Ofqual Handbook

Section G - Setting and delivering the assessment

Rules about setting and delivering assessments, including about the language of assessments, maintaining confidentiality of assessments, reasonable adjustments and special consideration

General Conditions of Recognition

Condition G1 - Setting the assessment

  1. G1.1 In setting an assessment for a qualification which it makes available, an awarding organisation must ensure that the content of the assessment is –
    1. (a) fit for purpose,
    2. (b) appropriate for the method of assessment chosen, and
    3. (c) consistent with the specification for that qualification.
  1. G1.2 An awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to ensure that the Level of Demand of an assessment for a qualification which it makes available is consistent –
    1. (a) across all options as to tasks which may be completed by a Learner for the purposes of the assessment,
    2. (b) with the Level of Demand of any other assessment which may be completed by a Learner as an alternative to the assessment, for the purpose of the qualification, and
    3. (c) with the Level of Demand of previous assessments and of any specimen assessment materials which the awarding organisation has published in relation to the qualification.

G1.3 An awarding organisation must produce a written document in relation to an assessment which sets out clear and unambiguous criteria against which Learners’ levels of attainment will be differentiated.

Condition G2 - Language of the assessment

G2.1 An awarding organisation must ensure that all Learners taking its qualifications in England are assessed in English, except to the extent that the use of another language is permitted by this condition.

G2.2 A Learner taking a qualification may be assessed in British Sign Language where it is permitted by an awarding organisation for the purpose of Reasonable Adjustment.

  1. G2.3 A Learner taking a qualification may be assessed in any other language where it is one of the primary objectives of the qualification –
    1. (a) for the Learner to gain knowledge of, skills in, and understanding of that language, or
    2. (b) to support a role in the workplace, providing that proficiency in English is not required for the role supported by the qualification.

G2.4 Where an awarding organisation makes available a qualification in more than one language, the awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to ensure that assessments in different languages ensure a consistent Level of Demand for Learners.

Condition G3 - Use of language and Stimulus Materials

G3.1 An awarding organisation must ensure that assessments for qualifications which it makes available use only appropriate language and Stimulus Materials.

  1. G3.2 Language and Stimulus Materials are only appropriate if they –
    1. (a) enable Learners to demonstrate their level of attainment,
    2. (b) require knowledge, skills and understanding which are required for the qualification,
    3. (c) are clear and unambiguous (unless ambiguity forms part of the assessment), and
    4. (d) are not likely to cause unnecessary offence to Learners.
  1. G3.3 In considering whether language and Stimulus Materials for an assessment are appropriate, an awarding organisation must take into account in particular –
    1. (a) the age of Learners who may reasonably be expected to take the qualification,
    2. (b) the level of the qualification,
    3. (c) the objective of the qualification, and
    4. (d) the knowledge, skills and understanding assessed for the qualification.

G3.4 An awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to ensure that no assessment for a qualification which it makes available contains language or Stimulus Materials which could lead a group of Learners who share a common attribute or circumstance to experience – because of that attribute or circumstance – an unreasonable disadvantage in the level of attainment that they are able to demonstrate in the assessment.

Condition G4 - Maintaining confidentiality of assessment materials

  1. G4.1 Where confidentiality in –
    1. (a) the contents of assessment materials, or
    2. (b) information about the assessment,
  2. is required in order to ensure that a qualification which an awarding organisation makes available, or proposes to make available, reflects an accurate measure of attainment, the awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to ensure that such confidentiality is maintained.
  1. G4.2 An awarding organisation –
    1. (a) must take all reasonable steps to ensure that such confidentiality is maintained where it (or any person connected or previously connected to it) provides training or training materials in relation to such a qualification,
    2. (b) must not provide or endorse any prohibited training, and
    3. (c) must take all reasonable steps to ensure that any person connected or previously connected to it does not provide or endorse any prohibited training.
  1. G4.3 For the purposes of this condition, ‘prohibited training’ is training –
    1. (a) provided to Teachers in relation to such a qualification,
    2. (b) at which a number of persons are present (whether physically or remotely by means of simultaneous electronic communication),
    3. (c) where any one of those persons holds information in relation to the content of assessment materials or information about the assessment for that qualification, and
    4. (d) where disclosure of the information to Teachers would breach such confidentiality.
  1. G4.4 An awarding organisation must, in respect of any training it provides to Teachers in relation to such a qualification (and, in relation to any such training provided by any person connected to it, must take all reasonable steps to) –
    1. (a) ensure that the training is reasonably available to all Teachers preparing Learners, or persons likely to become Learners, for assessments for that qualification,
    2. (b) advertise to Teachers the availability of the training, including in particular by publishing details of the training, and
    3. (c) publish the content of any training materials which have been provided to Teachers in connection with the training, as soon as reasonably practicable after the training has been held.
  1. G4.5 An awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to ensure that -
    1. (a) no person connected to it, or previously connected to it, and
    2. (b) in particular, no Teacher or other third party who has had access to confidential assessment materials,
  2. discloses, or offers to disclose, information about any assessment or the content of any assessment materials where that information is (or is said or implied to be) confidential.
  1. G4.6 Where any breach of such confidentiality (including through the loss or theft of confidential assessment materials) is either suspected by an awarding organisation or alleged by any other person and where there are reasonable grounds for that suspicion or allegation, the awarding organisation must:
    1. (a) investigate that breach,
    2. (b) ensure that such an investigation is carried out rigorously, effectively, and by persons of appropriate competence who have no personal interest in its outcome, and
    3. (c) so far as possible, establish whether or not a breach of such confidentiality has occurred.

Condition G5 - Registration of Learners

  1. G5.1 An awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to ensure that –
    1. (a) each Learner taking a qualification which the awarding organisation makes available is registered in a way that permits the Learner to be clearly and uniquely identified, and
    2. (b) where the identity of a Learner has not previously been confirmed to the awarding organisation, or the Centre at which the assessment will take place, arrangements are in place to confirm the Learner’s identity.

Condition G6 - Arrangements for Reasonable Adjustments

G6.1 For the purposes of this condition, Reasonable Adjustments are adjustments made to an assessment for a qualification so as to enable a disabled Learner to demonstrate his or her knowledge, skills and understanding to the levels of attainment required by the specification for that qualification.

G6.2 An awarding organisation must, in accordance with Equalities Law, have in place clear arrangements for making Reasonable Adjustments in relation to qualifications which it makes available.

  1. G6.3 An awarding organisation must publish details of its arrangements for making Reasonable Adjustments, which must include details as to –
    1. (a) how a Learner qualifies for a Reasonable Adjustment, and
    2. (b) what Reasonable Adjustment will be made.

Condition G7 - Arrangements for Special Consideration

  1. G7.1 For the purposes of this condition, Special Consideration is consideration to be given to a Learner who has temporarily experienced –
    1. (a) an illness or injury, or
    2. (b) some other event outside of the Learner’s control, which has had, or is reasonably likely to have had, a material effect on that Learner’s ability to take an assessment or demonstrate his or her level of attainment in an assessment.

G7.2 An awarding organisation must have in place clear arrangements for Special Consideration to be given to Learners in relation to qualifications which it makes available.

  1. G7.3 An awarding organisation must publish details of its arrangements for giving Special Consideration, which must include details as to –
    1. (a) how a Learner qualifies for Special Consideration, and
    2. (b) what Special Consideration will be given.

