BTECs among exams cancelled by West Sussex college group after criticism from parents

Chichester College Group has cancelled all vocational and technical exams from tomorrow (Thursday, January 7).

Wednesday, 6th January 2021, 6:15 pm
Updated Wednesday, 6th January 2021, 6:20 pm

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a new nationwide lockdown on Monday evening, meaning all schools and colleges in the country had to close. However, the Department for Education confirmed that vocational exams, including BTECs, will continue as planned in January and students taking exams 'should attend as scheduled'.

'In line with Government advice', some students returned to all Chichester College Group (CCG) colleges — which includes Chichester, Worthing, Brinsbury and Haywards Heath — this morning (January 6) to sit written exams.

This decision was criticised by parents and the college union also called for the exams to be cancelled, sharing a national petition to Parliament, which has received nearly 140,000 signatures.

Some students returned to Chichester College Group (CCG) colleges — which includes Chichester, Worthing, Brinsbury and Haywards Heath — this morning (January 6) to sit written exams. Photo: Getty Images

Announcing the cancellation of all BTEC, Camtec, OCR and LIBF exams in January, a Chichester College Group spokesperson said: “We recognise that the past 48 hours have been exceptionally challenging as we move into another national lockdown.

"Information and guidance has been changing rapidly and has coincided with the start of a new term. Based on Government advice, we took a decision to continue with our external exams as planned for this week. This included a number of BTEC exams today (Wednesday).

"Late yesterday, we were advised of a further change by the Department for Education and Exam Boards which gave schools and colleges the option as to whether to go ahead with exams.

"We took a decision yesterday evening to continue with the exams for today reflecting the fact that many students had already spent the prescribed eight hours preparing with the pre-released materials for the exams – alongside considerable time over the last term.

"Based on the experience of running a large number of ‘Covid safe’ exams last term, we feel that we have the experience and risk assessments to deliver exams in a safe environment as appropriate and where necessary."

A number of BTEC exams have taken place today with a 'high turnout' from students, the college said.

"We have however, continued to monitor the situation and also feedback," the spokesperson said.

"We know that the biggest concerns that students and parents have expressed are both around safety but also about not being disadvantaged if they don’t take their exams. We have now heard from Pearson, Cambridge Technicals and OCR Exam Boards that no learner will be disadvantaged if they are unable to take their exams in January.

"They are looking at alternative arrangements that could include rescheduling at a later date and/or other forms of assessment."

The college recognised that the cancellation will have a 'significant impact' for learners, 'as many wanted the opportunity to take their exams'.

"However, in the current circumstances, we believe this is now the right thing to do.

"Our decision has been informed by careful consideration of the anxieties felt by our students, parents and staff, alongside the changing national picture and the updated statement from exam boards. We believe that the exams that did take place today took place in a safe environment with risk assessments in place.

"Over the coming weeks we will work with exam boards to work through the details of how assessments will be replaced or rescheduled with the priority being that no learner will be disadvantaged."

Across the Chichester College Group, some specialist exams and End Point Assessments will continue in line with Government guidance. This includes specialist professional qualifications and essential training. We will communicate directly with these learners and ensure that additional risk assessments are in place.

Please do continue to monitor our website and social media along with communicating with your student tutor and/or course leader. In these difficult times, there will inevitably continue to be changes to our delivery and we are committed to working together to support our learners and customers. Please do ensure that you continue to engage fully with our remote learning.

The college said that, as of December 17, seven students have tested positive for coronavirus at Chichester College, compared to one at Brinsbury, four at Crawley, zero at Haywards Heath and one at Worthing.

Meanwhile, as of December 17, there are ten positive staff cases at Chichester College, including Bersted First Steps Nursery. Brinsbury and Crawley both have one positive case amongst staff, while Haywards Heath and Worthing have zero.