Category: Vocational Qualifications

Maintaining a balanced curriculum with RSL’s Vocational Qualifications

July 16th, 2020 by

As we progress towards the new academic year following what will have been a tumultuous 6 months of uncertainty, the conversation about the shape of the curriculum for this coming year is increasingly prominent.

Many will have seen the concern expressed by a number of headteachers about the feasibility of continuing on ‘as normal’ with GCSEs and A-Levels, with the expectation that learners will take their full set of examinations in the Summer of 2021 as planned prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. Sadly, the narrative often turns to the reduction of GCSE subjects, with the Arts being identified as one of the primary victims.

As an awarding body specialising in the Creative Industries, here at RSL Awards we see the positive impact of Arts education every day, be it in the form of a graded exam in Music or Dance, or in the schools, colleges and training providers working towards our practically-focused Vocational Qualifications.

Since their inception in 2005, RSL’s Vocational Qualifications have become a popular alternative to the more traditional GCSE qualifications in Music, Dance and Drama. Equivalent in size to a GCSE, our Tech Awards are practical, creative and accessible to a wide range of learners, whilst retaining rigour and recognition. Instead of a written examination, these qualifications contain a controlled assessment in the Spring Term, alleviating some of the pressure of the end-loaded Summer exam period. With these qualifications potentially complete by the beginning of the Summer Term, learners are then able to focus on core curriculum at the climax of the academic year.

Our Tech Awards carry Progress 8 points and sit in the Open Bucket alongside GCSEs in Music, Dance and Drama, offering equivalent value for the learner and for the school. Where these GCSEs are in danger of exclusion from the curriculum, the Tech Awards offer a solution that allows learners to balance core learning with the fundamental personal development offered through experiential creative learning.

“In terms of data, Pupil Progress has improved dramatically and department residuals have been in the top 3 in school for the last 4 years. RSL assessment focuses on what the pupils can do, rather than penalising them for what they can’t. We now offer L1 and L2 Music Performance, L2 Technology & Composition and L2 Creative and Performing Arts (Acting). Staff and pupils really enjoy the RSL VQs and they have allowed us to tailor our curriculum provision so that it is relevant, accessible and purposeful to all our pupils, enabling them to be the best they can be.”

Claire Maud (Head of Performing Arts, Clifton Community School) – excerpt taken from a recently published article in Music Teacher Magazine (June 2020).

Rightly so, there is an increased focus on the mental health of learners returning to schools and colleges in September. Disruption has been experienced by everyone and will have affected people in a number of different ways, but we now need to do what we can to allow these learners to return to relative normality and to the balanced curriculum they deserve. The collaborative learning experienced through the Arts builds a sense of community that is arguably now more pertinent than ever before. A creative curriculum encourages both independence and teamwork, and builds confidence and communication through self-expression. This essential learning paves the way for those wanting to continue in the Creative Industries; a sector that contributed £111.7bn to the UK economy in 2018.

“The arts help young people flourish. Evidence shows that children who study the arts tend to do better in other subjects; they are more likely to attend university, and are more employable.”

ImagineNation: The value of Cultural Learning, Cultural Learning Alliance (2017)

For more information on our Vocational Qualifications, please fill in the form below or contact

Syllabus specifications for our Tech Award qualifications can be downloaded by clicking on the following links:

Music Practitioners – Pathways in Performance or Technology & Composition

Level 1 & 2 Tech Awards for Music Practitioners (Confirmed for DfE Performance Tables Until 2023)

Creative and Performing Arts – Pathways in Acting or Dance

Level 1 & 2 Tech Awards in Creative and Performing Arts (Confirmed for DfE Performance Tables Until 2023)

All other syllabus downloads can be found here…

“Cultural and arts education underpin success in life, work and society. I’m convinced that it is as important to ensure our best scientists and technologists understand the importance of creative skills as it is for our best creatives to contribute to science and technology. The digital world of the 21st century is crying out for well-rounded students who can see that a separation of STEM from culture and arts simply doesn’t make sense anymore.”

