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Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009

Section 129: General duties

385.Subsection (1) requires Ofqual in carrying out its functions so far as is reasonably practicable to act in a way that is compatible with its objectives under section 128 and which it considers most appropriate for the purposes of meeting those objectives.

386.Subsection (2) sets out the matters to which Ofqual must have regard in performing its functions.

387.Subsection (2)(a) requires Ofqual to have regard to the need to ensure that the number of regulated qualifications is appropriate. Subsection (3) provides that an “appropriate” number of qualifications is based on ensuring a reasonable level of choice for learners in terms of both the number of different regulated qualifications on offer, and the number of different forms of each regulated qualification; but that the number of different qualifications in similar subject areas or serving similar functions should not be excessive. For example, it would be appropriate for there to be a choice of versions (or forms) of a qualification called “retail management”, offered by a range of different awarding bodies. However, Ofqual should seek to avoid an excessive number of qualifications that are similar to “retail management”, but with slightly different titles, which risks causing confusion.

388.Subsections (2)(b) and (c) require Ofqual to have regard to the reasonable requirements of:

  • those who are seeking to obtain or who might reasonably be expected to seek to obtain regulated qualifications, and

  • in relation to regulated assessment arrangements, pupils and children,

including in each case those with learning difficulties.

389.The terms used in these subsections are defined in subsections (9) to (11).

390.Under subsections (2)(d) and (e), Ofqual must have regard to the reasonable requirements of employers and institutions within the higher education sector (as defined in section 172(1)).

391.Under subsection (2)(f), Ofqual must have regard to information provided to it by the QCDA and Ofsted, and any bodies specified by the Secretary of State which have knowledge of or expertise in the requirements of industry, commerce, finance, the professions or other employers regarding education and training. This provision will allow the current arrangements to continue, by which the regulator must take into account the views of Sector Skills Councils in relation to qualifications in their sectors. Under a similar provision in the current legislation (section 26 of the Education Act 1997), Sector Skills Councils in England have been designated by the Secretary of State as bodies to which the regulator must have regard in regulating vocational qualifications. This is in support of the Government’s policy for improving the relevance to employers of vocational qualifications as part of its skills strategy.

392.Under subsection (2)(g), Ofqual must have regard to the desirability of facilitating innovation in connection with the provision of regulated qualifications.

393.Subsection (2)(h) requires Ofqual to have regard to the specified purposes of regulated assessment arrangements, as defined in section 131(6). The definition operates by reference to definitions in section 76(1) of the Education Act 2002 and section 41(2)(c) of the Childcare Act 2006. These make provision about the purposes respectively of National Curriculum assessment arrangements (NC assessment arrangements) and of assessment arrangements in connection with the learning and development requirements of the Early Years Foundation Stage (EYFS assessment arrangements). The purpose of NC assessment arrangements is “ascertaining what [pupils] have achieved in relation to the attainment targets for that stage”, and for the EYFS assessment arrangements “ascertaining what [children] have achieved in relation to the early learning goals”. Those provisions are amended by paragraphs 32 and 39 of Schedule 12 respectively to allow the Secretary of State to specify additional purposes of assessment arrangements to which Ofqual would then need to have regard.

394.Subsection (6) requires Ofqual to have regard to such aspects of Government policy as the Secretary of State directs. This provision is modelled on a similar provision in the legislation setting up Ofsted. The Government expects this provision to be used, for example, to specify that the Government wished to ensure that assessment were not unduly burdensome for schools. Any such direction is not intended to impinge on Ofqual’s independence – it would not require Ofqual to act in a particular way, simply to take into account the policy in question in deciding how it would be appropriate for it to act. Subsection (7) requires the Secretary of State to publish any such direction.

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