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COVID-19 (Coronavirus) – support and guidance
What is Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

COVID-19 is a new illness that can affect your lungs and airways. It's caused by a virus called Coronavirus and was first identified in Wuhan City, China.


What is the current risk to the UK from Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

We are following government advice as to the risk of Coronavirus, which has been raised to HIGH in the UK. This allows the government to plan for all eventualities.


What are the symptoms of Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Symptoms of coronavirus include:

  • feeling tired
  • difficulty breathing
  • high temperature
  • a continuous cough. 

For more information about symptoms, please visit the NHS webpages.


Which students will receive calculated grades?

It will include all students due to complete their QAA recognised Access to HE Diploma by 31 July 2020.


It does not include students that have:

  • withdrawn
  • an expected completion date after 31 July 2020.
Which Access to HE Diplomas will have calculated grades applied to them?

It will include all QAA recognised Access to HE Diplomas that have students who are due to complete by 31 July 2020.


Are Access to HE distance learning Diplomas included?

Yes. It will include all QAA recognised Access to HE Diplomas that have students who are due to complete by 31 July 2020.


Does a student need to apply for calculated grades?

No. If the student is due to complete by 31 July 2020 they will automatically receive calculated grades for all remaining assessments with submission dates after 20 March 2020.


What about students that are due to complete after 31 July 2020?

Students due to complete after 31 July will be supported to complete their studies through changes to the delivery of teaching and assessment of their course. Students who have any concerns regarding their specific circumstances have been advised to speak to their course tutor.


We want to ensure that these students receive fair results and that there is parity with other students on qualifications with a completion date after 31 July 2020 with a similar intent - which is progression to higher study. We expect providers to support these students as effectively as possible during this time.


Access to HE providers and Access Validating Agencies already have in place procedures to allow students to request extensions to deadlines and to identify where extenuating circumstances may affect their academic performance, should the current situation make studying difficult. These procedures are available to all students.


If students feel their grades during this period do not reflect their previous performance, they are advised to speak to their course tutor.  


The current QAA grading scheme will apply to students that are due to complete after 31 July 2020. Students have been advised that if they feel their case has not been addressed by this guidance, they should speak to their course tutor.


Information has been published for students and information for providers will be circulated by AVAs.


What Will Happen To Teaching And Assessments Now The College/Provider Is Closed?

Colleges and course providers have been contingency planning for any necessary changes to the delivery and assessment arrangements for students’ programme of study. Students have been advised to contact their course tutor with their questions relating to teaching and assessments.


As A Centre Is It Is Not Viable For Us To Reschedule Assessments, What Should We Do?

You should speak to your AVA to discuss the options available to your students.


As A Centre It Is Not Viable For Us To Adapt The Delivery Of Learning And Assessment, What Should We Do?

You should speak to your AVA to discuss the options available to your students.


What Should Students Do If They’re Not Able To Study Because Of Illness Or Because Of Other Commitments, Including Additional Responsibilities As A Key Worker Or Carer?

Students due to complete by 31 July 2020, will receive calculated grades for all remaining assessments with submission dates after 20 March 2020.  We expect Access to HE course tutors to continue to deliver teaching and support during this period. Therefore, we are encouraging students to continue their learning wherever they can. Students have been advised to contact their course tutor if they need help or further support.


Students due to complete after 31 July 2020, will be able to use procedures that are already in place to request extensions to deadlines and to identify where extenuating circumstances may affect academic performance. Students should be able to find out about these from your course tutor or student handbook.


Access to HE Diplomas have been designed to be responsive to changes in circumstances, for example, during a period of illness. If students are unable to study, they are advised to talk to their course provider about the best way to continue with their Diploma.


Options 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 they are in self isolation - this will not necessarily affect the planned end-date of their course
  • a formal break or suspension in learning.

If the course is not publicly funded, you will be able to discuss other options that may be available to your students.


Students are advised to contact their course provider to agree the appropriate steps taken.


Students are unable to access the online lessons and materials, what should they do?

Students 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.


Students are finding it difficult to study with only online lessons and materials and are worried it will affect their grades and completing the Diploma - what should they do?

Students are advised to contact their course provider if they are concerned about their learning because of the adaptations to the way the course is delivered.


