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COVID-19 Update

 

Tuesday 24 November 2020

 

Functional Skills Proctoring – Now available with Skillsfirst Awards

 

At Skillsfirst Awards we are very aware that the ongoing covid-19 pandemic is making it very difficult for many of our customers to invigilate Functional Skills exams.

 

Fortunately, our remote invigilation (proctoring) solution is now available, following a six week pilot with more than 320 learners.

 

Our offer includes:

 

 

It is worth noting that our Functional Skills registration fees are also the most competitive in the market - £16 per subject/level, including one free resit.

 

If you are interested in providing this service to your learners and want to find out more please get in touch via workwithus@skillsfirst.co.uk.

 

Thursday 22 October 2020

 

Extension to Legacy Functional Skills English and Maths Levels 1 and 2

 

The Secretary of State for Education has agreed to further extend the certification end dates for legacy Functional Skills qualifications in Maths and English to 31st July 2021.

 

To support our customers and learners, Skillsfirst Awards will be extending our qualifications in line with this date. Hopefully, this will allow sufficient time for learners to complete outstanding assessments given the ongoing disruptions from the COVID-19 pandemic.

 

For information, the final onscreen testing date for learners completing their legacy Functional Skills exams will be Friday 28th May 2021. We do not plan to offer any paper-based assessment opportunities for these qualifications, but will continue to accept reasonable adjustment requests on a case-by-case basis.

 

Please note, as previously communicated, learners have two attempts to pass their legacy exams onscreen in each subject between 3rd August 2020 – 31st May 2021, this does not include any failed attempts prior to these dates.

 

Our final registration and certification dates for ICT Functional Skills remain unchanged (more information can be found here).

 

 

Thursday 24 September 2020

 

Final registration date for Functional Skills ICT Level 1 and 2 qualifications

 

Following the withdrawal of apprenticeship frameworks, Skillsfirst Awards has seen a significant decline in Functional Skills ICT level 1 and 2 registrations, as anticipated.

 

Therefore, our final registration date for these qualifications will be 18th December 2020.

 

To ensure learners are registered with Skillsfirst successfully, please submit registrations no later than 5pm on Tuesday 15th  December 2020. The final certification date for these qualifications is 17th December 2021.

 

We do not plan to offer paper-based assessments for these qualifications in the future, as we have not received a request for more than 12 months. However, we will consider this for the purposes of reasonable adjustments on a case by case basis. If you do have a request for a reasonable adjustment, please contact exams@skillsfirst.co.uk.

 

Please ensure that all centre staff involved in the delivery of ICT Functional Skills are aware of these deadlines, including assessors, tutors, invigilators and administrators.  

 

Currently, it is not our intention to offer Digital Functional Skills or Essential Digital Skills as a replacement for the current Functional Skills ICT Levels 1 and 2 qualifications.

 

 

Extension to onscreen assessment date for legacy English and Maths Functional Skills

 

In light of the ongoing challenges facing the whole sector, we have decided to extend the final date for on-screen exams for legacy Functional Skills English and Maths level 1 and 2 qualifications until Friday 27th November 2020.

 

Hopefully this one month extension will give you a greater opportunity to organise assessments for your learners in a safe environment.

 

Please note, learners will still only have a maximum of two opportunities to take on-screen assessments between 3rd August – 27th November 2020 (this does not include any failed attempts prior to these dates).

 

If learners have not achieved a pass by 27th November, they will need to be registered on the relevant Reformed Functional Skills qualification.

 

Speaking, Listening and Communication (SLC) assessments for legacy Functional Skills English at level 1 and 2 must be completed and submitted to Skillsfirst no later than 27th November 2020.

 

Unfortunately, failure to meet these timescales will result in learners having to be registered on the relevant Reformed Functional Skills qualification.

 

Certification end date remains as 31 December 2020. If you have any queries relating to this update please email exams@skillsfirst.co.uk.

 

 

Monday 21 September 2020

 

Functional Skills Proctoring Update

 

Following discussions with Ofqual and updates to our testing platform, we are delighted to announce that we are aiming to make remote proctoring of Functional Skills exams available to all Skillsfirst customers before the end of 2020.

