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Result! Barking & Dagenham BTEC students happy with grades

Every #BTEC student @BarkingCollege was awarded the grade their tutors put forward and some were even upgraded 

Today, 13th August is BTEC results day. The principal of this large London college has said that BTEC #ResultsDay has been far less controversial than A-Levels results day, as grades are based on assessments throughout the course.  In comparison it has been reported around 40% of the grades awarded for A-Levels will be different from teachers’ predictions.

As Barking & Dagenham College Principal, Yvonne Kelly, explains: “Whilst A-Level and GCSE results are based on what a student achieves in an exam at the end of their course, BTECs, which are more hands-on practical courses, builds on their achievements as they progress through the course.”

Unlike traditional qualifications, students studying for BTECs are assessed from the start and in a variety of ways.  This might be coursework, projects or practical assessments linked to the world of work. The assessment grades, which show what each student has learned in each unit, are submitted to the awarding bodies and the final grade is calculated from there. 

As Yvonne continues: “The way BTECS are graded is a much truer reflection of students learning and achievements than what we are seeing now with A-levels and GCSEs.”

More than that though, Yvonne believes that given the post Covid-19 economic climate, qualifications such as BTECs could also stand young people on a much better footing to find work at the end of their studies. 

Yvonne continues: “Not only do students develop specialist knowledge and skills within a particular area, they also learn the ‘soft’ skills that you need in any workplace such as resilience and adaptability.  The true reflection of a vocational qualification is that you can apply your skills to different contexts.  Covid-19 has had a significant impact on the economic climate and we have seen many stories about job cuts.  Having those transferable skills will help set you apart from the crowd and help young people who are about to start carving out their career path.”

Around a quarter of a million young people will complete BTECs this year, a similar number to those getting A-levels results. This year, for the first time ever, they will be awarded calculated grades, as they were unable to sit exams due to COVID-19.

Ofqual have decided that teachers/tutors will be marking students and awarding them a ‘calculated’ grade based on work completed.

18-year-old Antonela from Romford is getting results for the first year of her BTEC level three in public services. She says:  “It was a bit different studying during lockdown, but I adjusted.

“At first, I had some trouble maintaining a routine, but after a while I settled in to one. The biggest challenge was maintaining my own well-being; I was pretty stressed at first. A lot of the course is practical, so I was worried about how it was going to go when we couldn’t do the practical activities. However, I survived by taking care of my mental well-being, doing exercise and talking to friends.”

How does Antonela feel about being awarded her BTEC grades this year without being in college? Antonela explains: “We don’t really do exams on the Public Services course, but we would’ve done lots more hands-on practical coursework.

“For me, personally, it kind of dampens the achievement, as I’ve not done some of the practical things I would’ve done between March and July, such as a residential trip to Wales, which was due to take part in May. I really feel sad to have missed out on doing the practical elements of my qualification this year, as I didn’t get to be with my team and work on teamwork and communication skills, which really are key skills for people wanting to work in the public services. We didn’t get to bond with our class as well as we would’ve done had we been able to carry on at college.”

What is Antonella going to do next? “I’ve got the second year of my course and then I would like to do a year of work experience; even if it’s just working in a shop or café, I think it would be great to get some experience of working with customers et cetera under my belt. My final goal is to get a job in the fire service.”

Regarding the future, Antonela is positive. She says “There’s going to be a lot of changes with COVID-19, but it’s going to be good. I’m excited to meet new people and do new things!”

17-year-old Emmanuel from Barking has completed his first year of an art and design BTEC. Emmanuel says “At first it was difficult to study during lockdown, as I was not used to it, but eventually as I started to get into a routine it got easier. We had 1-2-1s with teachers between one and three times a week, so that was really good. One of the biggest challenges I faced was the last project on making a shoe, which of course would’ve been much easier if I could’ve sat next to a technician in college.”

Emmanuel Oreyeni has been passionate about art since a young age. He became involved in the Thames Ward Community Project while in secondary school and when the country went into lockdown he was asked if he could continue his support of the project.

Emmanuel was keen to help and so now runs weekly art lessons online as part of the campaign.

How does Emmanuel feel about being awarded his BTEC without sitting exams? For Emmanuel it’s a good and a bad thing at the same time, he says; “There is more time to polish your work, but then actually I enjoy doing exams and would’ve preferred to do it that way.”

As for the future, he has one more year to go at college till he finishes his BTEC and then he says: “I’m going to go with the flow after that.”

Alex Hunter is 18 in from Newman; he’s just completed a BTEC in games art and animation. Alex says “It was really hard at the start of lockdown as it was complicated without having face-to-face help from tutors; after a while though I began to get used to it and also taught myself some things from YouTube videos et cetera. The biggest challenges were technical ones with my broadband and sometimes my laptop crashing.

“I’m looking forward to getting my grades. For me not doing exams is a good thing, as I think it’s better to grade someone based on their performance for a year, it’s fairer. Back when I was in secondary school doing my GCSEs everything was about being prepared for one single day, but this year I feel more relaxed.”

What is Alex going to do next? His main goal is to go to university he has a place at Ravensbourne University London, a digital media and design university, to study animation. He also plans to start freelancing and he is currently working on his own comic as a hobby.

How does Alex feel about the future? “I am excited about the future; coronavirus has made things complicated, for example my university course will be online for the first year, so I won’t be having the same experience as I would’ve done. But, actually, it is a new beginning and I am looking forward to it.”

19-year-old Yahya AdelTalukdar from Barking has just completed his level three BTEC in business studies. Yahya was heavily involved in college life and was the President of the Student Union, which involved in dealing closely with fellow students as well as managers of the college. At the College’s end of year award ceremony, which took place a couple of weeks ago, he was given the Principal’s Award for his excellent contribution to college life.

Yahya says: “It was quite difficult learning to study during the lockdown, as it was a new experience, but gradually I and my fellow students got used to the new system and the technology. It actually ended up being as easy as being at college; just two weeks into lockdown and we were into the routine.”

The most difficult thing for Yahya was balancing life at home with his studies. His dad had Covid-19, which was worrying, but he was still motivated to finish the course. Thankfully, his dad is fine now.

So how does Yahya feel about getting his BTEC grades next week? “I’m kind of nervous. I’m not sure what I’ll get, but in a way, I’m excited and looking to the future. I want to do either a degree apprenticeship or university.”

How does Yahya feel about the future? “I’m very optimistic. I’m looking forward to applying all of the skills that I have developed at the college. It was a great experience at the college and I feel very motivated.”

17-year-old Thomas Cooper from Dagenham is finishing the first year of his BTEC in business studies. Thomas says: “Studying during lockdown was still beneficial, as we did it all digitally. It certainly wasn’t my preferred method of learning, but I’m very grateful for what the college was able to do for us.”

How does Thomas feel about being awarded BTEC grades without sitting all of his exams? “We sat a couple of exams earlier this year before COVID, but I was due to sit the principles of management exam this summer. Personally, I would have preferred to do exams, as I rather like doing them, but I’m grateful to still be getting a grade and to not have been put back a year. After I complete my college course next year, I’m looking at doing a higher level apprenticeship or perhaps full-time work, depending on what I can find available.

Regarding the future Thomas says: “I feel like the future would’ve been stronger had COVID not happened, but I still feel that there are lots of opportunities for young people. Hopefully it will get back to how it was in the not-so-distant future.”

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