Students due to complete after 31 July 2020


As the course provider, you may be able to offer access to additional support or tools to help them study online. You may also be able to adapt or reschedule the delivery of their courses to allow students to revisit topics delivered once all course providers return to normal operation.


Where assessments have been completed after 20 March 2020, course tutors and senior course managers will be expected to exercise caution where the outcomes from the assessments suggests a change in performance. In many cases, this is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work is done.


To make sure that grades are fair and not unduly affected by the current situation, AVAs and providers will ensure that assessment grades go through a process of internal moderation, external moderation and standardisation. As part of the moderation process, AVAs may adjust the assessment grades of some assessments upwards or downwards accordingly to ensure that no student is advantaged or disadvantaged.


Will estimated assessment grades just be applied to exams or all assessments after 20 March 2020?


A student completing their Diploma by 31 July 2020 will now receive estimated assessment grades for all remaining assessments with submission dates after 20 March 2020. The assessment may include exams, or other forms of assessments, for example, essays, practical work and presentations.


How will I estimate assessment grades?

Estimated assessment grades will be based on your holistic professional judgement, balancing the different sources of evidence available to you. Course tutors will have a good understanding of their students' performance and how they compare to other students within each Diploma this year, and in previous years. We want senior course managers and course tutors to consider each student's performance over the course of study and make a realistic judgement of the assessment grades each student would have been most likely to get if they had taken the assessments. This could include an outcome of 'not achieved'.


In coming to this holistic judgement, course tutors should assume that it is no easier or harder for a student to achieve grades this year, compared to previous years.


Course tutors should draw on existing records and available evidence (as far as possible in the context of current public health advice). It is important that the judgements are objective, and they should only take account of evidence about student performance. This will include the following, where it is available:

  • records of prior attainment on course (summative: assessment grades and unit grades)
  • performance on any formative assessments, even if they have not been fully completed
  • previous results in your centre for each named Diploma
  • the performance of this year's students compared to those in previous years
  • any other records of student performance over the course of study.

Please note that estimated assessment grades are not the same as:

  • target grades (often set a little higher than likely to be achieved to motivate students)
  • predicted grades provided to UCAS in support of university applications. 

Given the timing of the announcement, we recognise that providers will have incomplete evidence and that the range and amount of evidence will vary between different subjects. Judgements should only be made on the evidence that is available. 


How Will Estimated Assessment Grades Work For Graded Units?

We are asking course tutors to use their professional experience to make a fair and objective judgement of the grades assigned to each assessment they believe a student would have been likely to have achieved. Your Access Validating Agency (AVA) will provide to you with supporting documents for estimating grades.


Course tutors should draw on existing records and available evidence as far as possible in the context of current public health advice.


The course tutor will then review all the assessment grades that have been given for a unit and will determine the final grade for the unit using a standard method.


The final grade for the unit is arrived at by establishing the midpoint of grades in the unit grade profile.


Can Students I Fail The Course Via Estimated Grades?

Estimated assessment grades will be based on a range of evidence, including

  • prior attainment on course;
  • formative assessments (assessment for learning); and
  • any other records of student performance over the course of study.

Estimated assessment grades may include:

  • Achieved (ungraded units)
  • Pass (graded units)
  • Merit (graded units)
  • Distinction (graded units)
  • Not achieved (graded and ungraded units)

How Will I Estimate Achievement For Ungraded Units?


As stated above, we are asking course tutors to use their professional experience to make a fair and objective judgement of the achievement on each assessment they believe a student would have been likely to have achieved.


It is important that providers take into account the full range of available evidence when they make judgements about student achievement for ungraded units, including prior attainment on the course, formative assessments, and any other records of student performance over the course of study.


What About Students Who Have An Agreed Reasonable Adjustment Or Access Arrangement?

Where students due to complete before 31 July 2020 have an agreed reasonable adjustment (for example, a reader or scribe), or other students have an agreed access arrangement, the estimated grade judgement should take account of likely achievement with the reasonable adjustment/access arrangement in place.


An extenuating circumstances request (ie special consideration), in the event that a student is unable to take an assessment or suffers a traumatic event that might affect their performance, will not apply after 20 March 2020. Instead, judgements should reflect how the students would have performed under ordinary circumstances. Where illness or other personal circumstances might have affected performance in previous assessments completed prior to 20 March 2020, providers should bear this in mind when making their judgements.


