, you can access the Ofqual Explainer Toolor on Pearson’s dedicated webpage for Awarding results in 2021.
Category B2 qualifications
Category B2 are qualifications which are used to support progression to further or higher study but do not have the same characteristics as GCSEs, AS, A levels and are not delivered in the same way. Such characteristics include:
- qualifications which do not have to follow an academic cycle,
- are ‘smaller’ qualifications (low Guided Learning Hours),
- where learners take assessments when they are ready and not at fixed points during the academic year,
- which are not only taught in schools and colleges, and/or
- which do not include any assessment of occupational skills but may be assessing some element of proficiency.
For B2 qualifications, Ofqual’s position is as follows:
“… Category B2, include those qualifications which are important for progression to further or higher study or employment, but which are smaller than GCSEs and A levels, tend to be at lower levels, don’t always follow an academic year cycle and learners can sit the assessments when they are ready because exams or assessments are available on-demand. Learners would therefore have the opportunity to sit assessments later in the year if teaching and learning has been disrupted, and a TAG will be used only as a last resort where necessary”.
We have reflected on specific issues affecting the delivery of the qualifications in category B2 and have considered the best options available to maximise results for learners this summer.
Our approach is therefore based on the need to ensure:
- centres can continue as normal where safe and possible
- learners in different settings are not disadvantaged over their peers taking the same qualifications,
- learners who require more time are given the opportunity to complete their learning
As a result, the primary approach for category B2 qualifications will be to continue to teach and assess as normal. Quality assurance will therefore run as normal, allowing centres to claim as normal. We believe this is the best option to maximise results for learners this summer.
However, should learners become impacted, and are unable to complete assessments safely, and need results to progress this summer, centres will have the option to apply for a ‘Teacher Assessed Grade’ at qualification level (Q-TAG). This means to be eligible for a Q-TAG, all teaching and learning must be undertaken, and every attempt is made to provide an assessment opportunity for learners.
Reduced unit assessment options for some B2 qualifications
The option of reduced unit assessment (RUA) remains available for some of these qualifications to support learners progress this summer. Content is still required to be taught, but centres do not need to undertake formal assessments where RUA is permitted. Further infromation view our RUA guidance.
Claiming RUA – ‘Z flag process’
Centres using the RUA option will need to report reduced assessment units in Edexcel Online (EOL) using the ‘Z’ flag function. In addition, you will need to submit a ‘grade’ for graded qualifications or ‘pass’ for non-graded qualifications based on the learner’s performance level in that unit.
Should learners continue to be impacted by COVID-19 and are unable to safely complete assessments, you may as a last resort still apply for a Q-TAG.
Centres must exhaust all options before applying for Q-TAGs.
For B2 qualifications, as the Q-TAG option is a last resort, centres do not need to meet the 18th June B1 qualification Q-TAG submission deadline, applications will be accepted up until 31 August 2021. However, should your learners require grades for Higher Education, we would encourage centres to apply by 18th June to ensure timely results.
We have created a flowchart to support your understanding of the options available for BTEC qualifications categorised as ‘B2’.
Programmes released for certification
If you have Direct Claim Status (DCS) or your programme has a release based on successful standards verification for B2 qualifications you can continue to make normal claims for the learners who do not need to access a Q-TAG.
You only need to follow the process in this guidance if your learners need a Q-TAG. Do not claim for learners who need a Q-TAG; these learners must follow the Q-TAG application process detailed in this guidance.
Increased external quality assurance measures
Quality assurance should be completed in line with the normal (pre-Covid 19) quality assurance requirements. Claims should also be made as normal. Please refer to the relevant quality assurance handbook for your qualification(s). For BTEC programmes, we will maintain this year’s BTEC sampling regime of 1 unit and 3 learners per programme; successful sampling is required before certification can be claimed. In line with normal practice, and subject to risk or standards not being met, second sampling (BTEC QA) or additional samples (WBL QA) may be required to ensure valid and reliable results, as per our normal risk-based sampling requirements.
- It is a requirement that ‘learners can demonstrate the range of knowledge, skills and understanding comparable to that expected for assessed work’’.
- Assessments will continue as the preferred method of assessment for B2 qualifications. Normal claims will therefore continue during this period, and we expect more normal claims over applications for Q-TAGs.
- Centres must investigate all assessment and adaptation options before submitting an application, including reduced assessment options where available. For Q-TAG evidencing, centres must provide details on how all assessment opportunities have been explored for each learner.
- Continued assessment should be the primary method of achieving results, and Q-TAGs should only be requested when centres can clearly demonstrate learners are assessment ready, unable to access an assessment safely or in time.
- We will begin accepting Q-TAG applications from May 14th 2021 and this will remain in place until 31 August 2021 when the VCRF expires.
