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COVID-19 Access to HE

For information on the arrangements for the Access to HE Diploma 2021/2022 please watch the video below:

QAA has implemented an Extraordinary Regulatory Framework for Access to HE this year. Arrangements are summarised below and, in the video here.

Where all assessments for the qualification have taken place as normal or in an adapted form, they will determine the learner’s level of attainment.

To ensure grades are fair, equitable and robust, effective quality assurance arrangements will be applied. These can take account of:

    • adaptations to the delivery, assessment or units delivered on the Diploma
    • extenuating circumstances that may have affected learner performance in assessment.

Based on evidence presented, a moderator may adjust grades either upwards or downwards to ensure no learner is advantaged or disadvantaged in relation to their peers.

In those exceptional cases where a learner cannot be assessed, the learner may still be awarded unit(s) that make up the Diploma, through extenuation. The tutor/provider will draw upon either further adaptations to assessments or alternate lines of evidence to satisfy the award of unit.

You can find out more via the QAA website here.

Providers can adapt assessments, delivery and/or changes to units delivered, where necessary and appropriate, to:

  • support teaching and learning, and assist in mitigating any possible effects of previous or future disruptions to teaching, learning and assessment relating to the pandemic
  • make assessments as manageable and flexible as possible, for example, to address the impact of public health guidance
  • safeguard against any future disruptions relating to the pandemic, such as local lockdowns or closure of facilities.
  • Support individual learners who are finding it difficult to learn or be assessed at this present time.

Providers must discuss proposed flexibilities with Open Awards before adopting them to ensure they are in line with QAA regulatory requirements.

Providers can use flexibilities to support learners who are finding it difficult to learn or be assessed at this present time.

These may include:

  • further adaptations to assessment schedule/tasks, delivery and/or units delivered
  • additional study support where there are extenuating circumstances (for example, counselling support)
  • breaks in learning
  • extensions to length of learning programme or assignment deadlines
  • continuing into the next academic year.

Providers must discuss proposed flexibilities with Open Awards before adopting them to ensure they are in line with QAA regulatory requirements.

Providers can adapt assessments and delivery, where necessary and appropriate, to:

  • support teaching and learning, and assist in mitigating any possible effects of previous or future disruptions to teaching, learning and assessment relating to the pandemic
  • make assessments as manageable and flexible as possible, for example, to address the impact of compliance with social distancing or other public health guidance
  • safeguard against any future disruptions relating to the pandemic, such as local lockdowns or closure of facilities.

Providers must discuss proposed adaptations with Open Awards before adopting them to ensure they are in line with QAA regulatory requirements.

 

Providers must speak to their Quality and Standards Advisor to discuss possible adaptations in-year. Providers need to apply to make adaptations through the Open Awards Access to HE Adaptation Request Form: https://portal.openawards.org.uk/Quartz/Documents.aspx?Doc=5902992 (via the Secure Portal).

Under the ERF 2021-22, rules of combination may be adapted for a named Diploma where, if changes were not made, it would be impossible for learners to complete their Access to HE Diploma, where this is necessary and appropriate to:

  • support teaching and learning, and assist in mitigating any possible effects of previous or future disruptions to teaching, learning and assessment relating to the pandemic
  • make assessments as manageable and flexible as possible, for example, to address the impact of compliance with social distancing or other public health guidance
  • safeguard against any future disruptions relating to the pandemic, such as local lockdowns or closure of facilities.

Providers need to apply to make adaptations through the Open Awards Access to HE Adaptation Request Form: https://portal.openawards.org.uk/Quartz/Documents.aspx?Doc=5902992 (via the Secure Portal).

One of the key principles of the ERF 2021-22 is to ensure that learners are neither advantaged nor disadvantaged by the implementation of adaptations.

QAA advise that you should contact your course provider if you are concerned about any adaptations made to your course this year. You may be able to get access to additional support or tools to help you study.

Providers can adapt assessments and delivery, where necessary and appropriate, to:

  • support teaching and learning, and assist in mitigating any possible effects of previous or future disruptions to teaching, learning and assessment relating to the pandemic
  • make assessments as manageable and flexible as possible, for example, to address the impact of compliance with social distancing or other public health guidance 
  • safeguard against any future disruptions relating to the pandemic, such as local lockdowns or closure of facilities

To ensure grades are fair, equitable and robust, effective quality assurance arrangements will be applied. These will take account of:

  • adaptations to the delivery, assessment or units delivered on the Diploma.