Condition G8 - Completion of the assessment under the required conditions

  1. G8.1 An awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to ensure that, in relation to qualifications which it makes available –
    1. (a) evidence generated by a Learner in an assessment is generated by that Learner (or includes evidence generated by that Learner as a contribution to group work), and
    2. (b) where an assessment is required to be completed under specified conditions, Learners complete the assessment under those conditions (other than where any Reasonable Adjustments or Special Consideration require alternative conditions).

Condition G9 - Delivering the assessment

G9.1 An awarding organisation must ensure that every assessment for a qualification that it makes available is delivered effectively and efficiently.

  1. G9.2 An awarding organisation must ensure that, on delivery of every assessment for a qualification that it makes available, the assessment:
    1. (a) is fit for purpose,
    2. (b) permits Reasonable Adjustments to be made, while minimising the need for them,
    3. (c) allows each Learner to generate evidence which can be Authenticated,
    4. (d) allows each specified level of attainment detailed in the specification to be reached by a Learner who has attained the required level of knowledge, skills and understanding, and
    5. (e) allows Assessors to be able to differentiate accurately and consistently between a range of attainments by Learners.
  1. G9.3 An awarding organisation must ensure that, on delivery of every assessment for a qualification that it makes available, the content of the assessment:
    1. (a) is fit for purpose,
    2. (b) is appropriate for the method of assessment chosen, and
    3. (c) is consistent with the specification for that qualification.


Guidance on how to comply with these rules

Guidance on Condition G1

Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • sets assessments, or where applicable, ensures that its Centres set assessments, which:
    • include only content that is drawn from the knowledge, skills and understanding in the specification and which ensure that the Level of Demand of the assessment is consistent with previous assessments;
    • make it possible for Learners to demonstrate, and the awarding organisation or Centre to measure, the extent to which they have the knowledge, skills and understanding required by the qualification;
    • allow the specified level of attainment set out in the specification to be reached by a Learner who has attained the required level of knowledge, skills and understanding;
    • use methods of assessment that are valid and are appropriate to the knowledge, skills and understanding being measured;
    • effectively differentiate between Learners (that is, solely on the basis of the knowledge, skills and understanding being assessed);
    • accurately measure the knowledge, skills and understanding they are intended to measure;
  • additionally, for graded qualifications, sets assessments, or ensures its Centres set assessments, which:
    • cover the full range of demands targeted by the assessment;
    • enable the full range of Learners targeted by the assessment to demonstrate the extent to which they have the knowledge, skills and understanding required by the qualification;
    • enable the awarding organisation to differentiate effectively between Learners (that is, solely on the basis of the knowledge, skills and understanding being assessed) across the range of attainment targeted by the assessment;
  • has a clear rationale for any optional routes through a qualification, combinations or pathways and can explain how, as far as is possible, these are comparable in terms of the Level of Demand and the amount of subject content required to be taught and on which Learners will be assessed;
  • keeps its assessments under review, amending them where necessary, to ensure they remain fit for purpose, for example by reflecting new requirements, good practice or legislation.

Examples of ‘negative indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is not likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • sets assessments which:
    • do not allow it to measure the extent to which Learners have the knowledge, skills and understanding required by the qualification;
    • are not manageable for Centres or Learners, for example because of the availability of equipment, materials or resources;
    • discriminate between Learners on the basis of factors other than the knowledge, skills and understanding being measured by the qualification, for example because of the context in which questions/tasks are set;
    • include content which is not covered by the specification;
    • have options, routes or pathways through the qualification which are not of the same Level of Demand;
  • uses an assessment procedure which does not measure the knowledge, skills and understanding required by the qualification with sufficient accuracy;
  • does not take appropriate corrective action where it identifies assessments which do not meet these requirements.

Guidance on Condition G3

Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • ensures that language and Stimulus Materials are clear, precise and understandable for Learners, unless understanding ambiguous and/or complex language is part of the knowledge, skills and understanding being assessed by the qualification. This could include, but is not limited to:
    • using straightforward sentence structures with accurate punctuation;
    • using language and vocabulary suitable for the level, context and subject of the assessment and for the expected age and ability of Learners;
    • avoiding unnecessarily dense text, unnecessary words, metaphors or redundant information;
    • avoiding unnecessary pictures or diagrams;
    • only using Stimulus Materials where these support valid assessment of the knowledge, skills and understanding being measured;
    • using command words which are appropriate to the level, context and subject of the assessment and using these consistently and correctly;
  • ensures that, where it uses Stimulus Materials, these:
    • are error-free, clear and easy to understand (unless dealing with ambiguity and/or understanding complex language are part of the knowledge, skills and understanding being assessed);
    • have a clearly defined purpose;
    • are presented in a format that is likely to be familiar to Learners (unless the interpretation of unfamiliar formats is part of the assessment);
    • use contexts that, as far as possible, do not advantage Learners that have had a particular experience over those that have not, where this experience is not a requirement of the knowledge, skills and understanding being assessed;
  • uses language and Stimulus Materials which allow a valid assessment of the knowledge, skills and understanding being assessed and which, as far as possible, allow Learners to demonstrate their level of attainment in these;
  • uses language and Stimulus Materials which do not unfairly advantage or disadvantage Learners, including those who share a particular characteristic or experience, on grounds other than their attainment of the knowledge, skills and understanding being assessed by the qualification. Such characteristics and experiences could include, but are not limited to:
    • the Protected Characteristics of age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, or sexual orientation;
    • experiences that are more likely to be familiar to particular cultural or social groups;
    • prior knowledge that does not form part of the knowledge, skills or understanding being assessed;
    • language comprehension where this is not part of the knowledge, skills or understanding being assessed;
  • ensures that, as far as possible, assessments are free from bias on the basis of Protected Characteristics, stereotyping, or language which may cause offence;
  • seeks feedback from Centres, gathers and analyses information (for example about complaints received and the performance of Learners) to identify issues with its use of language or Stimulus Materials;
  • uses feedback to inform its development of valid assessments and qualifications and to provide feedback and training for staff who develop assessment materials.

Examples of ‘negative indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is not likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • uses language or Stimulus Materials which:
    • include unnecessary negative, narrow or stereotypical representations of particular groups;
    • are unnecessarily complex or irrelevant to the knowledge, skills or understanding being assessed;
    • include pictures or diagrams which are not relevant to the knowledge, skills and understanding being assessed or which are not required to be able to answer questions;
    • include unclear information;
    • are open to different interpretations by Learners where such interpretation does not form part of the assessment;
  • is not aware of, or does not act appropriately to consider and where possible mitigate, circumstances where Learners or groups of Learners have been disadvantaged as a result of language or Stimulus Materials;
  • does not take action to reduce or remove any disadvantage that has been caused by its use of language or Stimulus Materials for current and future Learners.

Guidance on Condition G4

In the guidance below ‘confidential assessment information’ refers to both the contents of assessment materials and information about the assessment in relation to which confidentiality must be maintained under Condition G4.1.

Third party activities covered by Condition G4

An awarding organisation must ensure that it takes appropriate steps to meet the requirements of Condition G4 in relation to its own employees.

