Mayors call for Btec exam cancellation following national lockdown

The Mayors of Greater Manchester and the Liverpool City Region have called on the government to cancel Btec exams following the national lockdown.

Ministers are facing growing calls to cancel the vocational exams - set to go ahead this week - due to concerns over students’ safety regarding the new variant of Covid-19, and fairness.

However the government says students taking exams “should attend as scheduled” this month and awarding body Pearson has said Btecs will go ahead despite the closure of schools and colleges.

Since the announcement of the national lockdown, Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram, say they have been contacted by students, college leaders, headteachers and parents.

They say all are "confused and alarmed that the Government announced a full national lockdown - including school and college closures - while maintaining that BTEC exams should continue as planned".

They added: "As Mayors of regions that have been under restrictions for significant periods of time, we know only too well the challenges that our schools and colleges have faced in delivering teaching, while having to cope with repeated disruption as a result of coronavirus outbreaks.

It is unfair to ask these students to go into colleges when everyone else is being told to stay at home and schools and colleges are closed to the majority of students. This will cause unnecessary anxiety and concern just when they need to be able to focus.

Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram

The Mayors added that students in Liverpool and Greater Manchester have faced, "restrictions for far longer, with more time being spent out of college, than students in other parts of the country."

Adding that this meant the exams were not on a level playing field.

In the joint statement, the pair said the decision: "Once again demonstrates the continued lack of parity for BTEC students compared with those sitting A Levels and GCSES, and the divide that remains between vocational and academic education.

"BTECs are more likely to be studied by those from working-class backgrounds and ethnic minority communities – groups which are already more vulnerable in terms of their life outcomes, including health inequalities. BTECs and other vocational qualifications are also key to supporting progression into higher education from areas - particularly in the North - that tend to be cold spots for university recruitment."

To not treat these students on a par with their peers studying an academic route would be a double injustice.

Mayors Andy Burnham and Steve Rotheram

"We do not believe it is right to go ahead with these exams when others have been cancelled and we urge the government to listen to the concerns of college leaders from our city-regions, and across the country who are concerned about the fairness and practically of pressing ahead.

"Therefore, if Ministers are unwilling to listen to the sector and continue with exams regardless, then they must put in place measures - including the weighting of results - to ensure that no student is disadvantaged by having to sit exams during a period of national lockdown."