Pearson will issue 'revised grades' for some BTEC pupils who missed re-sit chance

Pearson has pledged to issue “revised grades” for some pupils who may have been disadvantaged by missing out on the opportunity to re-sit exams after its last-minute decision to hike grade boundaries.

Writing exclusively for Schools Week, Cindy Rampersaud, Pearson senior vice president, and Derek Richardson, Pearson vice president, said they “apologise unreservedly” for how the BTEC Tech Awards grade boundaries changes were communicated with schools.

As reported yesterday, schools were told of the move – which could see thousands of pupils awarded lower grades than expected – late on Friday afternoon.

Pearson said: “We apologise unreservedly for this, and for the concern this has caused students, teachers and parents. We’ll take time, working with teachers and school leaders to ensure better and deeper understanding of how the system works, going forward.”

They said this will be “little comfort to students who had the option to do a re-sit in the summer but chose not to, and for all those students, we are taking action”.

Pearson said they have analysed the performance of every student who sat the exam in the qualifications in January and did not re-sit in the summer.

“Based on the performance of the students who re-sat these exams we can see that in the vast majority of cases, while their performance in the exam might have improved slightly, this would not have improved their overall grade.

“However, some students would have been likely to achieve a higher grade if they had been presented with the opportunity to re-sit. As a result, we are issuing this group of students with a revised grade, to ensure that no-one is disadvantaged.

Pearson said they will be in touch with schools and colleges to let them know they will receive the updated result tomorrow.

After news broke of the revised grade boundaries on Friday, there were considerable concerns that students may no longer be able to get into college or sixth form, with thousands signing a petition calling for Pearson to reverse the decision to raise the grade boundaries.

Ofqual, the exams regulator, also warned that there were “significant lessons to be learned” from Pearson’s last-minute decision to raise its grade boundaries.

Pearson will now be writing to all colleges today to inform them of the changes made to the grade boundaries “so that they can take into account students’ performance on the individual units when making their decisions”.

BTEC Tech Awards are designed to be taught alongside GCSEs to introduce pupils to skills needed in the professional sector.

Subjects include health and social care, engineering, child development and creative media production, and count in the ‘open group’ of Progress 8. The course was introduced in September 2017, and this year’s cohort is the first to complete it.

Under the changes, the marks needed to pass the level 2 qualification have risen from 69 to 72, and those required for a merit have risen from 82 to 95.

For a level 2 distinction pupils will now need an extra 10 marks, rising from 95 to 105, while a distinction* requires 114 points, up from 108.

The pass mark for the level 1 BTEC Tech Award has not changed, but the points required for a merit have increased from 43 to 44, and those for a distinction risen from 56 to 58.

Pearson said sometimes it was necessary to adjust grade boundaries when there is a new qualification, but acknowledged that this should have been made clearer at the start of the teaching year.