Colleges begin cancelling BTECS as exam board says they can be taken at a later date

6 January 2021, 12:11 | Updated: 6 January 2021, 12:31

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will deliver a statement to MPs on today
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will deliver a statement to MPs on today. Picture: PA

By Matt Drake

Students have been told they may be able to sit their BTEC later this year if they are cancelled, as colleges across the UK halting the exams.

The senior vice president of exam board Pearson's, Cindy Rampersaud, has confirmed that exams could be rescheduled later this year.

It comes after the Department for Education (DfE) told college leaders they could still hold January exams if they "judge it right to do so" following pressures from unions, sector leaders and MPs.

Students in England will also not be asked to sit GCSE and A-levels this summer.

Mrs Rampersaud said: "We are working closely with the DfE and Ofqual on all of this and we will share more detail with you in the coming days.

"We appreciate this must be a very difficult time for you.

"We hope that this update provides you with some clarity and reassurance that you will not be disadvantaged whichever decision is made by your school or college regarding exams.

"Please contact your school or college to find out what decision they have made regarding exams this January.”

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The exam body, which runs BTECs, has also pledged to award a grade for any student who is unable to take this month's exam and has “enough evidence to receive a certificate that they need for progression”.

The online statement from Pearson said: "We will award a grade for any learner who is unable to take their exams and has enough evidence to receive a certificate that they need for progression.

"Learners unable to take their assessment this January may be able to take their assessment at a later date. If that is not possible, we will put in place arrangements to ensure you are not disadvantaged."

Labour leader Keir Starmer has called for a complete cancellation of BTEC exams, saying: "Once again, government dither and delay mean it is students and colleges that pay the price."

Shadow apprenticeships minister Toby Perkins said the exams "simply cannot go ahead safely and fairly this week".

However, virologist Dr Naomi Forrester-Soto said: "Exam halls are generally a lot less risky than going to a party or a busy supermarket."

READ MORE: MPs to vote on England's new covid lockdown measures

Newcastle College in Newcastle-under-Lyme, Staffordshire, has already cancelled more than 3,000 exams.

The college said it would use teacher assessments to grade students instead.

Other colleges include Loughborough College, the Sheffield College and the Manchester College.

Education Secretary Gavin Williamson will deliver a statement to MPs on today on a package of support for young people following the announcement that schools and colleges will close to all but vulnerable children and children of key workers.

He said: "I know what a challenging time this is for families, young people, and for everyone working so hard in education. I also know the enormous lengths that teachers and support staff have gone to throughout this pandemic - the benefit of that work on children's education and wellbeing is quite simply immeasurable, and has enabled millions to be back in classrooms spending valuable time with their teachers.

"It is now vital that we support our young people at home, including making sure all students are receiving the best possible remote education, and that those students who were due to take exams can still progress to their next stage of education or training.

"Education continues to be a national priority - these new national restrictions do not change that. I am determined that this virus, and the steps we all must take to fight it, do not come at the cost of children's life chances."