Awarding organisations are also likely to contract with a variety of third parties in relation to the development and delivery of assessments, many of whom will have access to confidential assessment information. This will include not only those persons who set questions and quality assure the assessments but also those involved in printing assessments and distributing them to Centres. For online assessments it may also include any third party that hosts the platform through which an assessment is provided.

Condition G4.1 requires an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to ensure confidentiality is not breached by anyone during any part of the assessment development and delivery process.

For the purposes of Conditions G4.3 to G4.5, awarding organisations should also remember that the term ‘Teacher’, as defined in Condition J1.8, includes not only qualified teaching staff in schools and colleges, but also covers home-schooling parents, private tutors and employers providing training to Learners in relation to vocational qualifications.

Confidential information

Condition G4.1 refers to confidentiality in respect of:

  1. (a) the contents of assessment materials, and
  2. (b) information about the assessment for a qualification.

This covers any information which, if divulged inappropriately, could impact on the validity and/or reliability of an assessment. Information about when or how particular knowledge, skills or understanding will be assessed will be confidential if the assessment was designed in a way that assumes the Learner will not know that information before taking the assessment.

For some assessments, it might be enough to maintain confidentiality in relation to information about specific questions. For other assessments, knowledge of a broad overview about the topics to be set or the general structure of the paper might compromise the ability of the assessment to measure the Learner’s attainment effectively.

Examples of training that is not prohibited

Provided that confidentiality, as defined by Condition G4.1, is not breached and all other regulatory requirements are met, training for Teachers can be delivered if it:

  • does not relate to a particular regulated qualification; or
  • is about a particular regulated qualification but does not involve the presence of anyone with information about that qualification that must not be shared with Teachers and Learners. This could include where the training is attended by persons who:
    • had sight of the contents of previous assessments that are part of the current specification but have no confidential information on assessments that have yet to be taken; or
    • had confidential information about assessments for an earlier specification for the same qualification but do not have confidential assessment information in relation to the current specification.

Where a staff member with confidential information about qualification A attends a training event in relation to qualification B, that training will not become prohibited training simply because an attendee asks, or might ask, a question about qualification A. If the answer to the question would involve the staff member breaching confidentiality, he or she should simply decline to answer it, and could refer the questioner to publicly available information.

Condition G4.2 concerns the provision of training. ‘Training’ should be given its ordinary meaning and, in general terms, will usually encompass meetings – attended either in person or remotely – at which attendees are either taught a particular skill or provided with information in relation to a particular regulated qualification, with the aim of better equipping them to deliver that qualification. The obligations in Conditions G4.2 and G4.4 will not, therefore, apply to meetings with Teachers where the purpose is to facilitate the development or design of a particular regulated qualification by an awarding organisation.

However, it is important to note that meetings with Teachers, at which the primary purpose is not to provide training, may incorporate a training element. We expect awarding organisations to consider carefully whether each particular meeting with Teachers will provide training to them and, if so, whether any such training will adhere to the requirements in Conditions G4.2(a) and G4.4.

Likewise, a staff member with confidential information will not automatically be providing prohibited training if he or she takes a telephone call from, or otherwise talks to, a Teacher. However, prohibited training will include one-to-one training where all of the elements of the definition in Condition G4.2 are met. The staff member, therefore, must not disclose confidential information when answering a question.

Pre-recorded training – such as a webinar – from someone with confidential information will not fall within the definition of ‘prohibited training’ under Condition G4.3 because that person would not be ‘present’ under the definition of that term in Condition G4.3(b), which concerns the use of simultaneous electronic communication. The awarding organisation would, of course, need to comply with Condition G4.2(a) in that the pre-recorded training could not disclose information that would breach Condition G4.1. It must also comply with the obligation under Condition G4.4(c) concerning the publication of training materials.

The above examples are for illustrative purposes only and are not exhaustive.

Training on Centre-marked assessment

Condition G4 allows a distinction to be made between:

  1. (a) information that can be shared with Teachers that they must not then pass on to their Learners (for example, in the context of training on how to conduct Centre-marked assessments); and
  2. (b) information that neither Teachers nor Learners should see because this would breach the requirement of confidentiality in Condition G4.1.

So, for example, if an awarding organisation was to share model answers or exemplar work at a training event where Teachers were being standardised in relation to Centre-marked assessments, this would be permissible under Condition G4.2(b). This is because the event falls outside the definition of ‘prohibited training’.

However, although the disclosure of such information to Teachers would not breach confidentiality as defined by Condition G4.1, an awarding organisation must take all reasonable steps to ensure that such information is not passed on to Learners where this would affect the ability of the assessment to reflect an accurate measure of attainment.

A person can attend a training event if he or she holds only confidential information in relation to the qualification that, if disclosed to Teachers, would not breach the requirement of confidentiality in Condition G4.1. One such example would be if the person held confidential information in relation to the standardisation of marking in Centre-marked assessment only.

However, a person could not attend such training if he or she holds confidential information in relation to external assessment for that qualification as that information, if disclosed to Teachers, would breach the requirement of confidentiality in Condition G4.1.

Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • is clear which assessment materials and information are confidential;
  • monitors who has had access to confidential assessment information and the extent to which this is the case (for example if they have seen entire assessments or parts or assessments), for each of its qualifications;
  • trains relevant staff about how to protect confidential assessment information, including during interactions with Teachers;
  • puts in place and monitors the application of confidentiality policies and processes for its staff and third parties, which include –
    • details on how to maintain confidentiality during interactions with Teachers; and
    • provision in relation to the protection of confidentiality by staff and third parties who have access to confidential assessment information through the assessment development process, including quality assurance (in relation to which, see our overarching guidance on safeguarding confidentiality where Teachers are involved in developing assessments);
  • makes sure that, where it provides training to Centres about how to set, deliver or mark assessments, the Centre is trained on how to protect confidential assessment information and maintain confidentiality, and the training itself is designed and delivered to minimise the risk of a breach of confidentiality by the future disclosure of materials provided in connection with the training;
  • monitors the training and training materials that it delivers to make sure confidential information is not shared at events, for example by:
    • reviewing training materials before they are used;
    • reviewing recordings of training events;
    • sending observers to monitor samples of training events;
  • requires all current (and former) staff and third parties who have had access to confidential assessment information in relation to a particular qualification to apply in writing for the awarding organisation’s permission before providing, endorsing or attending any Teacher training events in respect of that qualification, and only gives permission where doing so would not lead to prohibited training taking place;
  • puts all presentations and other training materials used at its Teacher training events on its website (or in a secure area of its website accessible to all Teachers for the qualification), clearly linked from the pages containing the relevant qualification specifications;
  • has on record clear terms of reference for the investigations it has undertaken into suspected or alleged breaches of confidentiality;
  • has on record a log of all allegations of breaches of confidentiality, including those that were not investigated, that it can cross-reference if new information is provided.