 

We will be starting a pilot next week with a small number of providers and employers, using the same proctoring software we have used to deliver more than 1,500 EPA tests since lockdown. As you would expect, this will enable us to ensure the systems are working effectively and the integrity of the exams is not compromised.

 

We believe this is one of the most exciting developments in the delivery of Functional Skills exams and will provide great benefits to learners, providers and employers, particularly at the current time.

 

We will provide further updates on the results of the pilot in the next few weeks. Should you wish to find out more please do not hesitate to get in touch.

 

 

Wednesday 19 August 2020

 

Exceptional arrangements for summer 2020

 

Issue of Centre Assessed Grades (CAG) Results

 

We have worked within the VTQ extraordinary regulatory framework provided by Ofqual to issue almost 5k results to learners this summer, enabling them to progress to the next stage of their learning or employment. 

 

The moderation algorithm used in awarding general qualifications was not applied in the awarding of any Skillsfirst Awards vocational qualifications.

 

The model that we have used to calculate grades is bespoke, it is built to the particular features of the qualifications that we offer and is based on the most trusted evidence available. We applied a robust form of quality assurance, often collecting additional evidence to support teacher judgements.

 

We are confident that we have applied our chosen model fairly and in accordance with our processes. Where that is not the case, and learners believe that we have acted outside of the process, they are able to appeal (see information below).

 

As a result, Government’s decision to review the way in which A level and GCSEs are awarded this summer does not impact the results issued by Skillsfirst Awards.

 

Appeals

 

Skillsfirst aims to ensure that all assessments and assessment results are fair, consistent and based on valid judgements.

 

Where an adapted assessment is used, a learner can only appeal the result with their centre. This is in line with Skillsfirst’s Appeals Policy which can be located here.

 

 

Friday 31 July 2020

 

This update includes important information relating to all Skillsfirst Awards Functional Skills qualifications, with changes effective from Monday 3rd August 2020.

 

Please ensure this is shared with all centre staff involved with the administration, delivery and invigilation of Functional Skills.

 

Functional Skills assessments go-live following the CAG process

 

We are pleased to confirm that you will be able to schedule Functional Skills exams from Monday 3rd August 2020.

 

As a centre it is your responsibility to ensure centre staff and learners comply with social distancing measures in the examination room.

 

New exam platform for legacy Functional Skills English, Maths and ICT Levels 1 and 2

 

Skillsfirst will no longer be using the SecureAssess or SecureClient platforms for the scheduling or taking of legacy Functional Skills exams.

 

Effective from Monday 3rd August 2020, all Functional Skills exams will be scheduled and taken within the XAMS platform. This now includes legacy Functional Skills English and Maths as well as ICT Levels 1 and 2.

 

For those centres already using XAMS for Reformed Functional Skills exams, your current logins will allow you to schedule legacy Functional Skills and ICT automatically.

 

Those centres who have not yet used XAMS will need to submit user requests for centre staff. Please complete and return the attached form to exams@skillsfirst.co.uk. If you deliver Functional Skills through one of our awarding organisation (AO) partners, please send the form to them, rather than Skillsfirst.

 

Once your account has been created, you will receive an email confirming your login details. This email will also include a link to our website where you will find our XAMS user guide, as well as all the information you will require to set up the exam platform.

 

Legacy Functional Skills English and Maths Levels 1 and 2 (FSE01, FSE02, FSM01, FSM02) withdrawal plan

 

You will be aware the certification end dates for the above qualifications have been extended until 31 December 2020.

 

On-screen assessments (exams) for the legacy Functional Skills English and Maths Levels 1 and 2 qualifications will be available to learners from 3rd August – 31st October 2020.

 

Learners will have a maximum of two opportunities to take on-screen assessments during this period. If learners fail the assessment after the second attempt, the centre will be required to transfer the learner to the relevant Reformed Functional Skills qualification.

 

In addition, all Speaking, Listening and Communication (SLC) assessments for legacy Functional Skills English Level 1 and 2 qualifications must have been completed and submitted to Skillsfirst no later than 31st October 2020.

