Teacher Assessed Grades for Functional Skills completion in 2021 Guidance and Instructions.

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Last updated: 30 June 2021


Functional Skills will offer a Teacher Assessed Grade (TAG), as a last resort, where a centre can demonstrate it is not possible to live test individual learners, who are assessment ready, for safety reasons. This page sets out Pearson’s approach for all Functional Skills from Entry 1 to Level 2.

The Ofqual/DfE consultation outcome ‘Alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021’ sets out:

“..Functional Skills, have ‘on-demand’ shorter assessments. Where these can be delivered in line with public health measures, including remotely, the Department’s policy position is that they should be permitted to continue to proceed. This is to ensure that students and other learners can continue to progress fairly and acknowledges that providers have been implementing protective measures and adapting assessments such as moving to remote assessment.”

“These qualifications are often taken on demand, with more frequent external examination and assessment opportunities throughout the year, and we do not see a strong rationale for preventing these assessments from continuing where they can be delivered in line with public health guidelines. A number of awarding organisations have recently invested in remote assessment solutions for FSQs. Therefore, the Department proposes that remote assessments should be taken by FSQ learners where these assessments can continue and learners are able to access them. For students and other learners who are unable to access FSQ assessments, an alternative method of awarding these qualifications may be needed to ensure these learners can progress.”

  • Live testing will continue as this is the preferred method of assessment for Functional Skills. This testing could take place face to face or using adaptations such as being delivered remotely. Further information and guidance is available on our COVID-19 support page.
  • You must investigate all live testing and adaptation options before submitting an application for a Functional Skills TAG evidencing how all investigations have been explored for each learner.
  • As live testing should be the primary method of awarding, and TAGs should only be requested when centres can clearly demonstrate learners are assessment ready, unable to access an assessment safely and as a ‘last resort’, centres should not request to submit TAGs for whole cohorts
  • We will begin accepting Functional Skills TAG applications once Ofqual’s regulatory framework comes into effect and this will remain in place until 31 August 2021 when the VCRF expires. Only learners you expected to be entered for assessment between 1 August 2020 and 31 August 2021, who are deemed to be eligible, with suitable evidence to support a pass grade should be put forward.
  • Set ‘windows’ will be offered so results generated under TAGs can be returned to centres in a similar way to normal (i.e. remaining true to the on-demand model of assessment) to enable learners to progress.
  • Only learners you assess to have passed in any ‘window’ need be put forward.
  • Learner eligibility will be determined by clearly defined criteria, in line with policy positions from DfE, which you must follow.
  • You must retain suitable evidence of both learner eligibility and what has been used to support any TAG judgements as this may be requested for external review.

The TAG approach will replicate, as far as possible, the on-demand principles currently used for our Functional Skills testing. Therefore, we will operate an approach which enables you to explore all possible live testing options including adaptations, select learners for a TAG, gather appropriate evidence, complete internal standardisation and for us to complete external quality assurance activities and issue results in a timely manner.

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This flowchart is provided to help you understand the decision making process for FS TAGs and should be used alongside the guidance information.

Live testing, either remotely or in person remains available throughout the period and must always be a centre’s first option. Adaptations to live tests have been made so you must explore and exhaust all these options before considering a TAG for any learner and evidence of your attempts to test must be retained.

There is a clear expectation from DfE that TAGs will be an exception process rather than the ‘norm’ for Functional Skills qualifications. Therefore, eligibility for a learner to be considered for a TAG has to be clearly established by the centre, using the criteria in this guidance, before any teacher judgement based on supporting evidence is considered.

A learner who has completed their course of study could be considered for a TAG application provided the centre can demonstrate:

  • the learner’s end date is in the past
  • the learner would have been eligible for a TAG at the time they intended to take a live test
  • the centre has supporting evidence to demonstrate the leaner was assessment ready
  • the centre can demonstrate it is not safe to invite the learner back to take a test and has explored all possible adaptations to test.

Evidence of all these points must be retained within the centre as the awarding organisation may need sight of this before being able to approve a TAG.

You will need to demonstrate that you have made every effort to enable a live test to take place, that normal assessment arrangements are not safe and the learner cannot: 

  • access an assessment face to face 
  • access an assessment utilising any adaptation such as remote invigilation
  • 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 a live test safely in any way before that date.  

You will need to clearly justify why each learner is eligible for a TAG providing clear evidence of the options you have explored to access live testing for each learner. 

Where you can demonstrate that you have explored all possible options for each individual learner to take a live test, 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 TAG for each individual learner.

If you have fully explored all possible options for live testing and established that a learner is eligible, you may consider applying for a TAG.

You must have:

  • evidence of the efforts made to live test
  • evidence the learner is assessment ready
  • evidence of the learner’s ability to pass the qualification

before a 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 TAGs throughout the period between April and August you must continually monitor any learner you believe to be eligible for a 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 pass TAG if the learner remains eligible as they are still unable to take a live test.

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.

Requirements for TAG application Evidence to support TAG application 

Reason why learner is eligible including: 

  • Why learner cannot take a live test
  • Why a learner needs a result now 
  • Why learner is assessment ready

Rationale from the centre with:

  • clear evidence to demonstrate efforts to live test, including all adaptations
  • need for a result by a set date to support progression
  • readiness for assessment between 1 August 2020 and 31 August 2021

Supporting evidence for the TAG:

Centre must have a body of evidence that a teacher can use to form the basis of their TAG judgement  

Recommended evidence includes, but is not limited to: 

  • Completed sample/past paper taken as a mock test including the conditions the mock was taken under 
  • Formative assessment results 

This could be further supported by other evidence which may include, but is not limited to: 

  • Any other learner work towards the qualification (ie work they have independently undertaken in class or at home) 
  • Learner work demonstrating the skills assessed by FS qualifications that has been completed in support of another qualification learning aim. 

Supporting the TAG:

Using the evidence, the teacher can confirm that they believe the learner would have passed/achieved the assessment 

Evidence described above plus commentary from the teacher using agreed pass descriptors to demonstrate how the evidence aligns. 

While the use of a past/sample paper is not mandated, we highly recommend the use of this material as a key part of any supporting evidence as these tests have been produced by Pearson and are therefore seen as a standardised source of evidence. 

Conditions for completion of the mock test will not be mandated but the test used and the markscheme applied must be a Pearson produced sample, practice or past paper made available by us for this purpose. We will provide clear guidance on the pass threshold to enable accurate assessment that will reflect the standards within the live assessments.

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 going through live testing.

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 TAG, once eligibility has been established, you must follow an internal quality assurance process before the 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 TAG judgement have been standardised before they are submitted. We recommend you use our Quality Assurance handbooks to ensure any IQA processes you use for TAGs follows the same principles already in place for internal assessment decisions in our Functional Skills qualifications.

You must keep clear records of all internal processes used and decisions taken to arrive at the TAG outcomes for each learner as we require you to be able to demonstrate how each 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 as we may request sight of this as part of our external quality assurance process.

Department sign-off

Each 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 for Functional Skills. 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 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 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 TAG application process.

Where centres and/or students are dissatisfied with a decision relating to the awarding of a result there is an opportunity to appeal. This guidance provides information on how to appeal a decision.

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