Has your BTEC world been turned upside down? News article - view all Alps blog post - view all

Up and down the country many teachers of BTEC programmes are struggling to reconcile the emerging standards of the ‘new’ 2016 suite of BTEC courses with those of the ‘old’ 2010 suite. As most readers will know, Alps uses historic national data from which to calculate benchmarks and to inform the Minimum Expected Grades. For the new BTEC courses, which appear to be much more challenging, there is clearly no national data, and this won’t be known until early autumn, so how might centres approach the problem of setting MEGs and effectively monitoring progress?

Motivating, tracking and monitoring students is the here and now, which is best done with a professional eye on the student’s aspiration and standard of work. The external assessment will probably result in a lower profile of grades for the new BTECs compared to those based completely on internal assessment. But, from a target setting perspective, until there is empirical evidence of ‘by how much lower’ we would be doing a disservice to students if we arbitrarily decrease the current MEGs.

So, use the current MEGs, personalise them as you see fit, and continue to use them to raise student aspirations and drive continuous improvement.

When staff look at 2016 BTEC qualifications’ in year data, the Alps analysis will be based on the 2010 BTEC benchmarks, so if your subject pages are looking a bit blue these are the questions to ask yourselves:

  • Are the predicted grades being derived by staff too pessimistic?
  • Look at the grade profile compared to previous BTEC courses, are the number of lower grades realistic?
  • How have these grades been arrived at?
  • Is there consistency within and across the teams?

Try ranking the students and apply a similar percentage of D*, D, M & P grades as per previous cohorts following the previous specifications. Then adjust these according to how much you believe the grade profile will be impacted by the change of assessment criteria. Then compare the two sets of grades and moderate the new specification grades before submitting them to Alps for analysis.

There is no doubt that across the country the grade profile for the new BTECs will decrease, but will this be true for every centre? Whenever there are curriculum changes some schools and colleges seem to ride the change by staying focussed on the core aspects of teaching and learning, ensuring the students remain confident of their lessons and continue to strive to produce work of the highest possible standards.

Unfortunately, other schools and colleges lose their focus, worry too much about factors outside their control and their results are disappointing.

Data for the 1 year courses i.e. the foundation diploma and certificate is available and the Alps Team are busily crunching the numbers.

The starting point will be: Is there sufficient data that is matched between the KS4 prior achievement (summer 2016) and BTEC results for summer 2017? We will publish our findings later in the year. As for the extended certificate, diploma and extended diploma the wait continues until after the first full cohort complete these in the summer 2018.

In the meantime, keep the faith, in year monitoring is an essential tool to keep students on track, and while as staff we are in unchartered choppy waters, our students deserve the calmness of a country pond.