Failure to meet these timescales will result in learners having to be registered on the relevant Reformed Functional Skills qualification.

 

Accessing learners’ results in SecureAssess

 

Centres will have access to review all legacy Functional Skills English, Maths and ICT Levels 1 and 2 results up to Friday 28th August 2020, after which time this system will no longer be available. Please ensure you have checked all results by this deadline.

 

Functional Skills ICT Levels 1 and 2

 

For those centres offering Functional Skills ICT Levels 1 and 2, further information will be sent to you early next week regarding the specific changes relating to these exams.

 

Remote invigilation

 

We plan to offer the opportunity for centres to carry out remote invigilation of our Functional Skills exams very soon.

 

To ensure the system is robust and the security of our exams are not at risk, we are currently carrying out testing of the proctoring and XAMS systems. We will be providing further information relating to this, including any related costs very soon.

 

If you have any other queries relating to this update please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk.

 

Tuesday 23 June 2020

 

Exceptional arrangements for awarding qualifications

 

 

To help navigate the approach for qualifications this summer, Ofqual have launched an interactive tool to help navigate the approach for qualifications this summer. The tool allows learners, and the users of these qualifications, to understand what’s happening with the qualifications which matter to them. Find out more here.

 

Friday 12 June 2020

 

Extraordinary Regulatory Framework - Skillsfirst Vocational Qualifications

 

As you will have seen, we recently published our guidance for Centre Assessed Grading (CAG) for Functional Skills qualifications. You can find further information here.

 

Following direction from Ofqual and the Secretary of State for Education, we will also be providing guidance very soon on our approach to adaption of assessments for our other vocational qualifications.

 

This will enable learners who had planned to take assessments between 20th March and 31st July 2020 to progress onto further education and employment without delay.

 

In summary, adaption is proposed for qualifications where:

 

 

Our overall aim is to provide as many learners with sufficiently valid and reliable results this summer as possible. In order to minimise the burden on our centres and learners, delaying or re-scheduling assessments should be the option of last resort.

More comprehensive guidance on our approach to adaption will be issued by 16th June.

 

Tuesday 2 June 2020

 

Functional Skills

 

 

We wanted to take this opportunity to remind our customers that the window for centre assessment grade (CAG) submissions is now open (1st June – 29th June 2020).

 

To ensure your learners are given the opportunity to achieve the functional skills grade they need to progress, please read the guidance provided on our website here. In addition to the guidance, you can also find our template submission forms and FAQs, which we are updating on a daily basis following feedback from centres.

 

Can we also remind you that during the CAG window we are unable to allow Functional Skills live assessments to take place, either in normal invigilation conditions or remotely. This has been stipulated by both the Secretary of State for Education and Ofqual.

 

Finally, we’d like to thank everyone who attended our CAG guidance webinars during the last few days, the feedback from over 100 centres has been very positive. If you believe you would benefit from other webinars of a similar nature, or have any other queries relating to this update please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk.

 

 

Thursday 28 May 2020

 

Functional Skills

 

All information relating to Functional Skills Centre Assessment Grading, can be found here

 

 

Monday 18 May 2020

 

Functional Skills

 

Our Centre Assessment Grading for Functional Skills document can be found here

 

 

Certificate dispatch update

 

We have had a number of queries relating to the dispatch of Skillsfirst certificates during the Covid-19 crisis.

 

Despite the gradual easing of lockdown, for the time being Skillsfirst employees will continue to work from home for their own safety. This means that we are still not printing hard copy certificates at the current time.

 

However, all certificates are still available to view through our secure VERifirst portal. This is available at no cost to providers, learners and employers and enables you to provide evidence of achievements for funding agencies.

 

If you need to set-up access to VERifirst please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk with your request. As soon as we’re able to get back to the office we’ll aim to print your hard copy certificates as quickly as possible.

 

 

Thursday 14 May 2020

 

Customer Service Practitioner Standard

 

IfATE have announced today that the observation within the Customer Service Practitioner end-point assessment (EPA) may be replaced with a witness testimony from someone familiar with the apprentice’s work. The apprentice would then be assessed through Q&A with a Skillsfirst Independent End-point Assessor.

