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Labour’s Kate Green calls for Government to set out a plan to support the 130,000 students who will be sitting exams in colleges in January 2021

Kate Green
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@KateGreenSU – Stop neglecting vocational and technical qualifications 

Labour is warning the government to stop neglecting vocational and technical qualifications and set out a plan to support the 130,000 students who will be sitting exams in colleges next month. 

In January, colleges will oversee the largest exam sitting to go ahead during the pandemic. Secretary of State for Education Gavin Williamson, setting out a plan to make adaptations for summer GCSE and A-level exams, said: “we will be sharing the advance notice about what exactly the measures will entail with schools and colleges at the end of January.” 

However, this will do nothing for the 130,000 students sitting exams in January who have faced significant disruption to their learning, including missing teaching when having to isolate and changes to practical teaching to ensure lessons are Covid secure. Kate Green MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said that faced with these challenges it is “unforgivable” that the government has set out no support for students facing exams in a few weeks’ time.  

Colleges also face significant additional costs from Covid-related exam adaptations, such as additional rooms to enable social distancing, more invigilators and extra supervision before and after exams to manage student entry and exit. However, the government’s plan for exams set out on 3 December, included no support for colleges to ensure these exams can go ahead safely. 

To ensure vocational and technical exams are safe and fair for students this year, Labour is calling on the government to engage with colleges and set out a clear plan to make exams fair, addressing the different levels of learning students have lost, and to review the financial support available to colleges. 

Kate Green MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Education, said

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“It is unforgiveable that the government has put no support in place for BTEC students sitting exams in a few short weeks. 

“Colleges have experienced a decade of neglect under this government which cannot continue. 

“The government must urgently set out what adaptions will be made to ensure the exams are fair for students whose learning has been severely disrupted.” 

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) said:

“January will see the biggest set of exams since the onset of COVID-19 and we know that students have worked hard to be ready, even though many will have had their learning disrupted this term. These exams are also much more complex than academic exams, given the nature of technical and vocational education and training.

“Colleges have worked incredibly hard to keep learning and training happening, whilst keeping students and staff safe but we are particularly worried about those students who have lost learning time. More needs to be done to ensure that they are not disadvantaged, with contingencies and allowances wherever possible and required.  This exam season will be a testing time for colleges too – the additional costs and logistical burdens on them will be great. It is important for them to be supported to allow these exams to happen safely.”

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