The awarding organisation:

  • takes all reasonable steps to ensure that resources designed to support the preparation of Learners which are prepared by current (and former) staff and third parties who have confidential assessment information in relation to that qualification do not compromise the confidentiality of assessments for that qualification;
  • trains relevant staff about how to protect confidential assessment information, including during the preparation of any resources designed to support the preparation of Learners, for a qualification in respect of which they have access to confidential assessment information;
  • requires all current (and former) staff and third parties who have confidential assessment information to notify the awarding organisation promptly of all instances in which they have been, or are currently, involved in the preparation of a resource designed to support the preparation of Learners for a qualification in respect of which they have access to confidential assessment information. This does not apply to the preparation of teaching resources or materials by a current (or former) third party exclusively for Learners that he or she teaches;
  • monitors assessments set by all current (and former) staff and third parties who are, or have been, involved in the preparation of a resource designed to support the preparation of Learners for assessments for the same qualification in respect of which they have confidential assessment information, to ensure that the confidentiality of those assessments has not been compromised by that resource. This does not apply to the preparation of teaching resources or materials by a current (or former) third party exclusively for Learners that he or she teaches.

Examples of ‘negative indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is not likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • does not make sure its confidentiality policies and processes for staff and third parties are up to date and followed;
  • does not ensure that its conflict of interest records maintained under Condition A4.3 are up to date and contain details of all relevant conflicts in relation to staff and third parties who hold confidential assessment information;
  • provides Teacher training events where current (or former) staff or third parties are present in the audience who have had access to assessment information in relation to that qualification which is still confidential
  • provides material information about an assessment to Teachers at a training event that is additional to, or contradicts, its published information regarding the relevant qualification, without publishing that information as soon as reasonably practicable after the training event;
  • does not take all reasonable steps to establish whether its staff or third parties with access to confidential assessment material provide, or intend to provide, Teacher training relating to the qualification (whether privately or through another organisation);
  • has not properly considered evidence collected during an investigation into a suspected or alleged breach of confidentiality;
  • has not contacted relevant parties that are critical to an investigation into a suspected or alleged breach of confidentiality, or to the outcomes of that investigation;
  • has not kept records and documents relating to the breach of confidentiality and the investigation for an appropriate period
  • does not make sure its confidentiality policies and processes for staff and third parties are up to date and followed;
  • does not ensure that its conflict of interest records maintained under Condition A4.3 are up to date and contain details of all relevant conflicts in relation to staff and third parties who hold confidential assessment information;
  • provides Teacher training events where current (or former) staff or third parties are present in the audience who have had access to assessment information in relation to that qualification which is still confidential
  • provides material information about an assessment to Teachers at a training event that is additional to, or contradicts, its published information regarding the relevant qualification, without publishing that information as soon as reasonably practicable after the training event;
  • does not take all reasonable steps to establish whether its staff or third parties with access to confidential assessment material provide, or intend to provide, Teacher training relating to the qualification (whether privately or through another organisation);
  • has not properly considered evidence collected during an investigation into a suspected or alleged breach of confidentiality;
  • has not contacted relevant parties that are critical to an investigation into a suspected or alleged breach of confidentiality, or to the outcomes of that investigation;
  • has not kept records and documents relating to the breach of confidentiality and the investigation for an appropriate period.

Guidance on Condition G6

Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • is aware, and ensures that its staff are aware, of its responsibilities under Equalities Law (including maintaining an up-to-date knowledge of any changes);
  • engages with relevant stakeholders and representative groups to make sure its arrangements for Reasonable Adjustments meet its responsibilities on an ongoing basis;
  • considers the Reasonable Adjustments any disabled Learners might need;
  • where decisions about Reasonable Adjustments are delegated to Centres, ensures that, through its agreement with Centres, its arrangements for Reasonable Adjustments are delivered effectively;
  • makes information available to Centres and Learners about:
    • entitlements under equalities law for disabled learners to request a Reasonable Adjustment and any restrictions that apply to this;
    • how to apply for a Reasonable Adjustment;
    • the evidence that should support the application for a Reasonable Adjustment;
    • the timelines for applying for a Reasonable Adjustment;
    • how the awarding organisation will decide whether a Learner should be given a particular Reasonable Adjustment;
    • how a Reasonable Adjustment will be made and any information, such as about equipment or time, the Centre needs to be able to do this; and
    • the process for Centres or Learners to appeal against an awarding organisation’s decision not to make a Reasonable Adjustment or a specific Reasonable Adjustment;
  • makes Reasonable Adjustments available so that disabled Learners can demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding;
  • considers each application or request for a Reasonable Adjustment on the basis of relevant information, or ensures that Centres do this where the decision has been delegated and:
    • applies appropriate criteria, which are clear and consistent for determining each application;
    • where it rejects an application, provides a clear reason to the Centre or Learner and, where appropriate, suggests suitable alternative Reasonable Adjustments to those requested;
    • provides a process for the Centre or Learner to appeal against its decision;
    • keeps a record of the decisions it makes;
  • does not make, or allow Centres to make, a Reasonable Adjustment which:
    • would prevent the qualification from providing a reliable indication of the extent to which a Learner has the knowledge, skills and understanding being measured;
    • would alter the knowledge, skills and understanding being measured as opposed to the way they are demonstrated; or
    • unfairly advantages or disadvantages any Learner or group of Learners, whether or not they have had a Reasonable Adjustment applied;
  • collects and analyses data on the number of requests for Reasonable Adjustments made and approved. This could include, for example, requests for each qualification or Centre;
  • collects and analyses information about complaints about Reasonable Adjustments or about decisions relating to them;
  • uses information, intelligence and data to identify and prevent potential misuse of Reasonable Adjustments by Centres and acts on any findings;
  • monitors each Centre’s application and use of Reasonable Adjustments and takes action where it is not making Reasonable Adjustments appropriately. The checks are regular and detailed enough to identify potential misuse of Reasonable Adjustments;
  • reviews and evaluates the effectiveness of its arrangements for Reasonable Adjustments, taking account of its own data and monitoring, information from Centres, Learners, Users of qualifications, Ofqual requirements and any other relevant guidance (for example from the Equality and Human Rights Commission) or case law. It uses this information to inform the design of its qualifications and makes necessary improvements in a timely and effective manner.

Examples of ‘negative indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is not likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • fails to:
    • make its approach to Reasonable Adjustments clear;
    • make appropriate Reasonable Adjustments available;
    • determine requests for Reasonable Adjustments in a fair, timely and consistent way;
    • consider requests for Reasonable Adjustments from Centres or Learners;
    • respond appropriately to complaints about its arrangements for Reasonable Adjustments;
    • ensure that where it delegates decisions on Reasonable Adjustments to Centres, the Centre follows its requirements;
  • does not make appropriate Reasonable Adjustments available that allow Learners to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding being measured;
  • does not understand or comply with its duties under Equalities Law to make Reasonable Adjustments;
  • makes a Reasonable Adjustment which is prohibited by Ofqual’s specifications under section 96 of the Equality Act 2010;
  • does not monitor, in a way that would enable it to identify any misuse, how centres are using Reasonable Adjustments;
  • approves, or allows Centres to approve, requests for Reasonable Adjustments which:
    • are not based on sufficient evidence of how the Learner’s disability affects their ability to demonstrate the knowledge, skills and understanding being measured; or
    • unfairly advantage or disadvantage any Learner or group of Learners, whether or not they have had a Reasonable Adjustment applied;
  • rejects, or allows Centres to reject, requests for Reasonable Adjustments which meet the criteria it has set out for that Reasonable Adjustment to be applied, or does not provide a clear reason to the Centre or Learner where it rejects a request.

