Exams row: BTec students begin receiving revised grades

Students have begun receiving their BTec grades, a week after the exam board Pearson withdrew some and delayed the publication of others to give itself time to recalculate scores in the week of the A-level results fiasco.

About 200,000 people who had taken the level one and two vocational qualifications were told last week, just hours before results day, that they would not receive them on time. A further 250,000 level-three grades, which had already been awarded, were also reassessed.

It came after an outcry over A-level and GCSE results led to the scrapping of an algorithm that had calculated pupils’ grades in lieu of exams. After the algorithm downgraded the results of many pupils from the estimates given by their teachers, while apparently favouring pupils from private schools, pupils held multiple protests with many calling for the resignation of the education secretary, Gavin Williamson.

In many cases, BTec level-three students had also been given lower grades than they had expected. Pearson subsequently said regrading was needed to “address concerns about unfairness in relation to A-levels and GCSEs and ensure no BTec student is disadvantaged”.

BTec results will now be given on a rolling basis over the week, with the priority going to level-three results, which may be used for applying to university. Pupils will receive results for level one and two qualifications from Thursday.

A Pearson spokesman said: “We know this has caused frustration and additional uncertainty for students and we are truly sorry. No grades will go down as part of this review.”

Jenny Cameron, the director at Stagedoor Learning in Cheltenham, who teaches level-three BTec performing arts, said almost all of her students’ original results had been two grades lower than they should have been.

“The students have been treated really shoddily … it’s been two weeks of unnecessary stress and worry for my students, as well as me,” she told PA Media. “It was just bewildering what [Pearson] did … it didn’t make sense at all.”

Kieran Cody, a year 12 student at a technical college in north-east London, was given a U in mathematics for engineering and a near-pass in his other subjects. The 17-year-old had earlier received some of the highest mock exam grades in his class and his teachers said they expected him to earn a distinction and merits in his final grades.

“It feels like I’ve been treated like crap,” he said.

Kevin Courtney, the joint general secretary of the National Education Union, said:“It is right that Pearson recognised the oncoming chaos and played their part in rectifying the situation, but students and their families will not forget this results season in a hurry. It was an entirely avoidable state of affairs, and the weaknesses of the system are now fully exposed.

“Gavin Williamson must put things right for 2021 as a matter of urgency. There needs to be a reduction in content assessed in exams next summer, collaboration with the profession to develop a robust national system of moderated centre-assessed grades in case of further outbreaks of Covid-19, and a thorough independent review into assessment methods along the lines announced for Scotland.”

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