 

This covid-19 temporary discretion has been agreed until further notice and can be found on the individual standard page on the Institutes website.

 

We believe this is a very positive development and will enable many apprentices to complete their apprenticeships.

 

It is important to note:

 

We are aiming to provide more detail on the Expert Witness, Witness Testimony and Witness Testimony Q&A before the end of this week. This will also include information on how Skillsfirst Assess will manage this new discretion.

 

 

Wednesday 6 May 2020

 

EPA - Online proctoring update

 

We hope you continue to keep safe and well during this period of lockdown. We wanted to update you on the progress we have been making with online proctoring for EPA multiple-choice tests during the last two weeks. This solution is currently available for the following standards:

 

 

Encouragingly, all of the live tests we’ve managed so far have been completed successfully and we’ve had some very positive feedback. It’s clear that this is going to be a popular solution, providing the flexibility required to help apprentices complete their apprenticeships.

 

Thus far, members of the Skillsfirst team have been undertaking all of the invigilation to ensure that the proctoring software is working as it should. We were planning to hand invigilation over to providers in the next few days, but have decided to delay this until Tuesday, May 26th. This will enable us to further integrate the proctoring software with our XAMS testing platform. Invigilation will continue to be charged at £10 per test.

 

To ensure we can adequately support each apprentice, we are requesting that any test session does not include more than four apprentices at any time. It is worth noting that apprentices are not aware that they are being invigilated at the same time as others, and that this has no bearing on how long they take to complete their own test.

 

For further information on proctoring and to find out how you can book your apprentices in, please email enquiries@skillsfirstassess.co.uk

 

 

Friday 1 May 2020

 

Functional Skills update

 

We hope you continue to keep safe and well during this period of lockdown.

 

As advised in our functional skills update earlier this week, Ofqual have launched their consultation on proposals for awarding vocational and technical qualifications this summer, including Functional Skills. The consultation is open for responses until 11.45pm on Friday 8th May 2020 and all providers and stakeholders are encouraged to respond.

 

Government policy states that learners due to take functional skills assessments between March 20th and July 31st 2020 should receive a calculated result, rather than an adapted or postponed assessment.

 

In light of this, we believe it would be beneficial if you started to consider the types of evidence that you could submit to support assessor/tutor grade calculation. This could include: 

 

Please note, this is not an exhaustive list, we are working with Ofqual and other awarding organisations to provide detailed guidance for our customers. This will be published following the completion of Ofqual’s consultation.

 

It is also worth highlighting that you will be expected to provide both pass and fail calculated grades for learners due to take assessments between the dates specified above.

 

As always, if you have any queries relating to this update please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk.

 

 

Monday 27 April 2020

 

Functional Skills update

 

We hope you continue to keep safe and well during this period of lockdown. There are a number of significant Functional Skills related updates this morning.

 

Firstly, Ofqual have launched their consultation on proposals for awarding vocational and technical qualifications this summer, including functional skills. This consultation is open for responses until 11.45pm on 8 May 2020.

 

It is important to note that Government policy is that learners due to take a functional skills qualification before the end of the summer should receive a calculated result, rather than an adapted or postponed assessment. You can find further detail on the proposals and a link to the consultation here, all providers and stakeholders are encouraged to respond.

 

Following the outcome of the consultation, Skillsfirst will provide further guidance on the evidence we require from centres to calculate grades.

 

In light of this, the DfE have also announced that ‘the rule requiring level 2 apprentices to study towards, and attempt, the functional skills assessments at level 2 is suspended temporarily’. I’m sure you will agree that this is a sensible development.

 

In addition, the regulation end date for legacy functional skills qualifications has been extended from 31 August 2020 to 31 December 2020. We will update on any potential implications associated with this extension in future updates.

 

As always, if you have any queries relating to this update please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk.

