The Department for the Economy Minister Diane Dodds issued a statement 5 January 2021 with respect to vocational qualifications running in Further Education colleges and in particular to external examinations due to take place January 2021 on BTEC programmes. In the statement the Minister said that further flexibilities will be put in place for exams and assessments taking place in January.
Many factors have contributed to a high level of anxiety within the student population due to sit examinations this month. These include the local lock down that has continued for most of the academic year which caused considerable disruption to the planned curriculum delivery.
The new variant of Covid-19 is creating a marked increase in the transmission of the disease in Northern Ireland and students feel they are at greater risk in taking public transport to the College to sit the exams. A substantial number of students are self-isolating and would not be able to sit scheduled examinations. Students have also highlighted their serious concerns, anxiety and mental anguish to their tutors and college senior managers in writing.
There still remains significant uncertainty with respect to the alternative arrangements to be organised by the awarding organisation and the NI Vocational Qualifications Exams Regulator CCEA, which in turn is causing serious anxiety and uncertainty for tutors and curriculum managers in colleges. Options may include rescheduling of examinations to a later date. The intention remains of ensuring that qualifications are completed by the end of June 2021.
In light of these considerable problems and to ensure equality of opportunity for all students the College has taken the decision to postpone all BTEC external examinations for January for the well-being of its students’ mental health and to create clarity in the midst of so much uncertainty. In line with the Minister’s statement, the College will ensure that no learner is disadvantaged through this process.
In respect of other qualifications scheduled to take place during January with different Awarding Organisations the College will be engaging with CCEA Regulator and those Awarding Organisations to determine if these examinations should proceed.
The College will urgently press the Department for the Economy and CCEA regulation for further clarity on the alternative arrangements to be made by Pearson the awarding organisation.