Education CommitteeFurther written evidence submitted by JCQ (Annex A)

Role and Remit of JCQ

Thank you for letter of 8 February 2012 regarding the role and remit of the Joint Council for Qualifications. I trust the information given below provides you with what you require.

About JCQ

The JCQ is a membership organisation that brings together and represents the collective voice of the seven largest providers of qualifications in the UK—AQA, CCEA, City and Guilds, Edexcel, SQA, OCR and WJEC. Together, these awarding organisations offer GCSE, GCE, Principal Learning, Project, Entry Level, Scottish Higher, Vocational and vocationally related qualifications.

In the main, the JCQ’s work to develop and publish common guidance for examinations relates to General Qualifications, which are the focus of this letter.

The JCQ was established in January 2004. It is a registered charity and its activities are not for profit. It employs five staff and its work is overseen by the Chief Executives Forum drawn from its membership. Its Chair is nominated from this Forum and the post is held for six months.

Its key roles and activities are to:

ensure standards are maintained between awarding bodies;

provide a collective position on technical issues including awarding and moderation;

publish, each year, results for GCSEs, GCEs, and other national qualifications;

help member awarding organisations work together to create common examination standards, regulations and guidance;

help member awarding organisations regulate themselves against those agreed standards as well as monitoring any exceptions;

respond collectively, where possible, to consultations and requests from regulators, Government and other stakeholders;

provide a forum for members to discuss issues with each other, partner organisations and the regulators; and

ensure examinations are sat under consistent regulations.

Much of the JCQ’s work on data and standards, as well as work on other common technical issues, is undertaken by its Standards and Technical Advisory Group (STAG). For example:

Statistical screening of General Qualification grades

Each year, a post hoc analysis of how statistically aligned the results for awarding organisations’ specifications in a subject are, is undertaken. The method compares specification outcomes, adjusted to take into account any difference in the ability of their entry cohorts. Those measures of ability for GCE and GCSE specifications are derived respectively from candidates’ mean prior and mean concurrent GCSE score. In the event of any unexplainable misalignment, remedial action is recommended for the following year.

Entry, Aggregation and Certification Rules for GCE and GCSE

These rules have been developed so that entry requirements, aggregation processes and certification are common across all awarding organisations and to ensure there is a standard interpretation of Ofqual’s criteria governing these qualifications. The GCE rules also cover the transfer of credit mechanism for AS qualifications between awarding bodies.

STAG is an important link between awarding organisations and the regulators and its members are part of the regulators’ Standards and Technical Issues Group (STIG).

Areas covered by JCQ’s guidance on examinations

To reduce bureaucracy, deliver a coherent and fair examinations system, and to make life easier for schools, colleges and training providers, the JCQ has developed a series of regulations, advice and guidance on examinations for General Qualifications. These are:

General Regulations for Approved Centres

These regulations set out the responsibilities of awarding organisations and centres for the delivery of qualifications. They also detail the requirements awarding organisations place on a centre in order to become recognised as an examination centre.

Instructions for conducting coursework and Instructions for conducting controlled assessments

These two sets of instructions detail the procedures for the administration of coursework and the administration and running of controlled assessments.

Instructions for conducting examinations

To ensure a level playing field for all candidates, the JCQ has developed procedures for the administration and running of examinations that all centres must adhere to.

Regulations and Guidance—Access Arrangements, Reasonable Adjustments and Special Consideration

This document sets out the criteria for the various access arrangements which are the manifestation of the application of reasonable adjustments to assessments. The booklet is produced in consultation with the regulators in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and disability groups.

Post Results Services

As part of delivering a transparent examination system, the awarding organisations provide a Post Results Service that allows centres, on behalf of their students, to request different levels of checks on examination scripts including reviews of marking. This document provides a common set of principles which are derived from Ofqual’s Code of Practice so that services and arrangements are uniform across awarding bodies.


A common set of procedures has been developed by the JCQ to deal with appeals against awarding body decisions.


To ensure a standard approach to handling instances of candidate, teacher and centre malpractice or maladministration, a common set of procedures has been developed.

In addition to the regulations outlined above, the JCQ issues a set of standard IT formats so that examination entry and results information shared electronically between awarding bodies and centres and awarding bodies and institutions, such as UCAS and the Department for Education, is uniform. These standard formats are implemented by MIS suppliers in their software packages they supply to examination centres.

The JCQ maintains a list of gradesets that can be used in the awarding of qualifications. These gradesets set out the ranges of grades that may be awarded in particular qualifications. For example, the gradeset for GCSE is A* to G. In all there are 45 different grading scales, not all of which are still in current use.

The JCQ constructs a common timetable for each examination series in the calendar year to keep clashes to an absolute minimum. There are over 70 different GCSE and GCE subject titles which need to be accommodated in the timetable. To accompany the timetable, it publishes set of key dates which provide centres with deadlines for activities associated with the examinations process, for example, when they need to have entered all their candidates for examinations and when access arrangements need to have been submitted.

Following the closure of the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Authority, the JCQ has assumed responsibility for Access Arrangements Online. It is through this system that centres make applications for access arrangements (for example extra time, the use of a scribe etc). It ensures that all candidates receive the same treatment across all examinations irrespective of the awarding body they are taking the examination with.

Who decides which areas your guidance/rules cover and how, and where the impetus for additions/amendments to your guidance/rules comes from

The awarding bodies collectively, through various committees and groups, agree the areas to be covered by common guidance and regulations and how they should be implemented. The impetus for change can come from a wide range of sources including a change to the regulatory criteria, a change in legislation, discussions with representative bodies such as disability groups, or a change in working practice within awarding organisations.

Whether there are any trends related to the guidance/rules you issue (for the example, on the use of calculators and on extra time). On extra time, it would be helpful if you could tell us why the number of requests approved increased between 2004–05 and 2008–09

The regulations on the use of calculators stem from Ofqual and the various sets of subject criteria they issue.

Extra time in examinations was delegated to centres in 1998. With the introduction of Access Arrangements Online, it has been reunited with the other access arrangements. Between 2004–-5 and 2008–09 online tools were introduced to allow for the electronic processing of access arrangements. Intensive training of exam officers to utilise these online tools raised awareness of the requirement to record applications for extra time.

In September 2007, the DDA 1995 was extended to general qualifications. The impact of the DDA on general qualifications, when dyslexia was ruled to be a disability, has played a significant part in the escalation of approvals over the period 2004–05 to 2010–11. JCQ has been endeavouring to strengthen the regulations for extra time but is conscious that it must remain within the requirements of the DDA. In all of these matters the regulator is consulted and provides advice.

How the JCQ is funded

The JCQ is funded from subscriptions from its members. It has a very small income generated from royalties and the provision of data (in the region of £12k per annum).

Whether the work of the JCQ is regulated and if so, by whom and how

The JCQ is a not-for profit charity and is not regulated although it does work closely with the regulators in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. All of the JCQ’s members, however, are regulated.

February 2012

Prepared 2nd July 2012