Guidance on Condition G7

Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • sets out clearly the types of Special Consideration, if any, that are appropriate for each qualification for Learners who have suffered an illness, injury or other event outside of their control. Special Consideration could include, but is not limited to:
    • an adjustment to a Learner’s mark for a Learner whose performance in an assessment has been affected;
    • an adjustment to the arrangements for accessing an assessment for a Learner who is not disabled, but whose ability to access the assessment has been affected by an injury or illness;
    • carrying over the fee for an assessment that the Learner was unable to take to a later assessment opportunity;
  • has clear and consistent processes, which it communicates clearly to Centres or Learners, setting out:
    • whether Special Consideration is available for a particular qualification or assessment and if so the types of Special Consideration that may be made;
    • the point in the assessment process at which Special Consideration will be applied;
    • where Special Consideration is available for Learners who have not completed all of the assessments, the minimum amount of assessment evidence the Learner must have completed before a qualification can be awarded;
    • the eligibility criteria and evidence requirements to support a request for Special Consideration;
    • the process and timelines for applying for Special Consideration;
    • how the eligibility criteria will be applied in each case to make a decision about whether to approve Special Consideration for a Learner;
    • the process for Centres or Learners to appeal against a decision not to grant Special Consideration;
  • ensures that in each case where it allows Special Consideration, it is applied appropriately and consistently, balancing the need to ensure that the qualification gives a reliable indication of the knowledge, skills and understanding being measured, with the need to ensure that as far as possible, Learners are not disadvantaged because of an illness, injury, or other event outside of their control;
  • takes into account the qualification’s objective when it decides the types of Special Consideration, if any, that should be available – types of Special Consideration available could include, but are not limited to:
    • awarding additional marks where a Learner has been able to take an exam but where their performance has been affected by an illness, injury or other exceptional event outside of their control;
    • making arrangements to allow a Learner to access an exam, such as providing assistance to write in a written exam for a Learner who has suffered an injury which prevents them from writing;
    • allowing an alternative assessment opportunity for the Learner at a later date;
  • does not provide Special Consideration where this would alter or prevent the qualification from providing a reliable indication of the knowledge, skills and understanding being measured by the assessment objectives;
  • does not provide Special Consideration where this would unfairly advantage or disadvantage Learners;
  • ensures that Learners who have experienced an illness, injury or other event outside of their control, which will affect their ability to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding, are not unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged, as far as is possible, where Special Consideration is applied;
  • considers each application for Special Consideration and:
    • applies clear and consistent criteria for determining each application, so that like cases are treated alike;
    • where issues affect a whole Centre or a number of Centres (for example flooding) considers the need for consistency in similar cases, including between other relevant awarding organisations;
    • where it rejects an application, provides a clear reason to the Centre or Learner;
    • provides a process for the Centre or Learner to appeal against its decision;
    • keeps a record of the decisions it makes;
  • collects and analyses data on the number of requests for Special Consideration made and approved. This could include, for example, requests by qualification, subject and Centre and the impact of any requests approved, for example changes to overall results;
  • uses data to identify and prevent potential misuse of Special Consideration by a Centre and acts on any findings;
  • has a process in place to monitor each Centre’s applications for Special Consideration and takes action where a Centre is not using the provision appropriately. The checks are sufficiently regular and detailed to identify misuse of Special Consideration;
  • reviews and evaluates the effectiveness of its arrangements for Special Consideration, taking account of its own monitoring, information from Centres, Learners, Users of qualifications and any Ofqual requirements.

Examples of ‘negative indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is not likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • fails to:
    • make its approach to Special Consideration clear, including, where relevant, being clear about where Special Consideration is not available;
    • determine requests for Special Consideration in a fair, timely and consistent way;
    • consider requests for Special Consideration, where it is allowed, from Centres or Learners;
    • respond appropriately to complaints about its arrangements for Special Consideration;
  • does not monitor, in a way that would enable it to identify any misuse, how Centres are using Special Consideration;
  • approves requests for Special Consideration which:
    • are not based on sufficient evidence; or
    • unfairly advantage any Learner or group of Learners, whether or not they have had a Special Consideration applied;
  • rejects requests for Special Consideration which meet the criteria it has set out for that Special Consideration to be applied.

Guidance on Condition G8

Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • designs its qualifications so that:
    • the conditions under which assessments or tasks must be completed are able to be delivered by Centres and Assessors;
    • as far as is possible, the awarding organisation, Centres or Assessors can determine whether work has been produced by the Learner being assessed;
  • considers the possible risks to assessments being completed under the specified conditions or to being able to authenticate Learners’ work and designs assessments (for each assessment or subject) and tasks to mitigate these risks;
  • sets clear requirements for the conditions under which Learners must complete the assessment and communicates these clearly to Centres, ensuring appropriate guidance and support (which could include training) is provided, including for relevant Centre staff. These could include, but are not limited to, requirements for:
    • the resources or materials required for Learners to complete the assessment;
    • its expectations of Centres and their staff in relation to ensuring the assessment is completed under the required conditions and that work is completed by the Learner for whom it is submitted;
    • conducting the assessment, including where appropriate, the environment/location and conditions under which it must be completed;
    • any relevant administrative and security arrangements, such as restrictions on the timing of access to assessment materials;
    • any invigilation, supervision or verification arrangements;
    • the way in which any practical assessments must be conducted;
    • any restriction on the number of occasions on which the assessment can be undertaken;
    • the way in which any group work is assessed and how the knowledge and skills of each individual Learner should be identified;
    • the extent, if any, to which Learners can redraft or refine their work and benefit from Centre feedback;
    • how it will enforce its requirements, check that Centres follow them and the possible sanctions if they do not;
    • where Centres set and deliver assessments, ensures that Centres have in place appropriate arrangements to meet the awarding organisation’s requirements;
  • takes all reasonable steps to ensure that the Learner has produced the work being assessed. These could include, but are not limited to:
    • requiring Centres to identify Learners using methods such as photographic identification, signatures or other unique identifiers to confirm that the Learner is who they say they are;
    • requiring declarations that the work has been produced by the Learner for whom it is being submitted, for example a statement by the Learner, and/or the Centre and/or an Assessor, depending on the nature of the assessment;
    • determining the contribution made by individual Learners to group tasks and assessments;
    • making arrangements to ensure that work submitted by private/external candidates has been produced by the Learner;
    • ensuring relevant Centre and awarding organisation staff are trained on how to identify where a Learner’s work may not be their own and what to do where this is the case;
  • checks that the assessment is completed under the required conditions and that Learners have produced the work being assessed, for example by carrying out regular checks, including some unannounced, on Centres delivering assessments;
  • investigates cases where it believes its requirements are not being met and takes appropriate action where it finds evidence that this is the case. The actions it takes, combined with its monitoring arrangements, are an effective incentive for Centres to comply with their obligations;
  • keeps its processes for ensuring the assessment is completed under the required conditions and that work is produced by the Learner under review. It reviews and acts on feedback from its own monitoring, from Centres, from Ofqual and other relevant sources to improve its arrangements as necessary.

