As you will have seen in the media and in government announcements this week, since the UK entered the national lockdown, the Department for Education has made the decision that there will be no examinations in A level subjects this summer. A two week consultation begins on Monday to start the process of deciding how teacher assessed grades will be awarded in lieu of students taking examinations. We will update you as soon as we have further information on A Levels.
However, the Department for Education has decided that BTEC/Vocational examinations can go ahead this month, if schools and colleges decide that it is both safe and appropriate to do so. The Secretary of State for Education told MPs in parliament yesterday that he also refuses to cancel the BTEC examinations scheduled for May.
Having very carefully weighed up the arguments for and against running the January examinations, balancing the opportunities that taking examinations for which students have been preparing provide for students against the public health situation nationally and locally, we have decided that we can run BTEC examinations this month by following our regularly reviewed Covid safety measures, although we will keep this under review in line with local and national public health advice. To run these examinations, we have put further safety measures in place in the academy, such as moving examination desks at least 2 metres apart, ventilating examination rooms adequately and offering students the chance to keep their face coverings on, if they wish.
For many Year 13 students, the January series of examinations will be their final opportunity to take BTEC examinations, so we have decided to prioritise their examinations. Year 12 students will have further opportunities to take BTEC examinations in May of Year 12 and both January and May of Year 13. As a result, we will be running BTEC and LIBF examinations for Year 13 students only and will not be running them for students in Year 12. We recognise that this will be a frustration for students in Year 12 but hope that they understand the benefits of waiting to take their examinations later in the year, by which time we hope the pandemic will have been brought safely under control. This means that we can more safely run examinations for students in Year 13, as there will now be far fewer students in each examination room, making social distancing much easier.
As we have said in recent communications with parents and students, if a Year 13 student or their parents decide that they should not attend their BTEC examinations this month – either because they or someone in their household are unwell or if they or someone in their household is now shielding – they should contact Mrs Howell at Post-16 Reception on 01322-620439 after 8am on the day of the examination to report their absence, so that we know not to expect them. Pearson, the exam board that delivers BTEC qualifications, has not yet told us how grades will be calculated for those students but they have guaranteed that no student will be disadvantaged by missing an examination this month. Once the Ofqual consultation has concluded, we expect to be given further information about how BTEC grades will be calculated this summer.
We appreciate how chilly it is in the examination rooms at the moment, as we are legally bound to keep windows open for ventilation as a public health requirement. We are hoping to provide additional heating for examinations next week but have decided to suspend the requirement for students to wear smart school clothes to examinations and suggest that students wear multiple layers of warm and comfortable clothing instead.
When students make the journey to and from school for their examinations, we advise that, where possible, they use a private vehicle to do so.
We share your concerns and frustrations about the current situation and hope that you appreciate we are doing everything we can to keep students safe, while maintaining their education and the life opportunities that taking examinations provide. Our decision making has not been easy and has had to be made with incomplete guidance from the government. We believe we have made the best decisions for BTEC and vocational students in Years 12 and 13 with the information currently available but will keep the situation under regular review. If you have any questions about these arrangements, please contact Mr Burton via email.
Mrs Julia Collins