- Only learners expected to complete assessment between 1 August 2020 and 31 August 2021, are eligible, subject to evidence to support a grade claim.
Assessments, either remotely or in person remains a centre’s first option. Adaptations to assessment have been made for some qualifications so you must explore and exhaust all these options before considering a Q-TAG for any learner and evidence of your attempts to provide assessment opportunities must be retained.
There is a clear expectation from Ofqual that Q-TAGs will be an exception process rather than the ‘norm’ for B2 qualifications. Therefore, eligibility for a learner to be considered for a Q-TAG has to be clearly established by the centre.
A learner who has completed their course of study could be considered for a Q-TAG application provided the centre can demonstrate:
- the learner would have been eligible for a Q-TAG at the time they intended to take an assessment
- the centre has supporting evidence to demonstrate the leaner is assessment ready
- the centre can demonstrate it is not safe to undertake the assessment and/or the learner has run out of time and has explored all possible adaptations to the assessment.
Evidence of all these points must be retained within the centre as we may need sight of this before being able to approve a Q-TAG.
You will need to demonstrate that you have made every effort to enable an opportunity for assessment to take place, that normal assessment arrangements are not safe and the learner cannot:
- access an assessment (run out of time due to local restrictions, impacted directly by Covid 19 etc.)
- access an assessment utilising any adaptations to assessment allowing it to be achievable
- access reduced unit assessment options
- delay the assessment.
A key part of the eligibility judgement must be a consideration of when each learner requires the result and, working back from the end date when the result is required, whether there is likely to be a clear opportunity for the learner to access an assessment safely in any way before that date.
Centres will need to clearly justify why each learner is eligible for a Q-TAG providing clear evidence of the options you have explored to provide opportunities for assessments for each learner.
Where you can demonstrate that you have explored all possible options for each individual learner to undertake an assessment, including all possible adaptations that we have put in place, and it is not possible to delay the assessment then you may proceed with gathering evidence to support an application for a Q-TAG for each individual learner.
If you have fully explored all possible options for assessment and established that a learner is eligible, you may consider applying for a Q-TAG.
You must have:
- evidence of the efforts made to assess the learner
- evidence the learner is assessment ready
- evidence of the learner’s ability to pass the qualification or achieve the proposed grade.
Before a Q-TAG application can be submitted for consideration.
We will review your application and advise you of the outcome. An application can still be rejected at this stage if we are not satisfied that the evidence supports it.
As it will be possible to apply for Q-TAGs throughout the period between May and August you must continually monitor any learner you believe to be eligible for a Q-TAG as they become ready for assessment. That eligibility must be kept under review, with learners only being put forward for consideration as you establish evidence that would support a Q-TAG.
The following criteria is provided to support you in your judgements. You will need to have clear records in place which we may review as part of our quality assurance process to provide reassurance that the learners selected are eligible and any outcomes are robust and a true reflection of the learner’s achievement. Additional guidance on sources of evidence can be found in the BTEC Awarding results 2021 guidance (PDF, 1.5 MB).
|Requirements for Q-TAG application||Evidence to support Q-TAG application|
|Reason why the learner is eligible including:
Rationale from the centre with:
Supporting evidence for the Q-TAG: Centre must have a body of evidence that a teacher can use to form the basis of their Q-TAG judgement.
Recommended evidence includes, but is not limited to:
|Supporting the Q-TAG: Using the evidence, the teacher/assessor can confirm that they believe the learner would have passed or at unit level achieved a grade (P/M/D).||
Evidence described above plus commentary from the teacher/assessor using agreed descriptors or performance level indicators to demonstrate how the evidence aligns.
While conditions for collating evidence are not mandated, centres will need to consider the conditions through which this evidence is gathered, and should implement measures to ensure they are confident that the evidence is authentic to the learner, the evidence is reliable and comparable to those undertaking assessments.
Centres must therefore record the conditions under which the evidence has been produced, and where evidence has been gathered without control they should include other supporting evidence to corroborate this to provide reassurances of the learner’s overall ability to achieve the qualification and progress.
For each Q-TAG, once eligibility has been established, you must follow an internal quality assurance process before the Q-TAG application is submitted which meets the requirements below.
Your Internal Quality Assurance (IQA) process must be in line with our usual practices to demonstrate that each learner put forward has been scrutinised carefully and all Q-TAG judgements have been standardised before they are submitted. We recommend you follow the relevant Quality Assurance handbook to ensure any IQA processes you use for Q-TAGs follows the same principles already in place for internal assessment decisions.
You must keep clear records of all internal processes used and decisions taken to arrive at the Q-TAG outcomes for each learner as we require you to be able to demonstrate how each Q-TAG has been quality assured, reducing the risk of malpractice or unconscious bias.
You must ensure suitable supporting evidence is used, as outlined earlier in the ‘Evidence to support the process’ section and retained within the centre for 6 months after the issue of a result (or appeal) as we may request sight of this as part of our external quality assurance process.
