BTEC students left out of exam grades U-turn still need answers

Students have called for more information on how those with BTEC qualifications will be affected by the exam results announcement.

It was announced yesterday in a Government U-turn that students in England will now be given their predicted grades for A-levels and GCSEs, after a computer algorithm standardised results to much controversy.

But many have asked for clarity for those taking vocational qualifications under the Business and Technology Education Council (BTEC). They were subject to the same algorithm but not included in yesterday’s announcement.

The mayor of Manchester Andy Burnham, who threatened the exams regulator Ofqual with legal action over downgraded results, tweeted yesterday evening: ‘I can assure you that I will not be withdrawing my legal action until we have justice for BTEC students too.’

But education secretary Gavin Williamson has said the Department for Education is working with BTEC awarding body Pearson, and he is hopeful that the change will be extended to the vocational qualifications.

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The International Baccalaureate Organisation, which runs IB qualifications, also announced yesterday it would be revising its results, which would mean 24% of its grades would be changed.

Pupils were unable to sit their exams this summer because of the coronavirus pandemic. But instead of receiving their predicted grades, their results were decided by an algorithm aimed at standardising results across the country.

In England, 39.1% of all A-level entries were downgraded. This led to many receiving results much lower than they had expected, and in some cases losing out on university places, prompting widespread anger.

Disappointed students protested outside Number 10 in London over the weekend to demand a call for action.

The system was accused of being classist, as pupils attending schools which had historically received lower results were more likely to be downgraded.

Ofqual chairman Roger Taylor said in a statement yesterday afternoon: ‘We understand this has been a distressing time for students, who were awarded exam results last week for exams they never took.

‘The pandemic has created circumstances no one could have ever imagined or wished for. We want to now take steps to remove as much stress and uncertainty for young people as possible – and to free up heads and teachers to work towards the important task of getting all schools open in two weeks.

‘After reflection, we have decided that the best way to do this is to award grades on the basis of what teachers submitted. The switch to centre assessment grades will apply to both AS and A-levels and to the GCSE results which students will receive later this week.

‘There was no easy solution to the problem of awarding exam results when no exams have taken place. Ofqual was asked by the Secretary of State to develop a system for awarding calculated grades, which maintained standards and ensured that grades were awarded broadly in line with previous years. Our goal has always been to protect the trust that the public rightly has in educational qualifications.’

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said he was ‘sorry for the distress this has caused’.

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