Ofqual’s role as regulator

1.The Apprenticeships, Skills, Children and Learning Act 2009 (the ASCL Act 2009) established the Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual) as the independent regulator of qualifications, examinations and assessments in England and of vocational qualifications in Northern Ireland. Its objectives, duties and powers in relation to National Assessments, as defined in the Act, are set out in the following paragraphs.


2.As the regulator of National Assessments1 Ofqual's key objectives are to:

  • encourage and support the development and implementation of regulated assessments that give a reliable indication of achievement, and that indicate a consistent level of attainment (including over time)
  • promote public confidence in regulated assessment arrangements (see Glossary).


3.Ofqual has a specific duty to keep under review all aspects of statutory national assessment arrangements. This includes:

  • the consistency and reliability of teacher and practitioner judgements
  • the development of tests, tasks and assessment models
  • the way responsible bodies2 execute their monitoring, audit, development and implementation activities
  • establishing whether assessment outcomes are being used in a way that is consistent with the statutory or specified purpose of the assessment (see Glossary)
  • for Early Years Foundation Stage, the involvement of pupils and children in initiating activities that could inform teacher or practitioner judgements.

4.In this context Ofqual will have regard to its general duties, which include:

  • the reasonable requirements of pupils and children, including persons with learning difficulties
  • information supplied to Ofqual by the persons falling within section 129(4) of the ASCL Act 20093
  • the specified purposes of regulated assessment arrangements.

5.If it appears that there is or is likely to be a significant failing (see Glossary) in the statutory assessment arrangements, Ofqual has a duty to notify the Secretary of State4 and any relevant responsible body.

6.Ofqual has a duty to act efficiently and effectively and to avoid imposing burdens which it considers unnecessary.

7.Ofqual has a duty to report to Parliament.


8.Ofqual has the power to request from relevant persons, at any time, information that it considers necessary for the performance of any of its functions, including from the Secretary of State, National Curriculum or Early Years Foundation Stage responsible bodies.

9.Ofqual has the power to require information which Ofqual considers necessary or expedient to have in order to perform its functions to review assessment arrangements from the Secretary of State, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills and any responsible body. Ofqual would expect any organisation that has a remit for developing, implementing or monitoring any aspect of National Assessments, including any of a responsible body’s suppliers, to provide information promptly and directly to Ofqual, where necessary including obtaining information from any of a responsible body’s suppliers.

Other functions

10.Ofqual must produce regulatory frameworks relating to National Curriculum and Early Years Foundation Stage assessment arrangements, and responsible bodies should meet the requirements of these frameworks when performing their functions.

11.Ofqual will promote a framework to support the consistent and appropriate application of criteria used by practitioners and teachers for assessment within and between settings5, schools and local authorities. Ofqual will review and report the effectiveness of this framework and may make changes to the framework that will further support the consistent and appropriate application of assessment criteria by practitioners and teachers.

12.As part of its regulatory activity Ofqual will take into account all duties placed upon it as a public body6. These duties7 include promoting:

  • the elimination of discrimination
  • the equality of opportunity
  • good community relations
  • the elimination of harassment
  • positive attitudes towards disabled people
  • participation among disabled people
  • favourable treatment towards disabled people, if necessary
  • respecting human rights.

Ofqual will keep these duties under review as they develop over time.

    1. In this document the term National Assessments refers to National Curriculum and Early Years Foundation Stage assessments. []
    2. See Glossary for the general definition of responsible bodies. Responsible bodies include the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA), local authorities, Ofsted, Early Years Foundation Stage providers and headteachers of maintained schools. (The government recently announced its intention to introduce legislation to abolish the Qualifications and Curriculum Development Agency (QCDA) and to ensure that National Curriculum tests continue to be delivered. For the purpose of this consultation, the current functions of QCDA in conducting National Assessments have been identified.) []
    3. Section 129(4) of the ASCL Act 2009 designates QCDA, Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Education, Children’s Services and Skills and other relevant persons or relevant persons of such a description as the Secretary of State may direct. []
    4. The Secretary of State referred to in this document relates to the Secretary of State with responsibility for early years, primary and secondary education []
    5. Throughout this document the term settings refers to establishments, other than schools, that deliver the Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum and associated statutory assessments. []
    6. Public body means a body exercising public functions. []
    7. These duties apply to any responsible body that is also a public body. []