Each Q-TAG will be determined by a teacher or assessor. This judgement should then be internally quality assured by another staff member. This would ideally be the Head of Department or someone who usually conducts the role of Internal Quality Assurer/Internal Verifier for the qualification(s). Where a staff member might have a personal interest in a learner, for example as a relative, Heads of Centre should make sure that additional controls are put in place as appropriate.
Head of Centre sign-off
The Head of Centre will be required to confirm that the Q-TAGs are a true representation of learner performance. If the Head of Centre is unavailable to do this, it may be delegated to a deputy. In reviewing the Q-TAGs the Head of Centre should consider how the volume of learners achieving compares with previous years. It is vital that the Head of Centre has oversight of the IQA process as we will require a Head of Centre declaration as part of our Q-TAG application process.
Retention of work
- you must retain suitable evidence of both learner eligibility and what has been used to support any Q-TAG judgements as this may be requested for external review.
- evidence which is used to support a Q-TAG will need to be retained for 6 months after the issue of a result or until the conclusion of an appeal (whichever date is later).
Once you are confident you have all the supporting evidence in place for both eligibility and teacher/assessor judgement, then you may proceed with a Q-TAG application.
Seeking advice from your Lead Standards Verifier or Standards Verifier/External Examiner
Our assessment associates are here to support you during this period. We would advise that you speak to your Lead Standards Verifier (WBL) or Standards Verifiers or External Examiner for advice. They will be able to advise you on the process for Q-TAGs and whether this is the best option for your learners.
Intention to submit Q-TAGs form
Once you have sought advice from your Standards Verifier or External Examiner, you must then advise us of your intention to make use of the Q-TAG process. You will also need to provide us with a named contact at your centre with whom we can correspond when reviewing any Q-TAG application during the External Quality Assurance process.
You only need to complete and submit this ‘intention to submit Q-TAGs’ form once prior to any Q-TAG submission but you will be unable to submit any Q-TAG applications unless we have a completed form on file. We will only issue the appropriate spreadsheet template to you on receipt of a completed ‘intention to Q-TAG’ form.
Once we have received your completed intention to submit form we will send you a further form requesting the following details:
- Head of Centre Declaration
- details of the learners for whom a Q-TAG application is being submitted
The form must be completed carefully and accurately as you will need to provide a summary of each learner’s eligibility and the evidence you hold to support your Q-TAG application.
Please note: we will only accept a Q-TAG application submitted to us using the form that we will share with you. No other approach will be accepted.
The Head of Centre declaration is where we will ask you to confirm the steps taken to confirm learner eligibility and the IQA process you have followed to review learner evidence to support your Q-TAG judgements. This is the Head of Centre declaration which you must provide each time you submit a Q-TAG application for consideration. Any false declaration will be considered potential malpractice. Pearson’s malpractice team will investigate all such cases and take appropriate steps to protect the integrity of all results issued.
The Head of Centre declaration will require you to confirm:
- you have explored all possible avenues to assess either in person or remotely and with all available adaptations for each learner being put forward for a Q-TAG.
- you are only requesting Q-TAGs for learners who are therefore eligible and have a valid reason with supporting evidence to show why they cannot access an assessment.
- you have supporting evidence available for each learner that underpins a teacher/assessor judgement and supports the request for a Q-TAG.
- you have internally quality assured all decisions made in relation to Q-TAGs and can evidence the approach taken.
- you have compared the volume of achievement for your submissions against previous years.
The second part of the form is where you provide learner details along with a summary, per learner, of the evidence you have used to establish eligibility and arrive at the final Q-TAG decision for each learner. You must retain the supporting evidence for both eligibility and Q-TAG decisions within the centre for use as part of our external quality assurance process we complete to verify the outcomes for all learners.
Within the form you will be required to outline:
- what efforts you have made to assess the learner and why are they unable to access assessments
- why the learner needs a result now
- what evidence you hold to support each learner’s Q-TAG and to demonstrate the learner is assessment ready.
Please note: we will require learner information including:
- registration number
- learner name(s) and
- the qualification you are applying for.
It is your responsibility to ensure that all information contained in both forms are correct and any data you enter is accurate. Any errors in the information provided may cause a delay in reviewing your application and, if approved, processing Q-TAG(s)We will not accept Q-TAG requests through any other approach and will reject any requests provided in any other format.
We will review the information you provide and advise you within 10 working days if we require further information.
Please be aware that as Q-TAGs are 'qualification level' teacher assessment grades, certification will not be accompanied with a notification of performance (NOP).