Mary Curnock Cook – Chief Executive, UCAS (2017)

For more information on our Vocational Qualifications, please fill in the form below contact


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COVID-19: Information for Centres delivering RSL VQs

June 23rd, 2020 by

We are aware that this is an extremely difficult and worrying time for all of our centres, especially those who have learners who are due to complete RSL qualifications this summer.


Head of Centre Declaration

In our guidance, we identified that centre assessment grades had to be signed off within the centre before submission to RSL and centres must keep a record of the process. Following additional advice from Ofqual, we now require an additional declaration to be submitted, which can be downloaded below.

A new document type has been created in the site specifically for this document. Please only use the document type ‘Head of Centre Declaration for Centre Assessment Grades.’ If another heading is used, the document may be missed and your centre may risk being delayed certification. Please complete and upload this document by Monday 29th June 2020.

RSL Head of Centre Declaration for Centre Assessment Grades

We are pleased to announce you will be able to input your centre assessment grades to the site at, using your usual logon details as of Monday 1st June 2020. The window for inputting centre assessment grades is 1st June – 12th June 2020.

We have adapted our usual grade input system at to allow for centre assessment grades and have updated our guidance in a How to Guide. We are hoping that amending our current system will make the process of inputting grades smoother for centres as it is a system you are familiar with.

Inputting Centre Assessment Grades – How To Guide

If you have not already, please ensure you refer to Ofqual guidance about centre assessment grades, particularly their ‘Guidance for Heads of Centre, Heads of Department and teachers on objectivity in grading and ranking’ which can be found here…

We are pleased to share two of four narrated presentations around the recent guidance for VQ certification this year.

This first presentation gives a brief overview of certification, the new terminology being used, timelines for certification, as well as information on the upcoming data collection activity including the submission of Centre Assessment Grades.

This second presentation gives an overview of the quality assurance flowchart, along with a more detailed look at Stage 1 and Stage 2 of the quality assurance process.

Our third presentation offers guidance on RSL’s approach to moderation and the statistical analysis that will take place following the moderation stage.

Please find below the fourth and final narrated presentation guiding centres through the recent guidance for VQ certification this year. This final presentation offers guidance on the RSL Assessment Board and the different actions RSL may take following this board that lead to certification.

Please make sure to share these presentations, and the associated guidance documentation, with any colleagues at your centre who will be involved in the certification process. Please also see the YouTube descriptions to see timings for particular slides.

Update: 21st May 2020

Guidance on Certification

Following our last correspondence to you on the 15th May 2020, we are writing to you to share our detailed guidance regarding certification for this year. We have put together two documents to support you with the process for this year.

The first is ‘VQ Summary of Actions for Certification.’ This is a concise summary of the timelines and the steps that centres will need to take in order to certificate learners this year. This document is designed as an overview.

RSL VQ Summary of Actions for Certification

The second is a technical document, ‘RSL Centre Guide for Certification for the Academic Year 2019-20.’ This is a significantly more detailed document which outlines all the processes that will be followed this academic year.

RSL VQ Centre Guide to Certification for Academic Year 2019-20

There are also a large number of FAQs, which we hope will answer any questions you may have.

Our IT team are continuing to work on the development of our submission system for the input of grades and we will update centres when this is available. We anticipate that this function will be available sooner than 1st June and as soon as our system is ready, we will contact all centres to let them know it is available to input the grades. Please do not input any grades until we ask you to.

We will be creating a series of short videos to support the written documentation, which will summarise each of the stages. We will let centres know when they are available.

If you have a question that cannot be answered by our FAQs, please contact the team via

External Assessment Feedback

This section of the email is in regards to centres with learners registered to complete externally assessed units this academic year. If this does not apply to you, please disregard this section.

As we confirmed to you previously, centres will need to produce centre assessment grades for units which under ‘normal’ circumstances would be externally assessed. To support centres with generating centre assessment grades for externally assessed units, RSL External Assessors have reviewed the evidence submitted for outcomes which were identified by centres as complete. RSL External Assessors have provided feedback and provisional grades for these learning outcomes, which can be used to support centre assessment grades for the external units. These provisional grades will not be input into the RSL system and feedback sheets will be available for centres to download via the External Assessment section of the site, on the published external assessment results day of 21st May 2020. Please click here to find the previously sent FAQs which include a section on external assessment which will hopefully answer a number of your questions.

