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BTEC woes... (long!)

(12 Posts)
Tansie1 Fri 27-Apr-18 10:47:41

You can see why BTEC is so regarded as A level's poor cousin, can't you?

I look at a couple of FB sites where I see teachers asking each other 'What on earth does this mean?'; 'What does that mean?' along with, worryingly 'Help! Just discovered I'm taking a BTEC class! Where are the resources? How do I start?' - it seems the curriculum is so vague and non-directed that it's very easy to get lost up an alleyway.

You don't get that with tried and tested A levels.

Anyway, DS1 is weeks away from finishing his level 3 extended diploma BTEC in Computing and has offers from uni. We're reasonably confident that he'll make the grades (DMM) and he has the advantage of being a year older, having fluffed AS levels. But, another 'advantage' he now has is the knowledge that he never wants to find himself in such a sometimes chaotic, often poorly directed learning environment again!

I can only speak of how this BTEC is run at his college, a Tech where this course is their second highest academically (behind the computing HND); Every year the college pick a different BTEC/CTEC provider (so there few, if any 'past papers'). Luckily there are only 8 people in his class; but over the 2 years, one of the three teachers just upped and left, leaving the boss to pick up her classes as well; deadlines aren't really deadlines, no parents evenings, no progress report; There are 4 external exams; DS got DDDD in his coursework last year, then MP for the exams confused - which is probably why the college have chosen a lower ranked BTEC for this years' intake with no exams!; The one exam he's taken so far this year he got a P (seeing a trend?), but I don't know how the other 4 units are going (nor does he! It's a very complicated process, translating unit grades into final grades, given there are 30/60/90 GLH units with different weightings) as they seem to be studying bits of one unit, bits of another, and an exam now in something they finished studying 3 months ago... and Pearsons decided only back in January that DC could retake certain exams to improve their grade which is of no use to DS who finishes in June! It's a shambles.

However, 3 of the students (the best 3) got their work sent off from this latest unit for external invigilating. The boss took DS aside yesterday and said he'd had the report back via email (which he'd printed off but didn't show DS) heavily suggesting that DS needed to re-write a huge project as he'd missed the point of what was being asked, but readily acknowledged that they all had. DS can do this. But late in the day, when the Boss had left them to it, DS walked up to the front of the class to pick up a piece of work he'd handed in, but wanted to add to, and there was the printed out email basically telling the Boss that the unit had obviously been very badly taught, all 3 submissions were misguided and did not met the set criteria, one would get a F if finally submitted without corrections, that the exam board might refuse to allow him to teach this course again if THIS was the standard the DC were being taught at etc etc! DS wasn't mentioned by name but the other two were shock...

Luckily DS can rescue this and potentially has enough D's in the bag to get to uni (one offer is unconditional) but it's a real worry. But, to be fair on the college, the briefs are so wishy washy and vague, DS thought what they'd been told to do did match the brief they'd been given; goalposts are whizzing around the pitch, and I gather from the FB pages that there are lots of exam shocks, D grade students just passing. DH who is a computer geek has often questioned what, exactly the curriculum is asking for, so can easily see where misinterpretation comes into it.

DS2 is also doing a BTEC, a level 3 two A level equivalent one at the same sixth form DS1 was at til he messed up his ASs. I wish DS2 wasn't doing any BTECs although of course, being a sixth form with uni stats to massage, they are way more slick and professional so you'd never know if they were messing up their BTEC, til you got your final marks, I guess!

It needs clarifying and standardising. And funding.

The only thing I can definitely say about the BTEC is that I honestly believe DS1 will be better prepared for a uni course in computing having studied only that for 2 years (his networking and programming skills are way ahead of mates doing CS at A level), and also for industry, come the day, as he's learned how desire and reality don't necessarily tally!

Tansie1 Fri 27-Apr-18 10:50:39

Incidentally, I am not knocking all BTEC teachers here! Sorry, it comes across that way, I can see - I'm absolutely more knocking the way BTEC is sold to colleges (and unis/employers) when it has none of the certainties of A level.

It is by no means the vocational equivalent to A level in any way, but it should be, although as stated, I do feel the academic rigour is comparable if you're going to study that subject exclusively at uni- it should be an advantage!

FozzieMK Mon 30-Apr-18 13:05:03

My eldest DD did the Level 3 BTEC in Computing gaining a D* D* D*. She has now just finished her second year at Uni. The BTEC was really good for her because she had already covered a lot of the subjects they undertook in first year of Uni, so the learning curve was less. She also had learned to work to assignments and deadlines during the BTEC and whilst there one of the lecturers told her that they prefer BTEC students because of their good computer knowledge.

