|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's role is to maintain standards and confidence in qualifications.
Area of governance
It regulates exams, qualifications and tests in England. Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland are regulated by each respective national government. However, the Scottish Qualifications Authority SQA 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 it 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 JCQ which regulates administration of actual GCSE and A Level examinations.
Modular vs. linear syllabi
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, the Labour Party and in particular the Member of Parliament Tristram Hunt announced that it will halt and reverse the reforms and maintain the modular A-Level system. 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 enquiring 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 2009 and 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 as such 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 CIE (Cambridge International Examinations) which offers international GCSEs and GCE A-Levels predominantly for schools outside the United Kingdom operates independently without British governmental intervention. Therefore, although CIE 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.
It has four directorates:
- Strategy, risk and research
- Vocational and technical qualifications
- General qualifications
- Regulatory and corporate services
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