To download the feedback sheets, the simplest way will be to download a ZIP file via the ‘External Assessments’ tool.

  • Select ‘External Assessments’ from the drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the screen
  • Select the ‘External Assessment Results’ button then follow the onscreen instructions.
  • Alternatively, follow this link (you will need to sign in) and select the ‘External Assessment Results’ button.

While every endeavour has been made to review outcomes marked as complete by centres, there may be some instances where a learner has not been reviewed or an incomplete outcome reviewed where it should not have been. As all feedback is in support of centre assessment grades, RSL assessors will not be reviewing any more learner work and any unseen evidence can be used to support centre assessment grades where you feel it is indicative of the relevant grade for that learner.

Where evidence uploaded was inaccessible, we have not asked centres to reupload evidence as centres would be generating centre assessment grades. It was felt the time taken to reupload the evidence (often large video files) would be unnecessary when centres would be generating the grades themselves. If this applies to your centre, you should have received an email from us about it.

Thank you for your continued patience during this difficult time.

Update: 15th March 2020

Following our correspondence on the 5th May 2020, we would like to provide you with an update on the certification of RSL qualifications this year. On the 14th May 2020, Ofqual published their Guidance for Centres for awarding vocational qualifications which you can find here…

In our communication of the 5th May 2020, we confirmed centres will be asked to produce centre assessment grades for each learning outcome for each unit completed this year, and asked centres to focus on internally assessed units. We can now confirm that this approach will also apply to units which, under ‘normal’ circumstances, would be externally assessed.

To support centres with generating centre assessment grades for externally assessed units, RSL External Assessors have reviewed the evidence submitted for outcomes which were identified by centres as complete. RSL External Assessors have provided feedback and provisional grades for these learning outcomes, which can be used to support centre assessment grades for the external units. These provisional grades will not be input into the RSL system and feedback sheets will be available for centres to download via the External Assessment section of the site, on the published external assessment results day of 21st May 2020.

Centres will need to input their centre assessment grades for the externally assessed units in the same way as for internal units. We will update centres when our systems are ready to accept these grades, which will be by the 1st June 2020 at the latest.

For centres who submitted a sample for EQA before lockdown but have not yet had their report, any sampling reports which have been completed but not yet released will be made available to centres on 21st May 2020.

Since centre closures, RSL have been working diligently to produce a plan and support for centres to ensure as many learners can be certificated this summer as possible. Following the additional guidance released by Ofqual, and the end of their consultation on 8th May 2020, we are currently finalising our guidance for centres to ensure it reflects the most up to date information, provides as much detail and answers as many of your questions as it can. We will be making the guidance available to centres on Thursday 21st May 2020 via email and also on this web page.

We appreciate centres are anxious to read the plans for certification and to support further, we have updated the FAQs we sent on the 5th May 2020, available via the button below. Please ensure you read the document carefully and pass on to any members of staff who may need this information.

The deadline we set out in our email of the 5th May for submitting centre assessment grades between 1st and 12th June 2020 still stands and our IT team are working to ensure our system is able to support the new process of centre assessment grades.

RSL Awards Guidance for VQ Centre Assessment Grades

Please do not hesitate to contact us via

Update: 5th March 2020

Since the beginning of the lockdown period and the announcement that GCSE and A’ Level examinations would be cancelled for the academic year 2019/20, RSL has been working with Ofqual and other UK regulators to reach a solution which allows learners to progress on to further or higher education or into the workplace with the vocational qualifications and certificates they have worked so hard to achieve.

Paramount in RSL’s approach is that no learner should be disadvantaged by circumstances beyond their control, and at every stage during the formulation of our approach this has been at the forefront of our minds.

RSL has now made Ofqual aware of its plan to calculate results and how we will approach the formulation of those grades. We await the conclusion of Ofqual’s consultation on ‘Exceptional Arrangements for Assessment and Grading in 2020’, the deadline for which is May 8th 2020.

