Gill Furniss MP Labour Member of Parliament for Sheffield Brightside and Hillsborough
Plain Text Version:
Dear Gavin (Education Secretary),
Since it was announced that schools and colleges would be closing during the coronavirus lockdown, I have been contacted by many students, parents and local colleges who are concerned by the lack of information they have received from the Government regarding BTEC qualifications. With examinations due to go ahead this week, colleges have been forced to decide from themselves whether to potentially risk students’ safety by going ahead with exams or cancelling them without any clear indication as to what this means for students.
On Tuesday morning, Sheffield College took the decision to cancel their BTEC exams in order to keep students safe. This decision was not taken lightly, as the Department for Education had at that time informed them that exams should be going ahead despite the new national lockdown. They are understandably concerned at the lack of guidance or leadership shown by the Government.
On Tuesday evening, your department issues a statement instructing colleges to decide for themselves whether to go ahead with January BTEC exams. This is an immensely difficult decision to make, as there has been no clarity on the alternatives for BTEC students. There has also been a lack of clarity on the rights of students to individually decide not to attend an exam due to concerns over covid-19.
Many BTEC students now feel they are not being treated fairly compared to their peers completing GCSEs and A Levels. Whilst all exams for GCSEs and A Levels have been cancelled and replaced by teachers’ grades, there has been no such clarity for BTECs. Pearson, the BTEC awarding body, stated students will only be awarded a grade if they have “enough evidence to receive a certificate that they need for progression”. This has understandably left students, parents and colleges confused as to what qualifies as “enough evidence”.
Without national guidance, there will be yet more confusion as each school and college sets its own protocol. I therefore urge you to make a national decision on BTEC qualifications and provide certainty for students and teachers.
Gill Furniss MP