Students who are due to complete after 31 July 2020 should continue to receive the support they require.


Will Students See The Estimated Assessment Grades That I Submit?

No. Providers will not share estimated grades until students' final results have been confirmed. This is to protect the integrity of the tutors' judgements and to avoid tutors feeling under pressure to submit grades that are not supported by evidence. 


Sharing data with students

Students will want to know that the process of generating estimated assessment grades is rigorous, objective and fair. We have published information for students that providers may wish to circulate. 


Data subjects (students) are able to request their personal data under Article 15 of the General Data Protection Regulation. However, in respect of personal data such as marks or other information processed by a Data Controller for the purposes of determining results, an exemption from disclosure exists under paragraph 25(2) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This allows Data Controllers (in this case providers) to delay disclosure of such information until after results have been confirmed.


Providers must not, under any circumstances, share the estimated assessment grades with students or any other individuals outside the provider before final results have been issued. Estimated assessment and calculated grades can only be shared with your AVA and their representatives.


This is to protect the integrity of course tutor judgements, and to avoid tutors and senior course managers being put under pressure by students to submit a grade that is not supported by evidence. Since the final grades for some or all students within a provider could be different from those submitted, it also helps to manage students' expectations. 


Once the estimated assessment grades and calculated unit grades have been internally moderated and submitted to AVAs, the process to produce the confirmed grade outcomes will start. This will include external moderation and standardisation.


Does A Student Have To Continue To Complete Assessments To Inform The Estimated Assessment Grades?

Students due to complete before 31 July 2020


No. There is no requirement for providers to set assessments for the purposes of determining an estimated assessment grade. In addition, providers do not need to ask students to complete any unfinished assessment work or work expected to be re-submitted after 20 March 2020, for the purposes of estimating grades. If you have any questions regarding late submissions, please speak to your AVA.


No student should be disadvantaged if they were unable to complete any work set after many providers closed on 20 March 2020.


Where assessments have been completed after 20 March 2020, course tutors and senior course managers will need to be aware that such evidence may suggest a change in a student's performance. In many cases this is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work was done.


We have encouraged students, via public statements, to continue learning wherever they can, and this may include the completion of formative assessments (pieces of work that support their learning).


Students due to complete after 31 July 2020


Yes. We know that many Access to HE students are engaged in a tricky balance between work, family responsibilities and studies. However, it is important that you are as well prepared as you can be for your transition into higher education, so continuing with learning and assessments, where possible, is important to ensure you have covered all the subject knowledge and skills in order to meet the requirements of your Diploma. Continuing with learning and assessments will also help you feel more confident that you are ready to take the next step in your education or career pathway.


Access to HE providers and Access Validating Agencies already have procedures in place to allow you to request extensions to deadlines and to identify where extenuating circumstances may affect your academic performance, should the current situation make studying difficult. These procedures are available to all students.


Where assessments have been completed after 20 March 2020, course tutors and senior course managers will be expected to exercise caution where the outcomes from the assessments suggests a change in performance. In many cases this is likely to reflect the circumstances and context in which the work is done.


To make sure that grades are fair and not unduly affected by the current situation, AVAs and providers will ensure that assessment grades go through a process of internal moderation, external moderation and standardisation. As part of the moderation process, AVAs may adjust the assessment grades of some assessments upwards or downwards accordingly.


A student due to complete by 31 July 2020 handed in a piece of work before 20 March that needs to be resubmitted, what happens now?

You do not need to ask students to complete any unfinished assessment work and work expected to be resubmitted after 20 March 2020, for the purposes of estimating grades.


You should use the evidence available to you to estimate the assessment grades for all planned assessments to be submitted after 20 March 2020. This includes work to be resubmitted after 20 March 2020.


A Student Was Due To Complete By 31 July 2020 But Has Completed Less Than 50% Of Planned Assessments By 20 March 2020, Will They Receive Calculated Grades?

It is our expectation that students will have completed a minimum of 50% of planned assessed work by 20 March 2020. The student may not have achieved all of the learning outcomes for all work submitted for assessment, but has completed each piece of work.


