Btecs: Williamson defends cancellation of further exams

Education secretary says, where students need to take competency assessments to progress to work, these should go ahead

Kate Parker

Btecs: Williamson defends cancellation of further exams

The education secretary has failed to give a direct answer as to why Btec exams are being allowed to go ahead in January but not in February and March.

Speaking in front of the House of Commons Education Select Committee this morning, Gavin Williamson was asked about a decision – confirmed in his letter to Ofqual today – that Btec exams scheduled to go ahead in February and March were to be cancelled. 


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When asked why college leaders were given the choice to host Btecs in January, but not in February or March, Mr Williamson highlighted the importance of competency-based assessments.

These assessments can go ahead, he said, where students have to demonstrate proficiency required to enter directly into employment, where they are needed to complete an apprenticeship, or where assessments are available “on demand”, such as with functional skills.

He said: “There’s a whole stage of assessments and lots of technical vocational qualifications have a competency assessment in terms of various different aspects.

“If you take accountancy, for example, you still need to be able to demonstrate a certain competency element, and the same in electrical work, gas and plumbing, in order to be able to have the ability to practise. 

“So it’s really important that you know, we weren’t in a position where we’re ruling out so many youngsters from being able to maybe move on to the next stage of their career, potentially into work, by having a unilateral approach.”

‘Quite strong views’

Susan Acland-Hood, permanent secretary at the Department for Education, added that the reason the exams are being allowed to go ahead in January is because there were “quite strong views” from the sector. 

She said: “We got quite strong views, not all pointing in the same direction from the sector themselves, some saying the children are ready to sit these exams and we want to enable them to do that. Others saying that they thought they should be cancelled.”

She added: “I think it’s different when you look forward to February and March, where you’ve got the ability to plan and you don’t have the same situation of children literally being on the point of taking a qualification as the decision was taken.” 

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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