Page Updated 10 August

Assessment arrangements for 2021

Earlier this year, the Government made several announcements regarding assessment arrangements for 2021.

  • On Monday 22 February, the Prime Minister announced that the expectation is that all students were able to return to onsite education from Monday 8 March.
  • The following day, Tuesday 23 February, The Secretary of State for Education issued a direction to Ofqual on the awarding of qualifications in 2021.
  • On Thursday 25 February, DfE and Ofqual published the outcomes of the recent DfE and Ofqual consultation, ‘Alternative arrangements for the award of VTQs and other general qualifications in 2021’.
  • On 24 March, the outcomes of the Ofqual and DfE consultation on Regulatory arrangements for the awarding of vocational and technical and other general qualifications in 2020-2021 were published.
  • On 4 May, the outcomes of the Ofqual consultation Autumn assessment opportunities for VTQ and other general qualifications were published.

What does this mean for the delivery of assessments in England in 2021?

Following the updates from Government and our regulator Ofqual, we want to outline our key positions and what will be expected of centres delivering our qualifications.

The direction ensures that certificating and non-certificating learners who were expecting to take assessments (for ‘in-scope’ qualifications) between 1 August 2020 and 31 August 2021 can receive a result.

The awarding of grades for qualifications within this window is regulated by the Vocational Contingency Regulatory Framework (VCRF).

How are results issued and under what arrangements?

The VCRF allows for assessments to be taken as normal, using agreed adaptations, or where necessary, using alternative assessment arrangements.

Arrangements vary according to the types of qualification and how they are delivered and assessed. This reflects our wide range of vocational and technical qualifications and their distinct purposes. We have ensured that the available arrangements:

  • are practical, manageable and do not create unnecessary burden,
  • maintain the integrity of our qualifications,
  • support valid and reliable results, and
  • do not advantage or disadvantage any one learner over another.

To support you, we have produced some information and guidance below on areas that you may have questions on.

What information has Ofqual published on the arrangements for this year?

Ofqual has published a range of information for centres and learners. This includes:

Qualification categories

These are the categories of qualifications defined in the VCRF. 

Category A Qualifications

These are qualifications that signal occupational or professional competence and can only be awarded when exams or assessments have taken place. Where they cannot be completed safely, even with permitted adaptations in place, they will need to be delayed. These qualifications include:

  • LtP qualifications (e.g. Dental Nursing, Veterinary Nursing, Pharmacy),
  • NVQs / competence-based qualifications, 
  • High health and safety risk qualifications (e.g. 18th edition, electrical inspection and testing),
  • Land-based certificates of competence,
  • Teaching and learning qualifications, including TAQA.

Category B Qualifications

These are those qualifications that are important for progression to further education or employment. Results can still be awarded where not all exams or internal assessment need to be completed with alternative arrangements being used instead.  These qualifications include:

  • Technical Qualifications (Awards, Certificates, Tech Levels),
  • Core Maths,
  • Functional Skills qualifications,
  • ESOL Skills for life,
  • Employability, 
  • Entry Level and Level 1 VRQs and some Level 2 and 3 qualifications.,
  • Life skills qualifications (e.g. bitesize maths and English qualifications).

Please note - some elements of the assessments for these qualifications require occupational skills to be assessed. Where this is the case then the arrangements for the awarding may be different. This applies to some Tech Certs/Levels and VRQ Levels 2/3.

Qualification category lists

Qualification categories summary

As part of the new “VTQ Contingency Regulatory Framework” (VCRF), Ofqual set out a number of categories of qualifications eligible for alternative assessment for the period 1 August 2020 and 31 August 2021. 

We have reviewed our portfolio of qualifications in order to place them within these categories, and the list can be found below.  These qualifications can also be found using Ofqual’s qualification explainer tool.

Category A qualifications

Qualifications used to demonstrate occupational or professional competence in order to enter directly into employment. This includes NVQs, licence to practise qualifications and qualifications that form part of an apprenticeship framework.

Category B qualifications

Qualifications from Entry level to Level 6 that support progression to further or higher study or into employment where the issue of results to learners should be prioritised. 

These are then sub-categorised as below: 

  • Category B1 - Qualifications similar to GCSEs, AS and A levels used for progression to further or higher education
    This includes all Technical qualifications and VRQs which are used for progression.
  • Category B2 - Qualifications not similar to GCSEs, AS or A levels and used for mixed purposes
    This includes Functional Skills and ESOL Skills for Life, as well as other maths and English or Skills for life qualifications.

Out of scope

Apprenticeship end-point assessments and Level 7 and Level 8 qualifications are out of scope of the VCRF.

General Qualifications

The Extended Project qualification falls under the General Qualifications  Alternative Awarding Framework, with GCSEs, AS and A levels. 

Access the list

Teacher Assessed Grades (TAG)

Detailed guidance on the TAG process, trusted evidence types and minimum requirements, and related quality assurance will be published shortly. Centres will need to start considering what pupils have completed within qualifications and what is missing, before collecting evidence to support their assessment. We recognise the need to provide you with the guidance and support you need to begin this as soon as possible.

Internal quality assurance within the centre, including effective standardisation of marking and grading judgements, will be vital to supporting the validity of the process. As such we will provide guidance for centres supporting this and will monitor it as part of our external quality assurance activities. 

Clear guidance and support will be vital in ensuring that centres are able to manage their time effectively and meet the published deadlines, and our main immediate priority will be providing this. 

Technicals and Core maths

For some qualifications, either where examinations have been cancelled, or where learners are unable to complete them, centres will be required to provide estimated grades. Centres will use their professional judgements to determine grades, supported by sources of trusted evidence. 

