Running a site like this means I get a constant stream of emails from teachers who are teaching BTEC Science. I’m fortunate that I also get out and about to visit lots of schools in my locality, and talk to many teachers that I meet through the ASE. I have spent time working with schools to deliver BTEC science in such a way that the assessment is useful. It should give students a chance to demonstrate their skills and knowledge in a vocational aspect, testing their science ability rather than their memory (or literacy) skills.
Let’s be honest. We all know why BTEC is so popular. Sure the teaching/learning style may suit some of the learners enrolled on the course, but the main reason BTEC is popular is that it offers two easy grade C’s. Under pressure from leadership teams (who are in turn under pressure from government targets) schools have pushed many students through who fail to get grade C in traditional GCSE examinations. If they do the work for BTEC they are guaranteed to get the grades.
What annoys me is schools who spoon feed students the answers, who reduce the work to tick lists of information to be presented. In my opinion there is a subtle difference between “Create a TV advert to advocate the benefits of renewable and non-renewable energy” and “Make note on renewable energy”. For many students now (especially the ones who BTEC is targeted at) ‘make notes’ is translated to ‘copy out of a book’, and no actual learning or understanding takes place (in fact quite often no teaching takes place either!). I’ve seen schools set up BTEC factory days (they call them catch up days) where they pour in staff support, and students sit and write with text books (no teaching or practical work). I’ve even see BTEC sessions where the teachers more or less tell the students what to write – can you imagine this happening in a GCSE examination?
Is this the kind of assessment we want for our learners? Of course Edexcel loves BTEC – charging £70+ a student with the school doing all of the work (setting & marking assignments), and the fees are paid up-front so they are laughing all the way to the bank. It’s a shame that BTEC Science has fallen outside the remit of the Wolf Report reviewing vocational education, regardless Edexcel continue to delude themselves about the worth of this qualification…
From Edexcel “Professor Wolf stresses that Science was outside the remit of her Review, and will be encompassed by the National Curriculum Review which is currently underway. We know that BTEC Applied Science has become a valuable approach for thousands of students and offers a valid progression route through to A Level Applied Science.”
I live in hope that the curriculum review brings a change in the way science is assessed, a move away from vocational qualifications meaning copying from books, and one where examinations test science ability rather than memory and literacy skills?
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