Based on evidence presented, a moderator may adjust grades either upwards or downwards to ensure no learner is advantaged or disadvantaged in relation to their peers.

Learners have been advised to contact their course provider if they are concerned about the additional support they are receiving to discuss what additional support or tools are available to help them.

Learners have been advised that if they feel that the work produced during a local or national lockdown does not reflect their previous performance, to speak to their course provider. AVAs and providers will have in place arrangements to deal with such extenuating circumstances.

To ensure grades are fair, equitable and robust, effective quality assurance arrangements will be applied. These will take account of:

  • extenuating circumstances that may have affected learner performance in assessment.

Based on evidence presented, a moderator may adjust grades either upwards or downwards to ensure no learner is advantaged or disadvantaged in relation to their peers

Our regulators, QAA, advise that Access to HE Diplomas have been designed to be responsive to changes in circumstances, for example, during a period of illness. If you are unable to study, please talk to your course provider about the best way to continue with your Diploma. This could include:

  • making an application for extenuating circumstances
  • applying for an extension to assessment submission dates
  • a short pause of less than four weeks - for example, if you are in self-isolation - this will not necessarily affect the planned end date of your course
  • a formal break or suspension in learning.

If your course is not publicly funded, the course provider should to discuss other options that may be available to them. 

Course providers should agree with their learners the appropriate steps to be taken that will be based on both your and your learner’s circumstances.

In those exceptional cases where a learner cannot be assessed, the learner may still be awarded unit(s) that make up the Diploma, through extenuation. The tutor/provider will draw upon either further adaptations to assessments or alternate lines of evidence to determine whether the unit can be awarded. Course providers should speak to their AVAs regarding the circumstances under which an award through extenuation can take place.

Learners have been advised that if the work produced during a lockdown (local or national) does not reflect their current or previous performance, to speak to their course provider. Open Awards and its providers have arrangements in place to deal with such extenuating circumstances.

To ensure grades are fair, equitable and robust, effective quality assurance arrangements will be applied. These will take account of:

  • extenuating circumstances that may have affected learner performance in assessment.

Based on evidence presented, a moderator may adjust grades either upwards or downwards to ensure no learner is advantaged or disadvantaged in relation to their peers.

Learners have been advised that if they were unable to study and complete their assessments during a lockdown, to talk to their course provider about the best way to continue.

Options include:

  1. making an application for extenuating circumstances
  2. applying for an extension to assessment submission dates
  3. a short pause of less than four weeks - for example, if you are in self-isolation
    - this will not necessarily affect the planned end date of your course
  4. a formal break or suspension in learning.

If the course is not publicly funded, the provider should discuss other options that may be available to the learner.

Course providers should agree with their learners the appropriate steps to be taken that will be based on both your and your learner’s circumstances.

In those exceptional cases where a learner cannot be assessed, the learner may still be awarded unit(s) that make up the Diploma, through extenuation. The tutor/provider will draw upon either further adaptations to assessments or alternate lines of evidence to determine whether the unit can be awarded. Course providers should speak to Open Awards regarding the circumstances under which an award through extenuation can take place.

Learners have been advised that if the work was rescheduled and the volume of work is unmanageable, to seek advice from their course provider who will be able to advise them about the options available to them. For example, this may include making an application for extenuating circumstances.

To make sure that grades are fair and not unduly affected by the rescheduling of assessments, Open Awards and providers will ensure that effective arrangements for quality assurance will be applied.

These will take account of:

  • adaptations to the delivery, assessment or units delivered on the Diploma
  • extenuating circumstances that may have affected learner performance in assessment.

Based on evidence presented, a moderator may adjust grades either upwards or downwards to ensure no learner is advantaged or disadvantaged in relation to their peers.