 

 

Thursday 23 April 2020

 

Functional Skills update

 

Following recent meetings with Ofqual and other Functional Skills AOs, we have made the decision to make onscreen Functional Skills exams available for those centres who can deliver them safely to learners.   

 

We understand, given the current lockdown situation, that this will not be possible in many circumstances, as social distancing must be applied from an invigilation perspective. However, we are keen to ensure that learners are able to achieve their qualifications where they can do so safely and within government guidelines.

 

It is likely this current arrangement will be in place until the conclusion of the Functional Skills estimated grades consultation, due to be published early next week.

 

Please note that remote invigilation (via proctoring or other means) has not been agreed by the regulator as an adaptation to the invigilation of Functional Skills qualifications.

 

If you have any queries please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk

 

 

Tuesday 21 April 2020

 

Online Proctoring – EPA exams

 

At Skillsfirst Assess we have been exploring flexible solutions for end-point assessment (EPA).  We are therefore delighted to announce that our online proctoring tool for EPA exams is now ready to launch.

 

This means that apprentices will be able to complete multiple-choice exams from the comfort of their own home, with live invigilation conducted by the provider/employer.

 

 

Full integration with our XAMS testing platform will be complete on 1st May, at which point Skillsfirst Assess customers will be able to schedule and manage their exams on an on-demand basis. In the meantime, we are able to schedule exams on your behalf with 72 hours’ notice. There will be a small fee of £10 per exam to cover the use of additional software.

 

Online proctoring will apply to exams that are included in the following standards:

 

 

To find out more about how you can benefit from online proctoring please contact us at enquiries@skillsfirstassess.co.uk.

 

 

Monday 20 April 2020

 

Functional Skills Update

 

Following our last update, we have been meeting regularly with Ofqual and fellow awarding organisations to ensure a standard approach to estimated grades for Functional Skills qualifications.

 

In light of this, we believe that an Ofqual consultation on plans for estimation will be released later this week. As soon as we can confirm more detail about the content and timescales for response we will let you know.

 

In the meantime, can we ask that any Speaking, Listening and Communication (SLC) assessments that have been recorded as a pass are claimed in our REG system as soon as you are able. This will ensure that we are able to process any estimated grades as quickly and efficiently as possible.

 

Can we also take this opportunity to remind you that - following a request to all awarding organisations from Ofqual - no Functional Skills exams are currently allowed to take place.

 

If you have any queries please contact customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk.

 

 

Thursday 9 April 2020

 

Functional Skills

 

Ofqual have announced that teachers/tutors will be asked to estimate grades for all vocational and technical qualifications which are used for progression to higher and further education, including legacy and reformed Functional Skills. This will apply to all learners who are unable to sit assessments due to the coronavirus crisis

 

The detail of how this will work, including evidence awarding organisations will require from centres, is still to be decided. As soon as we have further clarification we will let you know.

 

In the meantime, we would request that no further Functional Skills exams take place after Friday, April 10th. We would also ask any centres that have made the decision to close during the coronavirus lockdown to let us know, please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk.

 

Skillsfirst Awards are committed to supporting our customers throughout this difficult period and we are keen to ensure that no learners are disadvantaged

 

Wednesday 8 April 2020

 

End-point Assessment Update - Multiple Choice Tests, Remote Invigilation

 

Despite the difficulties we are all facing at the moment, we are very aware that employers and providers are keen to progress apprentices to end-point assessment (EPA) wherever possible.

 

Please be assured that Skillsfirst Assess are looking at a number of options to ensure no apprentices are disadvantaged and that assessments can be completed where feasible.

 

We are therefore pleased to report that we are in the advanced testing stage of our proctoring tool for online multiple-choice tests. This flexible, secure, easy-to-use tool will be built into our existing testing platform and will enable apprentices to take their tests at home.

 

We are confident that online proctoring will be available within the next two weeks, but will provide further updates as soon as we can.

 

If you have any queries relating to the delivery of EPA please do not hesitate to contact us (enquiries@skillsfirstassess.co.uk).

 

Wednesday 1 April 2020

We hope everyone is keeping safe and well at this incredibly difficult time. We are very conscious of the challenges facing the sector, so want to assure you that we are exploring a number of options to make working with Skillsfirst and offering assessments more flexible.

