BTEC: Vocational Assessments

Oral Answers to Questions — Economy – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:15 pm on 9th March 2021.

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Photo of Sean Lynch Sean Lynch Sinn Féin 2:15 pm, 9th March 2021

5. Mr Lynch asked the Minister for the Economy for an update on alternative arrangements for vocational assessment for BTEC students. (AQO 1720/17-22)

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

In January, I announced the cancellation of BTEC examinations for the remainder of the academic year. BTECs are offered across the UK by the Pearson awarding organisation, and I have ensured that there is alignment with England and Wales to protect the ongoing portability and integrity of qualifications and the interests of all our learners.

The Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation (Ofqual), in conjunction with the Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) regulations, recently consulted on the alternative awarding arrangements for vocational qualifications in 2021, and the outcome was announced on 25 February. BTECs will be awarded using teacher-assessed grades that have been submitted by the learning centres, similar to the arrangements for GCSEs and A levels. That will require the teacher or lecturer to make an informed judgement on the result using a range of evidence, such as performance in tasks or assessments that have already been completed. Those judgements will be quality-assured in the schools, colleges or training providers and then by the awarding organisations prior to the issuing of results.

Awarding organisations are now required to provide clear and timely guidance to learning centres on the assessment and awarding approaches to be implemented, the times by which centres need to submit information and the records that they should maintain on the nature of any centre-based quality assurance. I hope that all that information will be with the centres by the end of March or early April, because it is essential for progress.

Photo of Sean Lynch Sean Lynch Sinn Féin

I thank the Minister for her answer. Minister, as you said, a decision was made on A-level exams in January, yet BTEC students have been left waiting for full clarity on their assessments. In light of your statement on Friday, how will you ensure that grades for practical assessments are awarded before the end of the academic year?

Photo of Diane Dodds Diane Dodds DUP

As I said in response to the Member's substantive question, those who are doing BTECs that require a written examination will follow a pathway similar to that for A levels and GCSEs. I want our young students who are doing professional qualifications and need the practical elements of their course to be vouched for to be able to go back into further education colleges as quickly as possible so that those elements of the course can proceed as efficiently as possible. That will enable us to make assessments and professional judgements on those qualifications as soon as we can. I want our young people to be able to progress, either to the next level or into work.

Photo of Alex Maskey Alex Maskey Sinn Féin

Time is up for listed questions. We move on to 15 minutes of topical questions.