Brighton and Hove councillors urge ministers to scrap BTEC exams

Councillors from all parties backed calls for the government to scrap BTEC exams this year and provide extra help for Brighton and Hove schools in the covid crisis.

Labour councillor John Allcock said: “I’m glad that the government did make a sensible decision to cancel SATs, GCSEs and A-level exams this year and committed to a different method of assessment to replace last year’s widely criticised algorithm approach.

“They have not, however, made the same decisions regarding BTEC assessments. This again puts teachers, families and young people in a difficult position and is yet another example of an inconsistent approach to managing the risk of the virus.

“We are calling for BTEC exams to be cancelled in line with GCSEs and A-levels, and that other forms of safe and fair assessment are adopted.

“What we must do is to continue to be on the front foot to support children, young people, families and school staff.”

Councillor Allcock said that he was proud of what the council had done to reduce the impact of covid-19, which he described as “remarkably different” to government “dithering”.

In addition, Green councillor Sarah Nield and Councillor Allcock asked for a report into how the council, schools and others were supporting home learning and access to computers and food.

They also asked for a senior council official to write to Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to ask that school and nursery staff, social workers and youth workers were given priority for vaccination.

Councillor Nield praised schools for implementing infection control measures and welcomed the government following the science and closing schools to reduce the impact of the new variant of covid-19.

She said: “While it is the right decision to keep most children out of our school buildings while infection rates are so high, I am sure we are all painfully aware of the downsides – the growing attainment gap, safeguarding concerns, the threat to not only the learning but the wellbeing of pupils who have already been through one period of lockdown and isolation.

“We are aware of the challenge of supporting children, young people, families and schools through this new and very serious episode of the ongoing covid crisis.”

Councillor Sarah Nield

She praised schools for the “enormous amount of work” that they had put into this lockdown in becoming remote educators.

But she said that there was a need to look whether the approach was working and what could be done better in the future.

Councillor Nield added: “During this lockdown, our schools will be learning by experience what works and what doesn’t, so their remote learning offer for their pupils will evolve.

“I feel we are now in this new covid world for the long haul, and even if this lockdown does end up being eased in February, then there is every possibility we will find ourselves here again.”

She called on the government to provide funding to help make schools as safe as possible, with vaccination for school staff who “put their lives at risk” to teach children, as well as covering the extra cost of cleaning.

Conservative councillor Vanessa Brown said that her group would support the Green and Labour move on BTECs.

But she said that she was disappointed that the Children, Young People and Skills Committee had become “increasingly political”.

A report on schools’ response to the pandemic is due to be presented to the committee at a meeting scheduled for Monday 8 March.

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