Examples of ‘negative indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is not likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • does not take appropriate steps during the design of the qualification to remove or reduce risks that the assessment is not completed under the required conditions or that Learners’ work cannot be authenticated;
  • does not set, or make available to Centres, clear requirements setting out:
    • the conditions under which assessments must be completed;
    • arrangements for ensuring and confirming that the work being assessed is produced by the Learner;
  • sets requirements which are not manageable for Centres;
  • does not provide appropriate training or support to Centres on its requirements;
  • sets assessments which require group work where it is not possible to determine the contribution of each individual Learner;
  • credits, or allows Centres to credit, Learners for an assessment for which it cannot be satisfactorily verified that the work has been produced by that Learner;
  • allows an assessment to be taken under conditions other than those it has specified, except where a Reasonable Adjustment or Special Consideration applies;
  • does not effectively monitor, to enable it to identify where Centres are not meeting its requirements;
  • does not promptly investigate or take appropriate, effective and consistent action where there is evidence that its requirements are not being met;
  • does not make appropriate changes or improvements to its requirements where it has identified issues with its arrangements.

Guidance on Condition G9

Examples of ‘positive indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • clearly sets out how its assessments must be delivered to ensure that they are valid and delivered effectively and efficiently and communicates its requirements clearly to Centres;
  • ensures that, as far as is possible, all assessments are delivered consistently within and across Centres and in accordance with its requirements, for example by:
    • providing consistent guidance and support (which could include training) for Centres delivering assessments and tasks;
    • providing guidance to Centres about the conditions that are required to ensure that Learners have opportunities to demonstrate their knowledge, skills and understanding under appropriate conditions, including, where appropriate, in the workplace;
  • ensures that all assessments delivered:
    • include content that covers the knowledge, skills and understanding in the specification to the extent required for a particular assessment;
    • use assessment arrangements which deliver valid assessments, whilst ensuring as far as is possible that equipment or materials required are reasonably obtainable for Centres;
    • enable Learners to demonstrate the extent to which they have the knowledge, skills and understanding required by the qualification – for graded qualifications, this should be for the full range of Learners targeted;
    • enable the awarding organisation to differentiate effectively between Learners (that is, on the basis of the knowledge, skills and understanding being assessed) – for graded qualifications this should be across the range of attainment targeted by the assessment;
    • award marks or credits that are representative of the demands of the questions/tasks;
    • can be consistently applied by Assessors, moderators and verifiers to ensure accurate and consistent judgements are made about the attainment of Learners;
  • monitors the way assessments are delivered and the use of appropriate safeguards to identify and authenticate each Learner’s work;
  • only uses group assessments where it is an effective way to assess the skills being measured and where the contribution of each Learner can be identified and authenticated;
  • monitors the delivery of assessments to ensure its requirements are being met, for example by carrying out regular checks on Centres’ practices, and takes action where this is not the case;
  • keeps its arrangements for delivering assessments under review, making changes to its arrangements where necessary to address any issues.

Examples of ‘negative indicators’ that would suggest an awarding organisation is not likely to comply

The awarding organisation:

  • delivers assessments, or permits Centres to deliver assessments, which cannot be delivered efficiently or effectively, for example because:
    • procedures or assessments add unnecessary costs (including those which are not directly incurred) to Centres or Learners;
    • resources and equipment required are not reasonably obtainable for Centres;
    • insufficient information is provided to Centres about the requirements they have to meet;
    • there is insufficient time available for Centres to deliver assessments or tasks to all Learners in line with the awarding organisation’s requirements;
  • uses assessment types in which the work of individual Learners cannot be authenticated, for example:
    • setting assessments or tasks which are completed without supervision and without suitable alternative safeguards in place;
    • setting group tasks where the contribution of individual Learners cannot be distinguished;
  • delivers assessments which do not allow it to measure the extent to which Learners have the knowledge, skills and understanding required by the qualification or which do not differentiate validly between the full range of attainment by Learners;
  • delivers assessments which discriminate between Learners on the basis of factors other than the knowledge, skills and understanding being measured by the qualification, for example:
    • because the language or vocabulary used in an assessment prevents a Learner understanding what is being assessed;
    • because a Learner who is familiar with the context in which an assessment task is set, but which is unrelated to the knowledge and skills being assessed, will be advantaged over a Learner who is unfamiliar with that context.

Guidance on safeguarding confidentiality where Teachers are involved in developing assessments

Introduction

Many awarding organisations use Teachers in the development of assessments, and there can be clear benefits to doing so. Experienced Teachers have detailed subject knowledge and understand how Learners are likely to respond to questions. It requires skill and experience to develop successful exam papers and other forms of assessment. Assessments must be comprehensible to Learners while allowing appropriate differentiation between them. Assessments must not be too predictable, but neither must they stray from what has been taught. They must be capable of being completed within the allocated time and must be of the same level of demand whenever they are taken.

However, we expect awarding organisations to be alive to the risks to confidentiality to which the use of practising Teachers gives rise, and to use appropriate safeguards to ensure compliance with the Conditions.

This guidance identifies a number of Conditions that place obligations on awarding organisations which are relevant to this issue. It also outlines some of the factors that will be relevant in an awarding organisation’s analysis of the strength of the safeguards it needs and gives some examples of the types of safeguards that might be used.

There is no ‘one size fits all approach’ to mitigating the risks of a Teacher misusing confidential information about assessments. Each awarding organisation must use safeguards that are appropriate for each of its qualifications. Responsibility for taking a suitably robust approach to complying with the Conditions sits with each awarding organisation, having had regard to this statutory guidance, as well as the specific guidance in relation to the relevant Conditions.

In the guidance below ‘confidential assessment information’ refers to both the contents of assessment materials, and information about the assessment, in relation to which confidentiality must be maintained under Condition G4.1.

What requirements must an awarding organisation meet?

The Conditions below are especially relevant to the risks around the involvement of Teachers in the development of assessments.

  • Condition A4.2 requires an awarding organisation to identify and monitor all current and reasonably foreseeable conflicts of interest (as defined in Condition A4.1) that relate to it. This will include identifying any relevant teaching roles held by Teachers involved in the development of assessments, and monitoring any such conflict.
  • Condition A4.4 requires an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to ensure that no conflict of interest that relates to it has an Adverse Effect. An awarding organisation is thus required to do everything that it can to ensure that no Teacher involved in developing assessments breaches confidentiality. Where an Adverse Effect does occur, Condition A4.5 requires an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to mitigate that effect as far as possible and correct it.
  • Condition A6.1 requires an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to identify the risk of occurrence of any incident that could have an Adverse Effect. This will include an awarding organisation’s assessment of risk in relation to breaches of confidentiality by Teachers involved in assessment development. Condition A6.2 requires an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to prevent any such incident from occurring and prevent (or if it cannot be prevented, mitigate) any Adverse Effect that the incident would have if it occurred.
  • Where an incident occurs which could have an Adverse Effect, Condition A7.1 requires an awarding organisation to promptly take all reasonable steps to prevent the Adverse Effect – or, where it occurs, to mitigate and correct it as far as possible and give priority to making sure the assessments accurately differentiate between Learners.
  • Condition A8.1 requires an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence of malpractice in the development, delivery or award of qualifications. A deliberate breach of confidentiality in relation to assessments will almost certainly constitute malpractice. Where any such malpractice is reasonably suspected or alleged, Condition A8.2 requires an awarding organisation to investigate it.
  • Where malpractice is established, Condition A8.6 requires an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to prevent it from reoccurring and to take proportionate action against those responsible, or seek the cooperation of third parties in taking such action.
  • Where an awarding organisation arranges for a third party – such as a Teacher – to undertake any part of qualification development on its behalf, Condition C1.1 requires the awarding organisation to (i) ensure that those arrangements enable the awarding organisation to comply with the Conditions, and (ii) to monitor and enforce those arrangements where necessary to ensure compliance with the Conditions.
  • Condition G4.1 requires an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to maintain the confidentiality of the content of, or information about, assessment materials where this is required to ensure the qualification reflects an accurate measure of attainment. In particular, Condition G4.5(b) requires an awarding organisation to take all reasonable steps to ensure that no Teacher or other third party involved in the development of assessments breaches, or offers to breach, such confidentiality.