We will need to be satisfied that your internal processes are robust and leads to fair and accurate outcomes for the learners included in any Q-TAG application. It is vital that you retain all evidence and clear records in case we need to come back to you for clarification or more detail on your request. We may request access to:
- all or some of the evidence used to confirm learner eligibility
- all or some of the supporting evidence used to support Q-TAG judgements
- records of IQA process and the learner evidence reviewed at each stage
- Head of Centre sign-off of the outcomes.
We will quality assure the process you have followed to ensure that you are following your own processes adequately. We may extend these checks to review a sample of the evidence used and, in extreme cases where concerns remain, may ask to see all evidence for all learners to provide reassurances of the validity of the Q-TAGs produced. As part of this process we may need to arrange a virtual visit so we can discuss your case more fully and can be confident that Q-TAG results we issue have been through a robust quality assurance process and are therefore comparable with results generated from normal assessments.
We will use other evidence to decide on the nature of the checks we carry out for each centre which may vary on a case-by-case basis. We may, for example, choose to increase any sampling in cases where a significant volume of learner Q-TAGs are submitted for consideration at any given point in time.
We do not expect you to create Q-TAGs for learners not yet reaching a pass threshold. As part of our external quality assurance process we will carry out additional checks of data we hold to satisfy ourselves that the volume of learners being submitted is valid.
Once we have assured ourselves of the validity of your submission in any given window, we will release the results on a rolling basis.
Malpractice and maladministration
Where we identify any concerns regarding your submission we may choose to take further action over and above the quality assurance activities outlined above. Where serious concerns are identified we may withhold results for any or all learners included in a submission pending the outcome to any further investigation.
Centre Reviews and appeals
You will need to ensure you have a process in place to resolve any disputes within the centre regarding Q-TAGs produced for learners.
Q-TAGs will only need to be submitted where you have supporting evidence to justify the award of a ‘Grade’ or ‘Pass’ grade.
You must also clearly demonstrate that the learner(s) are unable to access assessments either remotely or in person. Where you determine a learner is not eligible for a Q-TAG, that learner must be able to ask you to conduct a review if they can demonstrate that they:
- are unable to undertake an assessment either remotely or in person,
- are unable to complete an assessment with other existing adaptations,
- unable to access reduced unit assessment options
- require a result immediately for progression purposes.
This must be further supported by evidence that would be used to underpin a teacher judgement. The learner would need to demonstrate to the centre that they:
- are assessment ready
- have sufficient supporting evidence demonstrating they are capable of passing the assessment or achieving the relevant grade.
If on reviewing the learner’s review request you believe that an error of judgement has been made and a Q-TAG should be requested, provided you have completed your internal quality assurance and can therefore support the application, then you can submit a Q-TAG at any point during the eligible period up to 31 August 2021. All evidence of the centre review process must be retained within the centre.
If the outcome of the centre review is that a Q-TAG should not be submitted for the learner, you should explain the reason for this to the learner and support them to understand the decision.
For category B2 qualifications (those not similar to GCSEs or A levels) you can now report permitted reductions in assessment by using the ‘Z flag’ as in the example below. You will also provide a unit grade alongside this ‘Z flag’.
For further support on providing grade judgements please see BTEC guide to awarding results 2021 (PDF, 1.5 MB) and relevant qualification level sector performance indicators. As these are permitted reductions to formal assessment and Standards Verification continues, we will not require you to formally submit evidence to support your grade(s), but decisions may be reviewed as part of our normal standards verification process.
Important: For B2 qualifications, you must only report permitted reduced assessment in line with the guidance previously issued on our Teaching and learning page, under ‘Assessment Guidance’.
Example Edexcel Online grade and flag reporting for B2 qualifications:
B2 Qualifications Teacher Assessed Grades | 2021 FAQs
You will find all the information you need to prepare Q-TAG on in our detailed guidance 'BTEC Qualifications Awarding results 2021’ as well as our dedicated Awarding BTEC results 2021 webpage.
Our Awarding BTEC results 2021 webpage has information on the process you need to go through to decide if a learner is eligible for a Q-TAG as well as the guidance regarding the type of supporting evidence you must have in place for each learner. Your first option should be to attempt assessments, and if you have also exhausted the reduced assessment option where available, only if you are still unable to complete assessments, and you have evidence to demonstrate the steps taken, should you consider putting learners forward for a Q-TAG.
Before you create an application for Q-TAGs for B2 qualifications, make sure you have the supporting evidence in place for each learner included in your request. Supporting evidence comes in two parts – the first to demonstrate eligibility and inability to take undertake an assessment, the second to demonstrate ability to pass the qualification itself.
If you have Direct Claim Status for B2 qualifications and you are making normal claims (i.e. learners have completed assessments as normal and do not need a Q-TAG) then you can claim as normal.
You only need to follow the process in this guidance if your learners need a Q-TAG. Do not claim for learners who need a Q-TAG; these learners must follow the Q-TAG application process detailed in this webpage.