In advance of the feedback from the consultation, please read the statement below which outlines our approach and what steps you can begin to take in preparation for submitting data to RSL.

RSL Awards Guidance for VQ Centre Assessment Grades

In the meantime if you have any questions please do not hesitate to contact us via

VQ Results Day!

May 23rd, 2019 by

Firstly, to all of the 5400+ learners from the 240+ schools and colleges across the UK who will all be receiving their RSL VQ results today: GOOD LUCK!

Whether your centre delivers Music Performance, Live Sound, Composition & Production, Music Business, Musical Theatre or Acting & Dance Performance (for example) it has been a pleasure to assess such an overwhelming variety of work from so many ambitious, talented learners, looking to make their mark in their chosen creative fields.

If your learners have achieved the results that they wanted – well done and congratulations! We know how much goes into these courses and it’s great that all of their efforts have been rewarded.

Unfortunately, there will also be other learners who will not have achieved the grades they wanted. The first thing to remember here is: this is not the end, and we’re here to help! These results do not have to affect any learners’ future goals and the process to rectify any unclassified assessment results are very straightforward.

If any of your learners fall into this category, please follow the link below to our External Assessment FAQ below.

External Assessment FAQs

These FAQ’s have been purposefully built to support you and your school/college through the processes associated with RSL’s externally assessed units.

If the answers included do not address your particular issue, please contact our VQ Team directly:

To all learners reading this: please speak to your centre directly and they will guide you through the process outlined above.

The RSL Team

SUPAJAM: changing young lives with specialised music education

August 9th, 2018 by

SupaJam: Encouraging young people to build a bright future through Music Education

SupaJam is a multi-award-winning specialist education provider for disadvantaged and vulnerable young people aged 16-18 and 19+, with Special Educational Needs and Educational Health Care Plans. SupaJam have chosen to take a different approach when it comes to helping young people, by using music to advance the educational development of those with special educational needs.

Founders Nick Stillwell and David Court are dedicated to the work they do and funded the school themselves for two years before it was officially recognised. The institution was initially formed to help aid six local teenagers. The program has now grown to over 70 pupils who are receiving life-changing support from industry professionals, which include safeguarding specialists and one-to-one tutors in Math and English.

“These kids are too young to abandon, this is our society and we have to fight for them.”
Nick Stillwell, Founder

This is not your ordinary education institution, for a start everyone at SupaJam gets to meet and learn from top people in the industry. Bassist Guy PrattPink Floyd often attends SupaJam to deliver workshops that aim to boost student’s motivation skills and inspire them to follow the footsteps of their favourite artists.

SupaJam currently offer pupils RSL Music Practitioners Diplomas at Levels 1, 2 and 3, which carry UCAS points for university applications, and span the breadth of job roles within the industry. Last year the first three SupaJam graduates were accepted into university: an extremely proud moment for the school, with many more going directly into the industry of their chosen field.  All this success have recently helped the SupaJam gain a lot of well deserved media attention.  They have already been featured in the Guardian and several broadcasters have pitched the possibility of developing a documentary about the project.

SupaJam student recording session

The founders have big plans for SupaJam. Not only do they want to continue to help as many young people as possible in the region, they are planning to take the project nationwide, improving many more young lives in the process.



A Mercury nomination for RSL Alumni!

August 1st, 2018 by

 RSL Alumni on the 2018 Mercury Prize nomination list! 


Wolf Alice, the high flying, alt-rock London four-piece, received their very first Mercury Nomination this month. Guitarist, Joff Oddie, studied RSL VQ’s Level 2 Music Practitioners Diploma during his time at Callington Community College.

The band were recently in attendance at the Prize Launch event with all the other 2018 nominees, such as Florence & The Machine , Jorja Smith , Arctic Monkeys , and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds . For a comprehensive breakdown of each of the nominated artists for this year, just click here.

The Mercury Prize is an annual music award that votes on the best album released in the UK and Ireland. The Mercury prize is open to all types of music including, pop, rock, folk, urban, grime, dance, jazz, blues, electronica and classical. Past winners of the award include era defining acts such as: BlurOasisEd SheeranThe Chemical BrothersArtic Monkeys and Amy Winehouse.

