|Formed||8 April 2008 (part of QCA)|
1 April 2010 (independent)
|Type||Non-ministerial government department|
|Headquarters||Earlsdon Park, 53-55 Butts Road, Coventry, CV1 3BH|
|Annual budget||£17.5 million (2018/19)|
The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) is a non-ministerial government department that regulates qualifications, exams and tests in England and, until May 2016, vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland.Colloquially and publicly, Ofqual is often referred to as the exam "watchdog".
Ofqual was established in interim form on 8 April 2008 as part of Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (QCA), taking over the regulatory functions that had previously been undertaken by the QCA directly through its regulation and standards division.It was always intended that Ofqual would be an entirely separate body from the QCA. This was achieved on 1 April 2010 when Ofqual was established as a non-ministerial government department under the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009.
In 2020, Ofqual was involved in an GCSE and A/Level grading controversy during the COVID-19 pandemic.[ citation needed ]
Ofqual's role is "to maintain standards and confidence in qualifications."
Ofqual regulates exams, qualifications and tests in England. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are regulated by each respective national government. However, the Scottish Qualifications Authority is also accredited by Ofqual.
Ofqual collaborates closely with the UK government and the Department for Education on general qualifications, such as GCSEs and A levels, and with the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills on vocational qualifications such as NVQs and BTECs. In Northern Ireland Ofqual regulated NVQs on behalf of the Department for Employment and Learning until May 2016; this responsibility has since been handed to the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment.
Ofqual is the authority which regulates and accredits British examination boards offering GCSEs and GCE A levels while it is the Joint Council for Qualifications which regulates administration of actual GCSE and A Level examinations.
The Conservative Party under Prime Minister David Cameron initiated reforms for A Levels to change from the current modular to a linear structure.British examination boards (Edexcel, AQA and OCR) regulated and accredited by Ofqual responded to the government's reform announcements by modifying syllabi of several A Level subjects. However, in 2014 the Labour Party announced that it would halt and reverse the reforms and maintain the modular A-Level system if it got into government. The universities of Oxford and Cambridge have expressed support for the modular system.
Recent reports reveal that the linear examination approach and the toughening educational reforms initiated by Ofqual provoked many schools to "play the system" by requesting test remarking and supplementary aid for students (e.g. special consideration and extra time) in order to uphold high exam grade levels so as to not drop in league tables.
Rising numbers of students taking GCSEs and GCE A Levels over the past decades has led to an increase in the quantity of examination results being enquired for re-marking and reported to Ofqual.
Ofqual's remit and responsibilities are established in law by the Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009and the Education Act 2011. As a Non-ministerial department Ofqual is accountable to Parliament, through the Education Select Committee. It is not accountable to government ministers and is independent from ministerial government. Whereas Ofqual regulates and accredits British examination boards (e.g. Edexcel, AQA, OCR etc.) and their GCSE and GCE A-Level specifications; the examination board CAIE (Cambridge Assessment International Education) which offers international GCSEs and GCE A-Levels predominantly for schools outside the United Kingdom operates independently without British governmental intervention. Therefore, although CAIE qualifications are accredited by Ofqual, they are not regulated by it and thus may differ significantly in subject content and exam structure from UK GCSEs and GCE A-Levels.
Ofqual has four directorates:
The Chief Regulator is the leader and figurehead of Ofqual.
Originally, the Chief Regulator was also the Chair of Ofqual. When the Chief Regulator position was vacant during 2010 and 2011, the Deputy Chair, Dame Sandra Burslem DBE, took on 'many of the responsibilities', though was never formally named Chief Regulator or Chair.
On 1 April 2012, in line with the Education Act 2011, the Chief Regulator role transferred from the Chair of Ofqual to the Chief Executive of Ofqual. When the Chief Regulator post was vacant in 2016, the Chair acted as the Interim Chief Regulator.
Until 31 March 2012, the Chair of Ofqual was also the Chief Regulator. When the Chair position was vacant during 2010 and 2011, the Deputy Chair, Dame Sandra Burslem, 'stepped in to provide continuity', though was never formally named Chair or Chief Regulator.
On 1 April 2012, the position of Chief Executive ceased to exist as an independent role when it was merged with the post of Chief Regulator.
The General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) is an academic qualification in a particular subject, taken in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. State schools in Scotland use the Scottish Qualifications Certificate instead. Private schools in Scotland may choose to use an alternative qualification.
The Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) was a charity, and an executive non-departmental public body (NDPB) of the Department for Education. In England and Northern Ireland, the QCDA maintained and developed the National Curriculum and associated assessments, tests and examinations, advising the minister formerly known as the Secretary of State for Education on these matters.
AQA, formerly the Assessment and Qualifications Alliance, is an awarding body in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. It compiles specifications and holds examinations in various subjects at GCSE, AS and A Level and offers vocational qualifications. AQA is a registered charity and independent of the government. However, its qualifications and exam syllabi are regulated by the Government of the United Kingdom, which is the regulator for the public examinations system in England and Wales.