Where I feel the BTEC let her down was the fact that the teachers can choose which subjects the BTEC follows. She also had almost the whole Computer Department leave at the beginning of her second year so the subjects taught had to be the ones the remaining teachers could cover. This meant that programming wasn't covered hardly at all but things like databases and websites were covered in depth. She has therefore struggled with programming at Uni but does well at the other subjects she covered in depth! I feel that there should be a 'set' curriculum for the BTEC that cannot be deviated from to suit the teachers.

By the way she received 4 Uni offers all unconditional.

TeenTimesTwo Tue 01-May-18 15:18:48

Waves. smile
Sorry it's all gone a bit haywire.

I agree with how wishy-washy the BTEC specs seem to be.
With A levels you can see past papers, examiners reports etc.
With BTECs there is a vague description and fingers crossed.

sashh Tue 01-May-18 15:31:56

As someone who has taught BTEC for years I can tell you that is a crap college or at least a crap department.

I feel that there should be a 'set' curriculum for the BTEC that cannot be deviated from to suit the teachers.

That depends, it allows for more specialisation and in some course leads to different titles. Also if you have someone who can do something that is not mainstream then it can give you an advantage at uni. I taught the human computer interaction unit on HNC, it's quite a niche area but one of my favorites and also something I know was an option at the uni if they were upgrading their HND to a degree.

It is by no means the vocational equivalent to A level in any way

It is if it is taught properly (and marked properly) and deadlines are adhered to.

One college I worked at had a superb 'grade up' system. Grades stood as their origional until grade up week. In grade up week if you had passed you had the option to come into college and increase one grade. If you hadn't passed you had to come in and complete and were capped at a pass.

If you had passed everything and either got or did not want to improve then you got a week off

Staff were off timetable and you arranged 1-2-1 or small group tutorial sessions.

Also worth noting it has been around a long time, it predates the AS/A Level system

Parky04 Fri 04-May-18 22:14:04

My DS is about to complete his BTEC level 3 extended diploma in computing. He attends the UTC College in Reading and the college have been brilliant. Regular parents evening, a website that parents can log onto to monitor attendance, behaviour and level of progress. UTC have a bad press but the one in Reading has an outstanding Ofsted rating and has now achieved the world class quality school award.

The college also have Microsoft, Cisco etc as industrial partners. DS hopes to secure a level 6 apprenticeship or attend University (needs DDD) but should achieve this.

DS could have taken A levels but his passion is computers and this course was absolutely the correct decision to take.

BTECS are a very good alternative to A Levels providing the college have a very good structure in place.

Fireinthehold Wed 09-May-18 11:16:59

My dd is hoping once she completes her GCSEs to attend a music specialist college that will do a BTEC style L3 course. I hope it will be more like @Parky04 rather than OP's experience!

@Tansie1 Good luck to your ds and hope he gets the grades he needs.

Tansie1 Mon 14-May-18 21:15:23

Thanks, all!

EvilTwins Fri 25-May-18 23:57:24

I teach BTEC Extended Diploma (in Performing Arts though) and have done for years.

This *With A levels you can see past papers, examiners reports etc.
With BTECs there is a vague description and fingers crossed.* isn't true. There are examiners reports and past papers for external assessments and they're really useful - it just needs the teachers to look for them and use them.

I'm a fan of BTEC, and think that in some subjects, they are a better qualification than A Levels. But, as sashh has said, they need to be taught well.

LoniceraJaponica Sat 26-May-18 23:07:08

“You don't get that with tried and tested A levels.”

You do when the syllabus changes. This year’s AQA geography A level is a completely new syllabus, and although her teachers know the content they are finding it difficult to mark because they don’t have any guidelines from mark schemes from previous papers

SweetCheeks1980 Tue 12-Jun-18 21:05:00

I loved my animal management BTEC.
I have nothing constructive to add, just thought I'd share. A levels would have been zzzzzzz (to me anyway).

PeggySchuylar Sat 16-Jun-18 18:41:31

Tansie that sound utterly frustrating and unsatisfactory. I’m sorry it’s been such a struggle.
Just wanted to reassure people that BTECs can be well taught and will have advantages for some DC.
My DC is doing an engineering BTEC but at a college run by a large manufacturer. DC has found the structure helpful compared to linear ALevels and likes the way the marking is transparent and more predictable/less based on chance. The academic work has run alongside excellent skills training. It’s been intense, really hard work with early starts, long days and long commutes so not lightweight by any means.

It obviously depends on the college and the staff at that particular time.

I hope things work out for your DS OP. Once he is at uni this will all be like a bad dream.

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