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UK exam board ‘working around the clock’ in latest blow for BTEC students

Thousands of British students did not get their exam results as expected on Thursday after one of the UK’s exam boards announced a last-minute review into the way their BTEC grades have been calculated.

While those who took GCSEs, accounting for the vast majority of British students, received their grades, those who took BTEC courses – an alternative to GCSEs and A-Levels that tend to focus on vocational rather than academic subjects – did not.

Around 200,000 Level 1 and 2 BTEC students have been affected by Thursday’s delays. Last week, Level 3 BTEC students did receive their results at the same time as A-Level students.

It is the second time that UK students have been affected after last week’s revelation that a system used to calculate A-Level results – exams taken by 18-year-olds in Britain – had resulted in many students receiving lower grades than they were predicted.

As a result, the government agreed that A-Level students would receive the grades predicted by their teachers rather than calculated by an algorithm.

But a decision to use that same method to mark BTEC exams has resulted in Thursday’s delay.

A spokesperson from Pearson told Euronews:

“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.”

“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.”

The reviewing of the grading system has had a greater impact on GCSEs and A-Levels because they rely heavily on final exam marks. But as BTECs are vocational courses which are marked regularly with coursework, it’s uncertain whether reviewing the grades will make much difference.

Thursday’s delay will only increase pressure on Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s education minister, Gavin Williamson, who is facing calls to resign over the government’s handling of the crisis.

How have other European countries dealt with exams during the pandemic?

According to the UK’s exam regulator Ofqual, France, Norway and the Netherlands have cancelled final exams. Similarly to the UK, final grades have been calculated based on coursework over the year and earlier exam grades.

Germany went ahead with their Abitur exams (the qualification needed to get into university) under socially-distanced conditions.

Italy cancelled written exams and instead held oral exams with social distancing measures in place. In addition, teacher assessed grades were adjusted so that they count for 60 per cent of the overall grade rather than the usual 40 per cent.

Spain have postponed the university entrance exams – the Selectivitat – and the university enrolment calendar will be adapted accordingly.

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