Any circumstances or factors likely to impact adversely on learner achievement and progression. These circumstances or factors are usually either unforeseen or unpreventable and outside the control of the learner. Examples arising from the last two years of the pandemic have included:

  • learners suffering from COVID and any associated after-effects of the infection
  • learners having limited study time because of key worker commitments, or having to work to support family members as a result of the illness or redundancy of their partner/parents
  • learners having limited, or no, access to equipment to complete their studies (including computers and broadband connectivity)
  • learners having to home-school children during national lockdowns.

For many learners, the pandemic will have impacted their learning experience. The exact nature and severity of that impact will be dependent on a complex interaction of factors at provider, Diploma and learner (individual and/or cohort) level.

Providers have procedures for dealing with cases of extenuating circumstances. In most cases, extenuating circumstances that affect achievement on individual units (for example, in relation to requests for extended deadlines) are handled at course level, and appropriate action and decisions taken according to the provider's approved procedures.

Where circumstances have affected performance in more than one area, or in any other way that falls outside the provider's normal processes, providers must advice Open Awards who will review the case. This will also include exceptional cases where extenuating circumstances have affected the completion or submission of work for assessment.

If extenuating circumstances impact learner performance, such circumstances will be taken into account when quality assuring grades, through the process of moderation and standardisation. Decisions are fair, robust and equitable based upon careful consideration of the extenuating circumstances and learner overall performance across their programme of learning.

Yes. Providers and Open Awards have in place procedures to allow learners to identify extenuating circumstances that may affect their academic performance should the current situation make studying difficult.

A learner should discuss their specific circumstances directly with their course tutor who will be able to explain how to apply for extenuating circumstances.

Yes, if, a provider considers the academic performance of a whole cohort of learners has been adversely affected and they are unable to manage the issues through their own extenuating circumstances processes/measures, a senior manager should speak to Open Awards to discuss the process.

Yes. A senior manager should speak to Open Awards to discuss the process.

Yes. providers and Open Awards already have procedures in place to allow learners to apply for an extension should the current situation make studying difficult.

A learner should discuss their specific circumstances directly with their course tutor.

Tutors will be able to explain how to apply for an extension.

Course providers should be mindful of the potential implications for learners when offering multiple extensions across their Diploma, to avoid placing unnecessary pressure on learners at the end of their course. You may also wish to consider the impact of managing extensions on staff workloads, for example, related to marking and quality assurance.

It may be possible to offer alternative solutions in these cases and you should speak to Open Awards to discuss what options may be available.

In those exceptional cases where a learner cannot be assessed, the learner may still be awarded unit(s) that make up the Diploma, through extenuation. The tutor/provider will draw upon either further adaptations to assessments or alternate lines of evidence to determine whether the unit can be awarded. Course providers should speak to their AVAs regarding the circumstances under which an award through extenuation can take place.

The provider should speak to their Open Awards Quality and Standards Advisor to discuss the options available to your learners.

In those exceptional cases where a learner cannot be assessed, the learner may still be awarded unit(s) that make up the Diploma, through extenuation. The tutor/provider will draw upon either further adaptations to assessments or alternate lines of evidence to determine whether the unit can be awarded. Providers should speak to Open Awards regarding the circumstances under which an award through extenuation can take place.

The provider should speak to their Open Awards to discuss the options available to your learners.

In those exceptional cases where a learner cannot be assessed, the learner may still be awarded unit(s) that make up the Diploma, through extenuation. The tutor/provider will draw upon either further adaptations to assessments or alternate lines of evidence to determine whether the unit can be awarded. Providers should speak to Open Awards regarding the circumstances under which an award through extenuation can take place.

Yes. Providers and Open Awards have procedures in place to allow learners to take a break in learning should the current situation make studying difficult. Course providers and learners can agree to suspend learning. This allows a learner to continue later with the same eligibility that applied when they first started their learning.

Publicly funded courses in England and Wales already have provision for 'breaks/suspension in learning' or for a range of circumstances.

Guidance from the Education and Skills Funding Agency (for providers in England) and Welsh Government (for providers in Wales) has information about the options available.

Learners have been advised to speak directly to their course tutor to discuss their individual circumstances. Course providers will be able to explain to learners how to apply for a break in learning.

Learners are advised to contact their course provider if they are unable to access online lessons and materials so that they can discuss the options available to them.