If you any questions about the amount of planned assessed work your students have completed and the possible options for you moving forward, you should contact your Access Validating Agency (AVA).


Can A Student Due To Complete Before 31 July 2020 Continue To Complete Their Assessments?


We know that many Access to HE students are engaged in a tricky balance between work, family responsibilities and studies. However, it is important that all students are as well prepared as they can be for their transition into higher education; so making use of the resources prepared by Access to HE tutors and participating in continuing virtual teaching and tutorials, where possible, is key to ensuring students have covered all the subject knowledge required of a Diploma.  


Continuing with learning will help all Access to HE students feel more confident that they are ready to take the next step in their education or career pathway. We expect Access to HE course tutors to continue to deliver teaching and support. Therefore, we encourage students to continue their learning wherever they can.


A student may wish to continue to complete formative assessments, where possible. Students have been advised to contact their course provider for further advice. Please note that any assessments completed after 20 March 2020 will be considered to be formative assessments under the extraordinary grading scheme. Tutors may provide developmental feedback on these formative assessments. 


Formative assessment refers to a wide variety of methods that course tutors use to conduct in-process evaluations of student comprehension, learning needs, and academic progress during a lesson, unit, or Diploma. In other words:

  • formative assessments are for learning
  • summative assessments are of learning.

In terms of estimating assessment grades, there is no requirement for course tutors to set assessments for the purposes of determining an estimated assessment grade.


When And How Will Estimated Assessment Grades Be Submitted To Access Validating Agencies (AVAs)?


AVAs will provide detailed instructions to their providers on how to submit assessment and unit gradesforstudents due to complete by 31 July 2020. In terms of what will be submitted, it will include:

  • record of prior attainment on course (up to and including 20 March 2020)
  • record of estimated grades (21 March 2020 to 31 July 2020).

Providers should submit assessment and unit grades for all students for whom they are confident that they can make a judgement - for example, they can provide evidence to support the judgements. It will be important for providers to make sure that their submissions are complete and accurate as grades can only be issued for those students who have had grades entered for them.


The final date for AVAs to receive this submission will be Friday 5 June 2020.


Your AVA can provide details about how to submit the data.


Will I Need To Submit The Evidence I Have Used For Estimating Assessment Grades?

Providers will need to retain all the evidence for the purposes of moderation and standardisation exercises. AVAs will contact providers with sample lists to be externally moderated. Senior course managers will be asked to confirm that the estimated assessment grades are a true representation of student performance.


How Can We Assure Students That Estimated Assessment Grades Will Be Accurate? 

In an extraordinary situation such as this, course tutors are best placed to judge the likely performance of their students had the courses been completed as normal. In the interests of fairness to students, judgements made by course tutors should be consistent. AVAs will therefore moderate and standardise the judgements once estimated grades have been submitted.


How Will Estimated Assessment Grades Be Quality Assured And Standardised?

To make sure that grades are fair, AVAs and providers will ensure estimated assessment grades go through a process of internal moderation, external moderation, AVA standardisation and national standardisation.


As part of the moderation process, if grading judgements in some providers appear to be more severe or generous compared to national grade outcomes in recent years, AVAs will adjust the assessment grades of some or all of those students upwards or downwards accordingly.


In terms of national standardisation, QAA will consult on the principles of this model shortly, but we expect it will look at evidence such as the:

  • prior attainment on the course of students at each provider, AVA and by subject
  • expected national grade outcomes for this year's students
  • national grade outcomes of the provider, AVA and subject in recent years.

We will do this to align the judgements across providers, so that, as far as possible, your students are not unfairly advantaged or disadvantaged. This means that the estimated assessment grades you submit and the final unit grades that students receive could be different.


Internal sign-off within the centre  

Each set of estimated assessment grades and calculated unit grades for a Diploma must have been internally moderated before being signed off by the senior course manager. Where a course tutor might have a personal interest in a candidate (for example, as a relative), the senior course manager should make sure that additional controls are put in place, as appropriate.


