Workers' Weekly On-Line
Volume 51 Number 1, January 16, 2021 ARCHIVE HOME JBCENTRE SUBSCRIBE

Workers' Forum

Let the Workers Decide Whether BTECs Go Ahead

The Department for Education (DfE) has said schools and colleges can now cancel BTEC assessments due to take place this month but has left it up to leaders to decide. It is the workers who should decide, and they indicate that the exams should be halted.

Initially, the government had insisted that vocational exams, including BTECs, should go ahead this month in England. At a time when the pandemic lockdown has called for a halt in academic examinations and students' assessments are themselves being reassessed, that stance exposed once more that the interests of those in power who do not guarantee the safety and interests of the workers. The pandemic has revealed that the security of workers' lives is a matter of human relations. This essence had been ignored until the opposition arose. Self-interest is reflected in the official response to the pandemic, where everything is posed as an individual matter, and on the other hand as a problem of striking a balance between the people's health and wellbeing, and profit. Young workers engaged in the process of vocational education and BTEC exams asked: "Why haven't our exams been cancelled too?"

Skills training, part of the overall condition of young workers, is set by the DfE, which now abdicates responsibility and makes the school or college shoulder the responsibility and decision-making. The Association of Colleges warned the new decision would create more confusion, while a DfE spokesperson, sidestepping the issue, said: "Schools and colleges have already implemented extensive protective measures to make them as safe as possible."

The DfE is clinging to its position, saying: "In light of the evolving public health measures, schools and colleges can continue with the vocational and technical exams that are due to take place in January, where they judge it right to do so."

When pressed on this, a spokesperson confirmed this meant that schools and colleges now do not have to run the exams. But the onus and pressures are still on the student. Pearson, which runs BTECs and describes itself as "the world's leading learning company", awarding qualifications, has now said that they will award a grade for any student who is unable to take their exams and has "enough evidence to receive a certificate that they need for progression". Those unable to take their assessment this month "may be able to" take it at a later date.

The expressions of the government cannot be said to represent the public interest. There are the conditions affecting the lives of young workers and there are the decision-makers who hold sway over those conditions and who urge "business as usual". There is direction of the economy that serves private interests and there are the interests of the public. Workers have a right to be those who arrive at and implement decisions concerning their education, including to decide and determine forms of assessment.


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