Learners have been advised that if they have concerns about the delivery of their course, they need to follow their course provider’s complaints process in the first instance. They have also been advised that details of this will be on provider’s website and should be included in the learner handbook.

Once a complaint investigation has been fully completed, learners can also contact Open Awards if they remain dissatisfied. Open Awards complaints policy can be found here.

We recognise the impact of the continued pandemic on the mental health of learners, providers and AVA staff. While it is not possible for this to be addressed directly through our arrangements, the health and well-being of learners, teachers and AVA staff has been considered in the development of the arrangements. We are aiming to reduce the impact where we can by allowing AVAs and providers to adapt the Diploma as necessary and appropriate to their local situation, and by providing clear and timely communications.

The challenges faced by adult learners during the pandemic are varied and different to those faced by learners studying other Level 3 qualifications, and we want to assure learners that all comments, views and feedback received on course experiences are considered as part of our continual assessment of the arrangements.

Colleges may make adjustments to aspects of teaching and assessment to account for the impact of the pandemic and will have in place mechanisms and services to support learners.

In those exceptional cases where a learner cannot be assessed, the learner may still be awarded unit(s) that make up the Diploma, through extenuation. The tutor/provider will draw upon either further adaptations to assessments or alternate lines of evidence to determine whether the unit can be awarded. Providers should speak to Open Awards regarding the circumstances under which an award through extenuation can take place.

If learners have any concerns about their progression to university, they have been advised to speak to their course provider and the universities they have applied to.

 

Our priority is to support learners to meet the challenges to learning and delivery presented by the pandemic and ensure that all Access to HE learners are as well prepared as they can be for their transition to higher education and minimise lost learning as far as possible.

Confirmed results will be released to course providers after the Final Awards Board. The results will be released to you no later than the deadline for results to be uploaded to UCAS. Providers will have arrangements in place to notify learners of their confirmed results.

In addition to the principles of quality assurance aligned to the QAA grading scheme, other quality assurance measures may also be applied. These arrangements are outlined in the Access to HE Provider Handbook which can be found here.

To make sure grades are fair, equitable and robust, AVAs and providers have processes in place to ensure grades go through internal moderation, external moderation and standardisation. These effective quality assurance arrangements will take into account:

  • adaptations to the delivery, assessment or units delivered on the Diploma
  • extenuating circumstances that may have affected learner performance in assessment.

Based on evidence presented, a moderator may adjust grades either upwards or downwards to ensure no learner is advantaged or disadvantaged in relation to their peers.

Open Awards and providers have processes in place to support learners who feel their grades during this period do not reflect their performance.

Learners have been advised to speak to their course tutor and if they have concerns about assessment decisions relating to the achievement of credits or grades, they should discuss these with the relevant member of the course team when the assessed work is first returned to them. A learner may subsequently make a representation through the provider’s formal procedures. They may appeal the grading decision that results as a consequence of a representation, but only on the grounds of evidence of administrative or procedural error.

Your procedures to address representations and appeals will apply. Further information can be found in Open Awards Enquiries and Appeals Policy and Procedures which can be found here.

GCSEs and functional skills are regulated by Ofqual and we recommend that learners speak to their course tutor or refer to the information produced by Ofqual.

Current guidance also applies to all learners due to complete after 31 July 2022. Learners and providers will be supported if advice from DfE or Public Health England means that adaptations need to be continued beyond 31 July 2022.

The current arrangements for the award of the Access to HE Diploma in 2021-22 recognise that in some exceptional circumstances not all assessments can take place.

Where a student cannot be assessed, the student may still be awarded unit(s) that make up the Diploma, through extenuation. The provider will draw upon either further adaptations to assessments or alternate lines of evidence to determine whether the unit can be awarded. For graded units, the available evidence must relate to the learning outcomes of each unit being assessed and the grade descriptors assigned to the unit.

 Evidence can include student assessment generated specifically to support the award of unit(s) and grade(s) and existing evidence that reflects a learner's performance which can be used to inform the award of unit(s) and grades.

There is no limit to the number of units that can be awarded through extenuation.

Providers must liaise with their Open Awards Quality and Standards Advisor who will support them through the process for award through extenuation.

The award through extenuation will be managed and processed through the Final Awards Board (FAB).