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Fresh exams ‘chaos’ as BTEC results pulled while pupils get revised GCSE grades

Opposition parties said Gavin Williamson was ‘bumbling from one crisis to the next’. (PA)

4 min read

Hundreds of thousands of pupils are receiving their GCSE results on Thursday — but BTEC students will have to wait after more last-minute changes to the grading system were announced.

Exam board Pearson has pulled its Level 1 and 2 results in the vocational qualifications to give time to regrade them in line with this week’s U-turn on A-levels and GCSEs, which will now allow teachers’ own assessments to be used in the absence of exams.

Labour said the exams system was now in “chaos”, while the Liberal Democrats accused ministers of “bumbling from one crisis to the next“.

The BTECs move is expected to affect some 450,000 pupils taking the vocational qualifications, and comes after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson insisted just a small proportion of BTEC students would be affected by the Government’s about-face on A-levels and GCSEs.

After initially saying some results would be regraded on a case-by-case basis, Pearson on Wednesday night said it would be regrading all BTECs to bring them into line with A-levels and GCSEs, which have abandoned the use of a controversial algorithm that took schools’ past performances into account.

Speaking to the Today programme on Thursday morning, Schools minister Nick Gibb said he understood “the frustration” among students waiting to get their BTEC results today.

“Given that there was going to be an uplift in the grades at GCSE and A-level, it was only fair that there was some form of uplift on the BTEC qualifications and that's why they the exam board wants to look again at the grading of the BTEC exam, and that's that has then led to the delay," he said.

But the move means hundreds of thousands of pupils now face fresh uncertainty about their next steps after further education as those who have received A-levels seek places at universities.

In a letter to schools, Cindy Rampersaud, Pearson's senior VP, 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.”

A spokesperson added: “Following Ofqual's announcement that A-level and GCSE students are to receive centre-assessed grades, we will be applying the same principles for students receiving BTEC results this summer.

“We will be regrading BTECs to address concerns about unfairness in relation to A-levels and GCSEs and ensure no BTEC student is disadvantaged.”

They said: “We know this could cause additional uncertainty for students and we are sorry about this. 

“Our priority is to ensure fair outcomes for BTEC students and we will work around the clock to provide revised grades as soon as we can.”

Results for GCSEs released on Thursday show that the pass rate in England has increased to 79% from 70%, with steep grade rises in English and maths.


But Shadow Education Secretary Kate Green said of the BTECs row: “This latest chaos is totally unacceptable. For some young people to find out less than a day in advance that they will not be receiving their grades tomorrow is utterly disgraceful.

“Gavin Williamson and the Department for Education should have had a grip of this situation days ago. It’s appalling that thousands of young people should face further confusion and uncertainty because of the government’s incompetence.

“This repeated chaos is simply no way to run a country. The government must urgently set a clear deadline for every young person to receive their grades.”

And Layla Moran, Liberal Democrat education spokesperson, hit out at “yet another shambles from the Government”.

“It seems the Conservatives, bumbling from one crisis to the next, simply forgot about a half a million students awaiting their BTEec grades, and had to pull the results at the last minute,” she added.

“Meanwhile, the Education Secretary is still in his job and the Prime Minister is still on holiday. 

“This summer has been a disaster for the Government, it has left students panicking about their future and colleges in turmoil. Williamson must resign and Boris Johnson must return to deal with this crisis.”

In a statement, exams regulator Ofqual said exam boards including OCR and Pearson, would “need more time” to recalculate results.

It added: "OCR have said that their Cambridge National results will issue next week.

"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."

And the exams board said: "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.

"No learner's result will go down as a consequence of regrading."

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