BTECs: More colleges cancel January exams

The DfE told colleges it was their decision whether to go ahead with January exams – a growing number have cancelled them

Kate Parker

Coronavirus: A growing number of colleges have cancelled BTEC exams this month

More colleges have taken the decision to cancel the January exam series for their students after the Department for Education announced last night that it was up to institutions to decide whether they should go ahead.  

The government told colleges that they could go ahead with the vocational exams this month "if they judge it right to do so". Around 130,000 vocational students were due to sit exams in colleges this week and throughout January, but MPs, college leaders and students throughout the sector called on the DfE to cancel the exams amid fears over student and staff safety. 


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Lockdown: Association of Colleges urges the DfE to cancel BTEC exams


Yesterday afternoon, before the official announcement from the DfE, a number of colleges, including The Manchester College, Loughborough College, Leeds City College, The Sheffield College and Selby College, announced they had taken the decision to either postpone or cancel the exams.

Coronavirus: Colleges halt BTEC exams

And today, more colleges followed suit. However, Tes understands that others are still pressing ahead with the exams, including Bishop Burton College, Askham Bryan College, Craven College and Chichester College. 

Selby College principal and chief executive Phil Sayles said: "We have decided that we should not be asking students to travel to Selby College and sit BTEC exams this month, even though the government bafflingly want them to, contrary to every aim of their lockdown."

Jo Maher, principal and chief executive of Loughborough College, said that cancelling exams was the "safest decision" to take.

“A significant proportion of our learners entered for exams will be travelling from outside of Charnwood and in many cases using public transport to attend exams at Loughborough College. At the same time, the Covid-19 infection rate in Charnwood has surged over the last seven days making it a higher risk for staff and students at a time of national lockdown," she said.

“In these exceptional circumstances postponing this week's exams, whilst awaiting further guidance about next week, is the safest decision we can make. We are working closely with awarding bodies to ensure that no student is disadvantaged as a result of the exam disruption and we are keeping our students and parents updated.” 

Bill Jones, principal of Leeds City College, said that to go ahead with the exam series would be "unfair on students.

"We have made the decision, in advance of an announcement from the DfE, that it would be best to postpone the exams due to take place during the current period of lockdown for our students.," he said. "The message from the prime minister was to ‘stay at home’ to defeat this virus and therefore asking college staff and students to ignore that message to sit exams is untenable. To go ahead with the exam series now would also be unfair on students. The stress of the pandemic will undoubtedly affect their performance, probably has affected their preparation, and could lead to results which are potentially very unfair.

Angela Foulkes, chief executive and principal of The Sheffield College, said: “The safety of our students and staff remains our number one priority. Our decision to stop exams taking place on campus during this third national lockdown is a direct result of the prime minister’s announcement that we should close and move to online learning. It’s about public health and the safety of our staff and students at this critical time in the transmission of the virus.” 

She added: “This is not a decision that we have made lightly. Student and staff safety must come first and further education learners need to be given the same parity of consideration as young people in schools. In stopping exams and internal assessments scheduled during this national lockdown, we are calling for them to be postponed and rescheduled to a later date which would be safer for our students and staff. We know that a third lockdown is going to be tough, particularly on those who are struggling with their mental health. We will do everything we can to support our college community during this difficult time.”

 

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Kate Parker

Kate Parker is a FE reporter.

Find me on Twitter @KateeParker

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