Factors in deciding what safeguards are appropriate

Each awarding organisation must use safeguards that are appropriate for each of its qualifications.

In determining the package of safeguards that would be appropriate, we expect an awarding organisation to consider all relevant factors. In particular, we expect an awarding organisation to consider the following:

  • The nature and amount of confidential assessment information held by a Teacher – We will expect that the more confidential assessment information that a Teacher has about an assessment – or the greater the effect that its disclosure would have on the fitness for purpose of the assessment – the stronger the package of safeguards an awarding organisation will need to use to meet the requirements of the Conditions.
  • The Teacher’s role in delivering qualifications – We expect that the more directly a Teacher is involved with delivering the qualification for which he or she holds confidential assessment information, the stronger the package of safeguards that will be needed. A stronger package of safeguards should be used for a Teacher currently involved in teaching the relevant qualification, including as a private tutor, than for a Teacher who teaches an alternative qualification (such as one offered by a different awarding organisation), or who is no longer actively teaching.
  • Potential pressures on Teachers to misuse confidential assessment information – We expect that an awarding organisation will take stronger steps to prevent a Teacher inappropriately using confidential assessment information about a qualification used for school or college accountability purposes, or which is particularly high stakes because it directly affects a Learner’s progression options or life chances. This will include, in particular, qualifications that are used for progression to higher education, or which confer a licence to practise.
  • The impact if confidential assessment information is misused – In considering what safeguards to put in place, we expect an awarding organisation to consider the ease with which it could replace assessment materials, or Learners could re-take an assessment, should a Teacher be found to have made inappropriate use of confidential assessment information.

For example, it is likely to be more difficult for an awarding organisation to mitigate the impact of an inappropriate disclosure in relation to a qualification that is assessed once annually, is taken by large numbers, and for which there is a pre-determined results date (such as GCSEs and A levels) than for a qualification for which there are regular assessment opportunities.

Some qualifications will be awarded on the basis of one assessment only, whereas for others, a number of assessments will contribute to the final result. In qualifications for which there are multiple assessments, if one assessment is compromised, a result might be awarded based on a Learner’s performance in the other assessments. The number of assessments that contribute towards a qualification is therefore a further factor for an awarding organisation to consider when determining the ease with which it could mitigate the impact of a breach of confidentiality.

Potential safeguards

Below are some examples of the potential safeguards that an awarding organisation may use to prevent the disclosure of confidential assessment information or to limit any Adverse Effect resulting from such a disclosure. The examples we provide relate to:

  • assessment development and design;
  • support for Teachers and Centres; and
  • detection and deterrence.

Each awarding organisation must consider what (if any) safeguards will be required in relation to each of its qualifications, taking into account all relevant factors, including those outlined in the previous section.

We expect an awarding organisation to consider the appropriate balance between up-front measures to prevent and (if necessary) mitigate the disclosure of confidential assessment information, and end-point measures which allow it quickly to identify and mitigate any disclosure that takes place.

Assessment development and design

  1. (a) Teachers are not involved in developing confidential assessment materials – The surest way for an awarding organisation to guard against Teachers inappropriately using confidential assessment information is to make sure no Teachers have such information. An awarding organisation could choose to keep its assessment production process entirely in-house and not contract services from currently employed Teachers. It could secure any necessary Teacher insights and expertise from recently retired Teachers or Teachers who are taking a break from teaching.

  2. (b) Teachers involved with developing confidential assessment materials cannot teach the qualification – An awarding organisation might stipulate that any Teachers it engages to develop confidential assessment materials must not themselves teach the qualification for which those materials would be used, while those materials remained confidential. Its contractual provisions would need to address the risks of disclosure to teaching colleagues and address the opportunities for the Teacher to work as a private tutor, for example.

  3. While the above two approaches might work well for some qualifications, an awarding organisation would need to balance their use against the different risks to which they could give rise, including to the quality of the assessments developed. In relation to the second example, Teachers might not wish to develop assessments for qualifications they are not allowed to teach. Such a prohibition could limit their ability to change jobs and the options of their Centre to change awarding organisation.

  4. (c) No serving Teacher knows whether or when the assessment materials they have developed or seen will be used – An awarding organisation might commission Teachers to write whole or parts of assessments, but the decision on whether or when the materials would be used would be tightly controlled and not be known to any Teacher. The use of a question bank, or question paper bank, may achieve the necessary degree of uncertainty, although consideration would need to be given to the size of the question bank and the frequency with which it is updated (and it would still need to be made clear to Teachers that information in relation to each question or task within the bank was confidential). We will view each individual item in a bank as confidential. However, the number of items in the bank, and the structure of the relevant assessment, will be relevant to the risks arising from any breach of confidentiality in relation to an individual item, and how easily the Adverse Effect arising from any such breach can be mitigated.

  5. The form and degree of unpredictability needed to make this approach an effective safeguard will vary by qualification. An awarding organisation should consider the number and the nature of the assessment tasks/questions, whether the tasks/questions would be memorable if seen in advance, and whether a Learner who had prior information about the task/question would likely be advantaged over others.

  6. For qualifications such as GCSEs, A levels and the main alternatives, the stakes of the qualification, for both Learners and Centres, are sufficiently high that we will normally expect an awarding organisation to manage its assessment development in such a way so no Teacher of the relevant qualification knows with certainty the content of any specific assessment. Where it does not do so, we will expect an awarding organisation to be able to offer a compelling justification for any alternative approach.

  7. (d) No serving teacher is involved with developing all of the assessments for any one qualification – Where the confidentiality of one assessment has been compromised by a Teacher, an awarding organisation might disregard the affected Learners’ performance in that assessment and estimate their overall mark based on their performance in the other assessments for the qualification, relative to the performance of other Learners who completed all of the assessments (an ‘assessed result’). This will only be possible where there is more than one assessment for the qualification, and not all of those assessments have been compromised by the Teacher’s actions.

  8. An awarding organisation that allows Teachers to develop assessments for qualifications they also teach might ensure that no such Teacher sees all the assessments to be taken by a Learner for that qualification (for example, both exam papers). This would limit the impact, including on Learners, of a Teacher inappropriately using confidential assessment information. It could also assist with the awarding organisation’s monitoring activities as it would allow the awarding organisation to consider whether Learners performed better than expected in the assessment their Teacher had developed or otherwise seen, relative to their performance in their other assessments.