Edexcel is a British multinational education and examination body formed in 1996 and wholly owned by Pearson plc since 2005. It is the only privately owned examination board in the United Kingdom. Its name is a portmanteau term combining the words education and excellence.
The Advanced Extension Awards are a type of school-leaving qualification in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, usually taken in the final year of schooling, and designed to allow students to "demonstrate their knowledge, understanding and skills to the full". Currently, it is only available for Mathematics and offered by the exam board Edexcel, who renewed their specification in 2018.
OCR is an examination board that sets examinations and awards qualifications. It is one of England, Wales and Northern Ireland's five main examination boards.
WJEC, formally the Welsh Joint Education Committee, is an examination board providing examinations, professional development and educational resources to schools and colleges in Wales, England and Northern Ireland under its own name and the Eduqas brand.
The International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) is an English language based examination similar to GCSE and is recognized in the United Kingdom as being equivalent to the GCSE for the purposes of recognizing prior attainment. It was developed by University of Cambridge International Examinations. The examination boards Edexcel and Oxford AQA also offer their own versions of International GCSEs. Students normally begin studying the syllabus at the beginning of Year 10 and take the test at the end of Year 11. However, in some international schools, students can begin studying the syllabus at the beginning of Year 9 and take the test at the end of Year 10.
The Certificate of Secondary Education (CSE) was a subject specific qualification family, awarded in both academic and vocational fields in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland. CSE examinations were set in the years 1965 to 1987 inclusive. This qualification should not be confused with the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education which is the school leaving qualification in India. Also, in some African and former British colonial countries there is a qualification named the Certificate of Secondary Education based on the original and former British variant. Also, the CSE should not be confused with the African qualification CSEE.
The A Level is a subject-based qualification conferred as part of the General Certificate of Education, as well as a school leaving qualification offered by the educational bodies in the United Kingdom and the educational authorities of British Crown dependencies to students completing secondary or pre-university education. They were introduced in England and Wales in 1951 to replace the Higher School Certificate. A number of countries, including Singapore, Uganda, Kenya, Mauritius and Zimbabwe have developed qualifications with the same name as and a similar format to the British A Levels. Obtaining an A Level, or equivalent qualifications, is generally required for university entrance, with universities granting offers based on grades achieved.
The Associated Examining Board (AEB) was an examination board serving England, Wales and Northern Ireland from 1953 until 2000 when it merged with NEAB to form AQA.
An awarding body, in the United Kingdom, is an examination board which sets examinations and awards qualifications, such as GCSEs and A-levels. There are seven main examination boards in the United Kingdom:
Examination boards in the United Kingdom are the examination boards responsible for setting and awarding secondary education level qualifications, such as GCSEs, Standard Grades, A Levels, Highers and vocational qualifications, to students in the United Kingdom.
The General Certificate of Education (GCE) Advanced Level, or A Level, is a main school leaving qualification in England, Wales, Northern Ireland, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. It is available as an alternative qualification in other countries.
The Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) is a community interest company acting as a single voice for the eight largest qualification providers in the United Kingdom offering GCSE, GCE, Scottish Highers and vocationally related qualifications: AQA, CCEA, City & Guilds, Edexcel, NCFE, OCR, SQA and WJEC. The JCQ closely monitors examination administration, invigilation of exams at individual schools and activities of exams officers.
Dame Glenys Jean Stacey DBE is a solicitor and civil servant serving as chair of the Office for Environmental Protection from February 2021. She was Chief Executive and Chief Regulator of Ofqual, acting in the post from August to December 2020, and previously from 2012 to 2016. Stacey also served as Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Probation and led HM Inspectorate of Probation for England and Wales from 2016 and 2019.
The Southern Examining Group (SEG) was an examination board offering GCSEs in England, Wales and Northern Ireland formally established in 1987. In 1994, it was taken over by the Associated Examining Board, but kept its own identity until the AEB merged with NEAB to form AQA in 2000.
Kathleen Tattersall was a British educationalist, specialising in examination administration. She was the leader of five examination boards in the United Kingdom before becoming the first head of exams regulator Ofqual.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic in the United Kingdom, all secondary education examinations due to be held in 2020 were cancelled. As a result, an alternative method had to be designed and implemented at short notice to determine the qualification grades to be given to students for that year. A grades standardisation algorithm was produced in June 2020 by the regulator Ofqual in England, Qualifications Wales in Wales, Scottish Qualifications Authority in Scotland, and CCEA in Northern Ireland. The algorithm was designed to combat grade inflation, and was to be used to moderate the existing but unpublished teacher-predicted grades for A Level and GCSE students. After the A Level grades were issued, and after criticism, Ofqual, with the support of HM Government, withdrew these grades. It issued all students the Centre Assessment Grades (CAGs), which had been produced by teachers as part of the process. The same ruling was applied to the awarding of GCSE grades, just a few days before they were issued: CAG-based grades were the ones released on results day.
Sally Collier is a British civil servant and former head of the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual). She also involved in negotiating changes to European Union rules governing public procurement.