The senior course manager will be required to submit the following declaration when the estimated assessment grade and calculated unit grade data is submitted:


‘I confirm that the estimated assessment and calculated unit grades are accurate and represent the professional judgements made by the course tutors, and that entries were appropriate for each student. Having reviewed the data and completed relevant quality assurance processes, including internal moderation, I am confident that they honestly and fairly represent the grades that these students would have been most likely to achieve if they had completed the assessments after 20 March 2020 as planned, and that they have not been disclosed to the student. I understand that AVAs will undertake quality assurance measures with QAA, and that, if the profile of grades submitted is substantially different from what might be expected based on my centre's historic results and the prior attainment of this year's students on course, the grades for my centre will be adjusted to bring them into line with national grade outcomes.’


AVAs may investigate any attempts to undermine this system which might be regarded as malpractice or maladministration.


When will results be released?

Results will be released at about the same time as in previous years to allow timely transfer to UCAS and higher education providers. Once actual assessment, estimated assessment and calculated unit grades have been confirmed through the moderation and standardisation processes, the provider may update their students.


Course providers may share results with students once they have been confirmed through the Access Validating Agency’s quality assurance processes. It is expected this will be by the time they are uploaded to UCAS (27 July 2020).


Will Estimated Assessment Grades Carry The Same Weight As Grades Issued In Previous Or Future Years?

The estimated assessment grades awarded to students will have equal status to grades awarded prior to 20 March 2020 and also in other years, and should be treated in this way by universities, colleges and employers.

The grades awarded for each unit will be shown on the achievement transcript that is issued with Access to HE Diplomas. The transcript also shows how many credits were awarded for each successfully completed graded or ungraded unit. Grades will be reported in the same way as in previous years.


Can A Student Appeal Their Estimated Assessment Grades?

We recognise that some students may feel disappointed that they have not been able to complete their assessments.


We are all focused on making sure students are not disadvantaged by these unprecedented circumstances including to allow for an appeal where appropriate. Under the circumstances, the normal arrangements for appeals will not apply. We are considering what arrangements might be put in place to allow an effective and fair appeal, and will consult shortly with AVAs and providers on proposals.


If a student does not feel their calculated grades reflect their expected performance, they will have the opportunity to appeal or they may choose to sit their assessments at the earliest reasonable opportunity (when all providers are operating normally). Students should be made aware that taking their assessments later may impact their progression to university in September. In addition, if a student does not believe the correct process of assessment for the award of the Access to HE Diploma has been followed in their case, they will be able to appeal.


If A Student Felt That Their Calculated Grade(S) Did Not Reflect Their Performance And Chose To Sit Their Assessment(S) At The Earliest Reasonable Opportunity, Will They Still Be Able To Go To University This Year?

When all providers are operating normally, students may still choose to take an assessment or assessments even where their university or college place has been confirmed. However, it will take time for the results of these assessments to be issued, so they will need to discuss with their higher and further education institution whether to start their course as planned or to delay their entry.


QAA has spoken to UCAS and was reassured to hear that institutions intend to be flexible wherever possible and will do all they can to support students to progress.


If A Student Due To Complete Before 31 July 2020 Takes An Assessment At The Earliest Reasonable Opportunity, Which Grade Will Stand – The Actual Or Estimated Assessment Grade?

Students who to choose to take an assessment or assessments when all providers are operating normally, the actual assessment grade will stand. Please note that an actual assessment grade may be lower than the estimated assessment grade.


A Student Is Studying GCSEs Or Functional Skills Alongside Their Access to He Diploma, What Happens About These Qualifications?

GCSEs and functional skills are regulated by Ofqual and students have been advised to look at the information produced by Ofqual about them.


What If A Student Has Concerns About Meeting The Conditions Of Their University Offer?

Students have been advised to check the UCAS website which is updated regularly with information for applicants.   


A Student Is Registered on A Pre-Access Course, What Happens About These Qualifications?

Students have been advised to speak to the organisation that will issue their Pre-Access qualification to find out what will happen to their results. You will be able to let the student know the name of the awarding body.


Will A Student Be Able To Progress To The Next Stage Of Education Or Employment With These Grades?

The approach being taken, as described above, will enable students to move onto the next stage of their education or employment in the autumn as planned, subject to meeting the requirements set by the receiving institution or employer.


How Can I Keep Up-To-Date?

Liaise with your AVA about the situation at your college so that contingencies can be put in place as necessary. Contact details for the AVAs are available on the QAA website.