Centres will be required to confirm the eligibility of learners for the TAG process and will provide evidence how the grades were determined. These grades will be subject to quality assurance by City & Guilds.   

  • Dated examinations have been cancelled for the Summer 2021 series, following a ministerial direction and therefore all eligible candidates will be required to have a result determined by TAGs. 
  • For internal assessments, such as the synoptic assignments for our KS5 Technical Certificates and Tech Levels, these assessments should continue to be taken as normal or via the published adaptations where it is safe to do so. Where this cannot happen, TAGs may be used where there is sufficient evidence to do so.  If there is not sufficient evidence of occupational skills, then they may need to be delayed.

Functional Skills and other qualifications

For other qualifications (e.g. Functional Skills, ESOL Skills for Life), as above, these assessments should continue to be taken as normal or via the published adaptations where it is safe to do so with TAGs being used where this is not possible. 

In instances where the TAG process is optional rather than mandated centres must apply to City & Guilds for approval to use the TAG process, explaining why assessments cannot be taken as normal or using the published adaptations. 


Apart from the assessments specified above, the expectation is that assessments should go ahead, in line with published health and safety guidance. We recognise that even if centres are permitted to return to onsite learning the impacts of Covid-19 will be complex and far-ranging. As such we have put in place general and qualification specific adaptations that can assist centres in delivering assessments safely and rigorously.

We have also developed a remote invigilation offer for some examinations and set up a number of City & Guilds test centres around the country, where learners who are unable to sit examinations in the normal way are able to do so safely and securely.

In addition, we will be publishing specific adaptation guidance for our Technical Qualification synoptic assignments in time for centres prospective return to onsite learning. These will look to address the potential impacts of Covid-19 and provide further clarity.

Loss of learning

We recognise that there will be significant impacts on teaching and learning for learners this year. For assessments going ahead as normal, our permitted adaptations will seek to redress this. For those assessments subject to the TAG process, consideration of loss of learning will need to be built into the process, and our guidance will detail how this should be considered.

IQA guidance

Please find advice and guidance for centres on the key aspects of effective internal quality assurance for the TAG process.

Download the guidance

Special Consideration Guidance

Please find our special considerations guidance below.

Download the guidance


For our Technical qualifications and Core Maths qualifications results days will align to the dates for General Qualifications. This means Level 3 results on 10 August and Level 2 on the 12 August.

For on-demand qualifications, such as Functional Skills, we will operate a series of results windows where the TAG option has been used in order to support learner progression. Dates of these windows will be communicated as soon as they are agreed. We recognise that there may be a number of learners who have been unable to sit assessments since August 2020 and will make provision to ensure those candidates are able to receive results as soon as possible.


There is an appeals process for results based on Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs) and the details are available on our Appeals for 2021 page.

For adapted assessments, centres should use the standard appeals documents, which are available on our dedicated page.

It should be noted however that we will ensure parity between the appeals process so that while they will address the differences in approach to determining learner results, neither process will advantage one candidate over another.

Timeframes and further guidance

Now that the directive and consultation responses have been published, a further technical consultation will begin which will lead to the publishing of the framework Ofqual will use to regulate qualifications under these arrangements. Awarding Organisations will take the conditions and requirements from this framework and publish guidance for centres which aligns to the framework and its key principles. This is likely to be available late March / early April.

Centre preparation

It is important that teaching, learning and assessment preparation continue where possible and we will continue to provide as much support as we can through signposting you to our learning resources, and through our Technical Advisor support, networks and best practice events.

We are developing generic and qualification specific guidance for alternative arrangements and, we will contact you as soon as they are published. Additionally, we will provide a range of support materials and activities to support your understanding and application of these arrangements. 

We will continue to keep you updated through the Progress towards awarding in 2021 section of our Covid-19 web pages. You can also continue to access information on adaptations for each of our qualifications on those support pages


Qualifications regulated by Qualifications Wales and CCEA only

More information on qualifications only available in Wales or Northern Ireland can be found on our nations page.

Webinar series – Alternative assessment arrangements 2021

Our Technical Advisor team will be holding regular webinars to support you with the new arrangements for 2021. The first in the series will focus on Technical Qualifications, and further webinars will be published shortly to cover other areas such as Functional Skills and VRQs.

This presentation supports the guidance document: Alternative assessment arrangements for 2021 Technical Qualifications (PDF).

Webinar title


Recording link

Digital/IT - Alternative Assessment Arrangements 2021, Technicals

Tuesday 23 March, 9.30am -10.30am

Access the recording >

BSE Alternative Assessment Arrangements 2021, Technicals

Tuesday 23 March, 16.00pm - 17.00pm

Access the recording >

Hospitality and Catering Alternative Assessment Arrangements 2021, Technicals

Wednesday 24 March, 3.30pm - 4.30pm

Access the recording >

Hair & Beauty Alternative Assessment Arrangements 2021, Technicals

Wednesday 24 March, 17.00pm - 18.00pm

Access the recording >

Construction Alternative Arrangements 2021, Technicals only

Tuesday 25 March, 14.00pm - 14.30pm

Access the recording >

Construction Alternative Assessment Arrangements

Wednesday 31 March, 13.00pm - 14.00pm

Register now >

Health, Care and Child Care – Alternative Assessment Arrangements, Technicals

Thursday 13 April, 9.00am - 10.00am

Access the recording >

Download the slides >

Land Technicals – subject specific meetings

Tuesday 23 - Friday 26 March

Email for details.

Further information

Please continue to refer to our dedicated Covid-19 landing page on the website for updates, guidance and information.

If you have any additional questions, please contact our Customer Support team at