Welcome to the RSL Vocational Qualifications end of academic year 2020-21 newsletter!

The onset of academic year 2020-21 was never likely to herald a return to normality after the disruption of 2019-2020 but it has perhaps even surpassed expectations in terms of the difficulties it has presented to all our centres, as well as to us at RSL.

We would like to thank you all for working with us and helping us to overcome the hurdles we have faced this year, and we thought it might be useful to provide a short end of year update from the various departments here who are concerned with making VQs run as smoothly as possible.


Click the links below to jump to news from:

Also, keep scrolling for some amazing VQ Centre Spotlight videos!


VQ Operations Team Update

It has been another unusual year for us in the Vocational Operations Team. Of course, the day-to-day interactions with centres have continued and we have endeavoured to be as efficient as possible in dealing with centres requests and submissions, while contending with all the changes to the calendar, the QA process and the expectations of what centres and learners are capable of with all the COVID restrictions in place. We have received some excellent feedback from centres about communication and support this year, which is reassuring as we have hoped to be as clear as possible in an unclear situation.

As well as dealing with the ever changing assessment landscape this year we have had to plan ahead for the introduction of Ofqual’s new ‘Centre Assessment Standards Scrutiny’ (CASS) which will mean differentiating requirements on centres based on previous experience of delivering Vocational Qualifications with us. We sent you information on CASS last month, and we hope that we have managed to accommodate the required changes without too much upheaval for delivery centres. We will be sending out more detailed information about the requirements in due course.

You should have received the Key Dates Calendar for 2021-22, and those dates will hopefully remain unmoved so that we can have a more consistent and undisrupted year working with you from September.

If you are planning to add additional qualifications to your delivery next year, do get in touch and complete the ‘Additional Qualifications Application Form’ from the VQ help and support area, so that we can get them added to your record.

We would like to thank centres for all of their efforts complying with the grading deadlines this year and for supplying samples in a timely fashion where requested. We wish you all a good summer break.


VQ Centre Spotlight: SupaJam

SupaJam support disadvantaged and vulnerable young people, many of whom have never achieved a formal qualification. SupaJam currently have a 94% music diploma pass rate and, in 2020, 87% of their learners went on to university which is an amazing achievement considering some of them had fallen out of school at the age of 10.

In this video, we show how RSL's diverse and flexible Vocational Qualifications allow SupaJam to offer creative arts education in a unique, progressive and inclusive learning environment.


EQA Update from Andrew McBirnie (Chief Examiner)

RSL has a team of 28 External Quality Assurers (EQAs), including three Senior EQAs. They represent a wide cross-section of knowledge and experience: all have a background in vocational education in music, media and/or the performing arts; many remain actively involved in delivering qualifications in schools and colleges; many are industry practitioners, often working at the highest levels; many maintain portfolio careers encompassing a wide variety of activities; some have worked at senior levels in the vocational education sector. All are united by a commitment and focus on supporting RSL centres, helping staff in those centres to provide the best learning experience for their students, and ensuring that the students themselves – who are at the heart of what we do – achieve meaningful qualifications which enable them to grow, develop and achieve.

This has been as challenging a year for our EQAs as it has been for all of us. Though I say it myself, they’ve been brilliant in responding to a constantly changing and unpredictable landscape with calmness, professionalism and good humour. As lockdowns, Government policies and regulatory frameworks have come and gone with sometimes bewildering speed, we’ve done our best to keep EQAs up to date with the company line on every issue, which has often been little more than ‘we don’t know yet and we’ll tell you when we do’.

At the same time, we’ve tried to maintain ‘business as usual’ as much as we can. My main objective in overseeing the work of examiners, EQAs and assessors across all of RSL’s portfolios is to ensure correct and consistent application of standards. Following initial training at the beginning of the academic year, this is managed on a day-to-day basis by our three Senior EQAs, who check and review reports and observe centre visits, written or delivered by the EQAs under their remit. Prior to the upload of grades on 18 June and subsequent moderation window, we ran a standardisation exercise in which all EQAs participated; I reviewed all the reports they produced, discussed issues raised with the Senior EQAs and VQ colleagues, and fed back my findings. I’m pleased to say there was a very high level of consistency regarding the key decisions, and there were many useful issues thrown up by the reporting which we will be able to take forward next year in the hope that we will be able to further improve the quality of our service to centres.

To everyone reading this, thank you for your support of RSL and for your EQA in particular. It’s always appreciated when a centre takes the trouble to let us know that they value the work and support of their EQA – and I’m pleased to say that what feedback I do see is overwhelmingly positive. It’s also great when an EQA mentions to me that they have received thanks, appreciation and co-operation from their centres – which again is very frequent. It does seem to me that there’s a common and constructive bond between centres and their learners, and ourselves at Head Office – we all want students to be able to express themselves, develop their skills and confidence, and receive reward and recognition for what they can do; and our EQAs are the lynchpin in enabling that to happen.


VQ Centre Spotlight: New College Swindon

New College Swindon are committed to providing students with the best teaching and learning, facilities, enrichment, development opportunities and guidance support.

In this video, we show how RSL's flexible Vocational Qualifications allow New College Swindon's students achieve their own personal goals or ambitions, whether that's higher education or going straight into the creative industries. We also delve into the wider support RSL offers all delivery centres and the guidance provided by our EQAs (External Quality Assurers).


Update from our Academic Team

2020-21 Academic year has been like no other and although we know new qualifications might have been pushed to the back of your consciousness whilst you tackled the day-to-day challenges of teaching in a pandemic, we have been working away on various new specifications or amended specifications this year.

Uppermost in our mind during this year has been the impending change to ‘Tech Awards’ for 2024 Performance Tables (first teaching in 2022). We have had a new set of Technical Guidance to work through and this will mean some changes to the existing format of our Tech Awards, however we have tried to stay loyal to the principles we always use when designing our VQs – namely practical skills and knowledge being at the forefront.

The specifications are with Ofqual and DfE for approval for first teaching in September 2022 and you can download the drafts by clicking on the download links below.

We have submitted Tech Awards in:


Alongside the Tech Awards development, we have also put the finishing touches to the new Creative Music Industry spec at Levels 1 and 2, and we have added it to the Level 3 quals which have seen a really strong uptake this year. There has also been a full review of our non-performance tables Creative and Performing Arts specification and the refreshed version is now live on our website.

It isn’t just qualifications that we work on though, alongside them we are also constantly updating the resources we make available to centres to assist them in delivery. This year we have added Standardisation Materials and Additional Exemplar Materials to the ‘Help & Support’ section of our website. You can access these by logging in to the website. Alongside those resources we ran a series of CPD sessions with Industry Practitioners and they will be available to access shortly from the same location.


If you would like to discuss any of the information raised in this newsletter please do get in touch with our Business Development team – patrickhealy@rslawards.com / benworsley@rslawards.com

The team are also on hand to discuss any of the qualifications in Music, Performing Arts, Creative Digital Media or Creative Industries.

Please do also get in touch if you are interested in our portfolio of Graded Music, Graded Performing Arts or Professional Diploma qualifications.

If we don’t hear from you have a great summer and we look forward to working with you again in 2021/22!