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20 August 2020 02:40

A-level results Business and Technology Education Council Student

Students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland hoping to use BTec qualifications to win university places have been given a lifeline after an examination board performed its own U-turn to scrap the flawed system it had used to award grades. Pearson, which offers BTecs to 250,00 students, including around 100,000 sixth formers who take them as a vocational equivalent to A-levels, announced on Wednesday that it would now use internal assessments and marks to set the final results for each course, meaning many young people could be awarded higher grades. However, Pearson's decision means its level 2 BTec – equivalent to GCSEs – will not now be given to pupils on Thursday, as it will also be replaced by centre-assessed internal grades, causing school leaders hurriedly to rip up and reprint results slips. "We will work urgently with you to reissue these grades and will update you as soon as we possibly can. We want to reassure students that no grades will go down as part of this review," said Cindy Rampersaud, Pearson's vice-president for BTecs.

"We appreciate this will cause additional uncertainty for students and we are sorry about this. School leaders and teachers in England had complained that the algorithm used by Pearson penalised high-achieving students, and paradoxically made it more likely that they would be treated harshly in the external assessments that replaced exams. Several schools and teachers contacted the Guardian to say that because of the flaws, a substantial number of their pupils had received lower grades than their internal assessments had suggested and were in danger of missing out on university places. Plympton academy, in Plymouth, said one of its students taking an engineering BTec was awarded distinctions in all four internally assessed units. But Pearson gave the course's single external unit a U or fail grade, and the student was awarded a U overall rather than the expected top mark of a starred distinction.

While students taking A-levels this year had benefited from the U-turn by the exam regulator, Ofqual, which announced on Monday it was dropping calculated grades in favour of more generous school-assessed grades, those holding BTecs looked set to miss out. "Although we generally accepted centre assessment grades for internal units, we subsequently calculated the grades for the examined units using historical performance data with a view of maintaining overall outcomes over time. Our review will remove these calculated grades and apply consistency across teacher-assessed internal grades and examined grades that students were unable to sit," Pearson said in a statement. Ofqual confirmed the decision, saying: "Pearson, which initially did not think there would need to be significant changes made, has now decided to revise its arrangements to ensure that students' qualification-level results better reflect the unit-level results that students have already secured through internally-assessed units." Meanwhile, the OCR exam board, which covers England, Wales and Northern Ireland, said that its Cambridge National results, which should have been published on Thursday along with GCSE results, would not be issued until next week. Colleges have been told not to issue BTEC results tomorrow after an eleventh hour grading U-turn from Pearson. The company, which is the custodian of BTECs, told colleges at 4.30pm today the qualifications will be regraded to "apply consistency across teacher assessed internal grades" following the U-turn for GCSEs and A-levels. While CAGs for internal units, such as coursework, are generally accepted, Pearson had subsequently calculated the grades for the examined units using historical performance data to "maintain overall outcomes over time". They said this would "ensure that students' qualification-level results better reflect the unit-level results that students have already secured through internally-assessed units". A spokesperson for the regulator added: "Everyone is working as quickly as possible to confirm results as soon as possible, recognising the impact that delays are having on schools, colleges and students." Pearson has asked schools not to issue level 1 and 2 BTECs tomorrow as they are now being regraded, along with the level 3 nationals. In a letter to colleges, Cindy Rampersaud, senior vice president, said: "We appreciate this will cause additional uncertainty for students and we are sorry about this. "Our priority is to ensure fair outcomes for BTEC students in relation to A levels and GCSEs and that no BTEC student is disadvantaged." He added that BTEC students "deserve equal footing with A-levels and GCSEs," as there has been a "perception that using CAG grades for some exams and not for BTEC students was unfair". But he expressed concern with the timing, as thousands of students were due to get their results tomorrow, while others have already received theirs. Students who want to move onto further or higher education will be the "most worried," Hughes continued, and the AoC are communicating with the DfE, Ofqual and Pearson to "make sure BTEC students applying for universities can still be treated fairly". Following Ofqual's announcement that A Level and GCSE students are to receive Centre Assessment Grades, we have reviewed the impact on BTEC students and taken on board feedback from teachers, schools and colleges. Following our review and your feedback we have decided to apply Ofqual's principles for students receiving BTECs this summer. BTEC qualification results have been generally consistent with teacher and learner expectations, but we have become concerned about unfairness in relation to what are now significantly higher outcomes for GCSE and A Levels. Although we generally accepted Centre Assessment Grades for internal (i.e. coursework) units, we subsequently calculated the grades for the examined units using historical performance data with a view of maintaining overall outcomes over time. Our review will remove these calculated grades and apply consistency across teacher assessed internal grades and examined grades that students were unable to sit. We will work urgently with you to reissue these grades and will update you as soon as we possibly can. We want to reassure students that no grades will go down as part of this review. We appreciate this will cause additional uncertainty for students and we are sorry about this. Our priority is to ensure fair outcomes for BTEC students in relation to A Levels and GCSEs and that no BTEC student is disadvantaged. Therefore, we ask schools and colleges not to issue any BTEC L1 and L2 results tomorrow as these will be reviewed and where appropriate, regraded.