 

Certificate Despatch Update

As you would expect, all Skillsfirst employees are currently being asked to work from home for their own safety. This means that we are unable to print hard copy certificates at the current time. However, all certificates will be available to view through our secure VERifirst portal. This is available to providers, learners and employers and will enable you to provide evidence of achievements for funding agencies.

 

If you need to set-up access to VERifirst please don’t hesitate to contact us. Please email customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk with your request. As soon as we’re able to get back to the office we’ll aim to print your hard copy certificates as quickly as possible.

 

Functional Skills

We are receiving a lot of queries from customers about remote delivery of Functional Skills exams and speaking, listening and communicating (SLC) assessments. Ofqual have asked all awarding organisations to hold-off on communicating to centres for the time being, as they want to ensure there is a co-ordinated and consistent approach to messaging. Please follow this link to read Ofqual’s latest statement

 

However, we did think it would be worth updating you on the situation as it currently stands.

 

Last week we released guidance on how to apply to deliver assessments where you believe the impact of a postponement would have a detrimental impact on the learner. We continue to review these on a case by case basis.

 

It is worth remembering that remote SLC assessments for Reformed Functional Skills can already be carried out using video conferencing platforms (Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype etc).

 

The following conditions should be applied:

 

We are currently seeking clarification from Ofqual as to whether the same remote SLC assessment guidance can be applied to Legacy Functional Skills whilst we are experiencing these extenuating circumstances.

 

In addition, we are currently piloting a proctoring solution, which we hope will enable centres to invigilate Reformed Functional Skills exams remotely. As mentioned previously, we will need confirmation from Ofqual that this is acceptable, but we’re hopeful the functionality will be available in the next two weeks. We will provide further updates as soon as we can.

 

Finally, we anticipate a response from Ofqual and DfE in the near future about an extension to the final certification date for Legacy Functional Skills. This is currently set at 31st August 2020, but it is hoped this will be extended until early 2021.

 

 

As always, if you need further clarification please do not hesitate to contact us. To ensure we are able to respond to queries as efficiently as possible, please use the following email addresses where possible:

 

Awarding queries (quality assurance, registration and certification): customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk

 

Functional Skills: exams@skillsfirst.co.uk

 

End-point Assessment: enquiries@skillsfirstassess.co.uk

 

Should you need to speak to us, please call 0121 270 5100 as normal.

 

In these difficult and unprecedented times, we remain committed to supporting our customers and learners, please let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

 

 

Wednesday 18 March 2020

In response to recent COVID-19 (Coronavirus) guidance from government, we have planned for all Skillsfirst employees to work from home from today (Wednesday 18th March).

 

Fortunately, we are in a position where this should not impact on the service we can provide to support both awarding and end-point assessment. To ensure we are able to respond to queries as efficiently as possible, please use the following email addresses where possible:

 

Awarding queries (quality assurance, registration and certification): customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk

 

Functional Skills: exams@skillsfirst.co.uk

 

End-point Assessment: enquiries@skillsfirstassess.co.uk

 

Should you need to speak to us, please call 0121 270 5100 as normal.

 

In these difficult and unprecedented times, we remain committed to supporting our customers and learners, please let us know if there is anything we can do to help.

 

 

Tuesday 10 March 2020

In response to the recent COVID-19 (Coronavirus) outbreak, we would like to reassure all of our customers that we are monitoring the situation very closely.

 

At the present time, following guidance from Ofqual, Skillsfirst has no plans to make any changes to our services, which includes approval visits, external assessments (including End-point Assessment bookings) and External Verifier support.

 

However, we will continue to review the situation on a daily basis, as our priority remains the safety of our employees, customers and learners.

 

You can read the latest guidance from Ofqual here.

 

We understand that customers may have queries or concerns relating to the delivery of specific assessments. If you would like to discuss this in more detail please contact customerservices@skillsfirst.co.uk or call 0121 270 5100.

Qualifications

COVID-19 Updates

Centre Guidance on Adapted Assessments