From education to employment

U-Turn on Vocational Technical- Qualification results – what is happening with BTEC’s this year?

Gavin OMeara

There has been a lot of coverage on the U-Turn from Ofqual and Gavin Williamson on the A-Level, AS and GCSE grades. We mentioned Vocational Technical Qualifications in our sector response article. Gavin O’Meara, CEO of FE News had a chance to ask Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, some questions to clarify the plans on Vocational-Technical Qualifications such as BTEC’s, so we thought it would be helpful to have a stand-alone article for this topic alone. 

In a media briefing last night (17th August 2020), Gavin O’Meara, CEO, FE News asked Gavin Williamson:

“Do awarding bodies have enough time for a turnaround on this?

“Obviously we’ve got GCSEs coming up plus with what has happened last week, are we giving everyone enough time to be able to have a turnaround on these changes, for learners to receive the right details?

Gavin Williamson replied:

“I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all the awarding organisations who have put in so much work into this, and we will work with them to continue to support them in terms of the awarding of grades, whether that’s vocational technical qualifications, or whether that’s GCSEs, A Levels, and AS Levels as well. We believe that by working with them, we’re able to deliver.

Gavin O’Meara also asked:

“250,000 people last week, on Thursday, received their BTEC results, so are you also going to be incorporating BTECs in the results U-turn as well, is it that you need to be working with Pearson on that?

Gavin Williamson replied:

“We’re working with Pearson on that, we very much want to include them on that, we want to ensure that there’s the maximum amounts of fairness for youngsters right across the board. There’s quite a bit of difference because there’s very little disparity in terms of the assessment of grades for those who took BTECs and other vocational technical qualifications. There’s been a lot less disparity, but we want to see parity right across the board in terms of how this is approached, and that’s what we’re working with Pearson’s on, in order to ensure that that’s the case.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said

‘This has been an extraordinarily difficult year for young people who were unable to take their exams.

‘We worked with Ofqual to construct the fairest possible model, but it is clear that the process of allocating grades has resulted in more significant inconsistencies than can be resolved through an appeals process.

‘We now believe it is better to offer young people and parents certainty by moving to teacher assessed grades for both A and AS level and GCSE results.

‘I am sorry for the distress this has caused young people and their parents but hope this announcement will now provide the certainty and reassurance they deserve.”

Sector Response to Vocational Technical Qualifications results in 2020

Tom Bewick FAB 100x100Tom Bewick, Chief Executive of the Federation of Awarding Bodies said:

“The announcement today on A-Levels and GCSEs brings clarity and certainty for a generation of students, who through no fault of their own, had their hopes dashed earlier this year by not being able to sit exams. The FAB board called last week for maximum flexibility, as well as encouraged the universities and employers to look beyond just the grades of students. We are pleased that Gavin Williamson has said the cap on HE student numbers will be lifted and that he has formally thanked the hard work of awarding body staff. 

“It is really important to remember that there are thousands of outstanding vocational and technical students who have also picked up their results recently. On the whole, these calculated or adapted results have been received without controversy or complaint. And where there are some CAG related issues (e.g. BTECs), these will be resolved by the relevant awarding organisations, working with Ofqual, very quickly. Finally, I would like to say that it is important on days like today we do not dwell too much on the negatives of what has happened. Over the last 5 months a tremendous amount of positive work and collaboration across the whole education sector has been achieved. Working in a national emergency is always a massive challenge; and future generations will judge us by the character of our resolve in rising to the challenge and doing the best by learners both now and in the future.” 

A Pearson spokesperson said:

“BTECs are structured very differently to A levels, and so the approach to awarding is also different. BTECs were not subject to the same statistical moderation process as A levels.

“BTECs comprise modular units that students complete and are assessed at regular stages during their course of study, so prior to March 2020, students had already banked graded units for their qualification. As we do every year, this year we asked centres to submit all the grades for the internal assessment units that had been completed as well as any grades for units still to be completed. These were accepted with very little change following quality assurance checks. They then formed part of the evidence, alongside previously completed assessment unit grades, to award grades for the externally assessed units and the final overall qualification grade. 

“For the very small number of grades that were adjusted, we will be reviewing them on a case by case basis with centres following the same principles as those announced today.

“This is why we have seen very stable outcomes for BTEC and other vocational qualifications. As in every year, students unhappy with their final grade can appeal. 

“It has been an incredibly difficult time for students, teachers and colleges. Our priority this summer has always been to ensure students are able to progress to the next stage in their lives – whether education or employment.”

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