Support for Teachers and Centres

The types of support an awarding organisation might give to a Teacher who holds confidential assessment information include:

  • clear contractual arrangements setting out the Teacher’s obligations with respect to confidential assessment information and any limitations on other roles the Teacher could undertake while information he or she held remained confidential,
  • providing training and advice to the Teacher in relation to maintaining confidentiality of assessment materials and information,
  • having direct contact with the Teacher’s Centre to emphasise the importance of ethical practice, the potential consequences of wrong-doing and the support the Centre might provide the Teacher to avoid deliberately or sub-consciously using the information they hold in an inappropriate way, and
  • requiring annual declarations from the Teacher that he or she understands and will at all times comply with their obligations to protect confidential assessment information.

Where a Teacher has access to confidential assessment information, we will expect an awarding organisation’s contract with that Teacher to at least provide for termination in the event of any deliberate disclosure of such information.

Detection and deterrence

An awarding organisation is required to actively monitor all conflicts of interest that apply to it (Condition A4.2), as well as its contractual arrangements (Condition C1.1(b)). It is also required to take all reasonable steps to prevent:

  • any conflict of interest having an Adverse Effect (Condition A4.4),
  • the occurrence of any incident that could have an Adverse Effect (Condition A6.2(a)),
  • any malpractice in relation to the development and award of qualifications (Condition A8.1), and
  • any breach of confidentiality in relation to confidential assessment information (Condition G4.1).

A Teacher who holds confidential assessment information may be deterred from using that information inappropriately if he or she knows that such use is likely to be detected. We will therefore expect an awarding organisation to consider whether, in view of the risks it faces in relation to a particular qualification, the transparent use of any monitoring procedures will be a reasonable step to take to meet the requirements of the above Conditions.

We will expect awarding organisations to undertake some level of monitoring in relation to high stakes qualifications in relation to which Teachers hold confidential assessment information. We also expect them to investigate thoroughly any allegations or evidence of malpractice.

The monitoring undertaken by an awarding organisation may be shaped by the safeguards that it has put in place at the development stage. For example, more robust upfront safeguards may mean that less rigorous monitoring is required. However, an awarding organisation must always be alive to the risk of a breach of confidentiality – no matter how robust its upfront safeguards – and the need to swiftly identify and deal with any breach that occurs.

Some examples of the types of monitoring and investigation that an awarding organisation could undertake are as follows:

  • reviewing the evidence generated in the relevant assessment by Learners whose Teacher had confidential assessment information to look for any unusual patterns in their responses;
  • in response to allegations of a breach of confidentiality by a Teacher, looks for signs in their teaching plans, teaching materials and formative assessments that they had inappropriately narrowed their teaching or disclosed confidential information;
  • monitoring social media to look for signs that confidential assessment information has been disclosed; and
  • undertaking statistical monitoring to look for unusual results or patterns of results in Centres where Teachers with confidential assessment information are teaching.

In each case an awarding organisation should consider whether a particular type of monitoring or investigation will yield reliable information, whether in isolation or as part of a wider range of evidence.

Examples

We have set out above some general indications as to when we will expect to see stronger safeguards depending on the risks associated with a particular qualification.

The following examples illustrate the different safeguards that an awarding organisation may choose to put in place for qualifications with different risk profiles. These examples are not intended to mandate any particular approach in relation to any particular type of qualification but rather – when read together with the sections above – to aid an awarding organisation’s own consideration of how best to comply with the Conditions.

Example 1

The qualification and associated risks One possible approach
A high stakes qualification used for school accountability purposes, taken by c. 250,000 Learners annually and used to support progression to employment or higher education.

The assessments comprise two unseen written exam papers, each containing six questions from which Learners must attempt three questions.

The nature and number of questions on each paper makes them memorable and, if known in advance, teaching and learning could be narrowed.

The impact of a breach would be high, including because of the numbers of Learners who could be affected and the damage to public confidence.
The awarding organisation considers that Teacher input to developing the assessment materials will enhance the quality of the assessments and, because risks can be managed as set out below, it decides to retain that input.

In light of the potential impact of any breach of confidentiality, and the opportunities to narrow teaching and learning if the exam questions are known in advance, the awarding organisation:
(a) commissions three Teachers to each write questions on specific aspects of the curriculum and requires them to document the assessment objectives and their relative weightings that will be assessed for each question, for use when the exam paper is put together;
(b) ensures that no one Teacher knows which of his or her questions will be used in any particular exam paper in any particular assessment series and does not see the questions developed by the other Teachers;
(c) identifies a permanent member of staff, advised by a recently retired Teacher of the qualification, to select the questions to be used in the two exam papers for any assessment series.
(d) sets out in their contracts the Teachers’ obligations with regard to the confidential materials, and provides for the termination of the contract in the event of disclosure of confidential assessment information by the Teacher;
(e) makes sure each Teacher’s head of Centre knows the role the Teacher has played and that he or she will not know whether or when the questions they have written will be used; and
(f) reviews the Learners’ scripts of at least one of the Teachers each year to look for unusual patterns of responses.

Example 2

The qualification and associated risks One possible approach
A high stakes qualification used for school accountability purposes, taken by c.100,000 Learners annually and used to support progression to employment or higher education.

The assessments comprise three unseen written exam papers, each covering different aspects of the curriculum. Learners must attempt all questions on each paper.

The nature and number of questions on each paper means they are not particularly memorable. The nature of both the subject content and of the exam questions means that, even if the questions were known in advance, teaching and learning the whole of the curriculum would be needed to secure a good mark.

The impact of a breach would be high, including because of the numbers of Learners who could be affected and the damage to public confidence.
The awarding organisation has had difficulties recruiting people with appropriate subject and assessment expertise to develop the assessments. In the longer term it commits to commissioning the writing of multiple papers so no Teacher currently teaching the qualification who develops assessments knows if or when any particular assessment will be used.

In the short term it is concerned the extra workload of such an approach would deter anyone considering applying for an examiner role. It therefore engages two Teachers who currently teach the qualification to each write one of the papers. The third paper is written by a full-time employee who, until recently, had taught the specific aspects of the curriculum assessed by that paper. Neither of the Teachers sees the two papers that they have not written, only the employee sees all three.

The awarding organisation reviews the exam scripts of the Learners who were taught by the two Teachers to look for any unusual patterns of response. It also undertakes a statistical analysis to determine whether the Learners’ performance in the paper their Teacher had developed was out of line with their performance in the other papers, relative to the performance of all Learners taking the qualification. It interviews the Teacher and the Learners, where appropriate, to understand the reasons for any unusual patterns.

Each Teacher’s contract with the awarding organisation sets out the Teacher’s obligations with regard to the confidential assessment information, and provides for the termination of the contract in the event of disclosure of such information by the Teacher.
The awarding organisation makes sure each Teacher’s head of Centre knows the role they have played and advises them of the steps it will take to detect any inappropriate use of the information held by the Teacher.

Example 3

The qualification and associated risks One possible approach
A high stakes qualification for the Learner and for those who rely on the qualification as an indication of competence to practise.

Assessment is by observation of the Learner undertaking a predetermined set of tasks which are well known and will have been practised extensively before undertaking the assessment.

The nature of the assessment is intentionally highly predictable, as the Learners are assessed on their competence in performing a known set of tasks.
As Learners know they will be assessed on their full range of skills, and the assessments are intentionally predictable, the awarding organisation does not consider it necessary to limit who can write the tasks or to use particular safeguards where practitioners who write the tasks also employ people who are preparing for the assessments. It does not therefore adopt any additional safeguards.