This year’s Mercury Prize Awards will be held at the Eventim Apollo, Hammersmith on September 14th and everyone at RSL are keeping their fingers crossed, not just for Joff – but for Ellie, Theo and Joel too.

Wolf Alice at the 2018 Mercury Prize Launch.



Vocational Qualifications: Music Practitioners

June 26th, 2018 by


There has been a significant rise in the popularity of Vocational Qualifications. More and more people are now taking VQ courses because it enables them to apply their practical knowledge to structured, theoretical subjects. In the creative industries, both experience and competence are the two primary qualities that will attract potential employers; and in today’s super-competitive job market, practical learning is as highly desired as ever.

Studying these subjects in this manner is a unique opportunity; whilst some learners flourish in a traditional academic model, others prefer to learn the practical skills that will enable them to apply themselves in real world scenarios from the very start of their respective careers. Not only does this help the learner attain a recognised qualification, but there is a lot to be said for what it can do for learners on a personal level, such as develop a pragmatic work ethic, the ability to self-motivate, and a heightened self-confidence.

Music Practitioners

Catering for schools, colleges and training providers at over 350 centres throughout the UK, RSL’s VQ’s are a market leader in conjunction with our Graded Music Exams.

Music Practitioners qualifications offer over 140 units across levels 1, 2, and 3; covering subjects that provide each learner with the ideal platform to develop the necessary skills they need to gain experience for their chosen career path.

The Music Practitioners qualification also contributes to DfE (Department of Education) performance measures, carries UCAS points for HE applications, and provides practical, relevant, accessible pathways into the creative industries.


All of our qualifications are based on the assessment of practical skills and knowledge.


Build your qualification with a choice of 350 units across three unique qualification suites.


Current industry trends will always be covered in RSL’s regularly updated specifications.

Industry Focused

Written by leading industry specialists and education professionals.

Performance Tables

RSL has a range of qualifications which contribute to school and college performance measures.


RSL’s Vocational Qualifications attract funding from the ESFA (Education and Skills Funding Agency).

Find out more about Music Practitioners here >>

Queens Awards 2018

April 21st, 2018 by

RSL wins the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade!

We are delighted and proud to announce that we have won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in International Trade! We feel honoured that RSL received recognition and appreciation for the achievements it has accomplished through the years.

Established in 1965 , the Queen’s Award for Enterprise celebrates the UK’s small and medium sized businesses. Widely regarded as the most prestigious business awards in the country, the 2018 award marks the 52nd anniversary of the scheme.

A presentation ceremony will be conducted at RSL HQ by the Lord-Lieutenant of the County as HM The Queen’s representative. Additionally, HM The Queen will host a reception at Buckingham Palace for representatives of the winning companies on the 28th June 2018, with Founder Norton York and RSL’s CEO, John Simpson, in attendance on behalf of the company.



March 15th, 2018 by


We are excited to be exhibiting at the NEC Education Show on the 15-16th of March, 2018.  Join a variety of talented professionals from the education industry ranging from: thought leaders, exhibitors, sponsors and trade buyers. This is a great opportunity for schools, colleges and training provider representatives to develop ideas and reflect on their current strategies.

The Education Show is known for helping to bring classrooms to life, and we will be there sharing our own top tips and advice to help you further inspire the next generation of learners. Our team will also be discussing the wider benefits of Rockschool Graded Music Exams, Vocational Qualification’s and Performance Arts Awards: tailor-made qualifications for all-comers.

There will be some great seminars across both days; brought to you by informed, enthusiastic education professionals, with a wealth of experience in the sector. Click here to see the full seminar programme to find the talks that best address your interests.

Seminars include:





New RSL VQ Video!

February 28th, 2018 by

Vocational Qualifications 2018

Please click below to watch our very own VQ specialists share their knowledge and experience on the benefits of RSL VQ’s; tailored for schools, colleges and training providers.

New RSL VQ Video!

A special thanks to everyone at Reach Academy (Feltham) for letting us observe their session!

To discover how you could deliver RSL VQ’s at a school, college or training facility, please click here for more details.