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Press release | Fri Nov 18 09:30:00 UTC 2016

BTEC results show increasing stability as growth in STEM subjects continues

  • Females outperform males, gaining a greater proportion of the top grades at both Level 2 and 3
  • New data shows diversity and success of BTEC students in Higher Education
  • Increases in top grades at Level 3 stabilizing; decreases in top grades at Level 2 stabilising.
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Today, Pearson publishes annual data for nearly three quarters of a million Level 2 (BTEC First; GCSE-level) and Level 3 (BTEC National; same level as A level) qualifications taken in the last academic year.

In recent years, there has been a decrease in the top grades at Level 2 and an increase in the top grades at Level 3. This year, we see evidence of both qualification suites returning to a more stable pattern. This is a pattern we expect to see continue as teachers adjust to the new Level 2 qualifications, and also with the introduction of the new Level 3 BTEC Nationals which, from September 2016, include a large component of external assessment for the first time (results for these new BTEC Nationals will start to appear in next year's results).

The data also show that students are increasingly choosing to study 'STEM' subjects - at Level 3, the number of students completing BTECs in Engineering, Construction and Applied Science increased.

Applied Law and Health & Social Care also saw increases in completions.

At both Level 2 and Level 3, female students performed better than male students, achieving more top grades:

  • At Level 2, 6.0% of girls achieved the highest D* (distinction star) grade, compared to 2.5% of boys
  • At Level 3, girls performed better than boys on all-size qualifications over the past two years. On the larger-sized qualifications, 7.3% more girls gained D*D*D* (triple distinction star) than boys.

Other headline findings from the data include:

Male vs female subject choice and performance

  • At Level 2 and Level 3, Health & Social Care is the most popular BTEC course for female students. This is followed closely by Applied Science at Level 2 and Business at Level 3
  • Sports Science is the most popular BTEC course for male students at Levels 2 and 3, followed by Applied Science at Level 2 and ICT at Level 3.

Entry data

  • Level 2 registrations have declined by 43% from 579,736 in 2014/15 to 333,285 in 2015/16. This is an expected pattern, in part reflecting government changes to school accountability at Key Stage 4 (Year 11)
  • Level 3 registrations have remained relatively stable with 381,746 in 2015/16 and 399,113 in 2014/15, this is largely in line with the 3.1% drop in 18-year-olds in England, Wales and Northern Ireland
  • The five most popular subjects at Level 2 (BTEC Firsts) were Applied Science, Sport, Business, Health & Social Care and Information Technology
  • The five most popular subjects at Level 3 (BTEC Nationals) were Sports Studies, Business, Health & Social Care, ICT and Applied Science.

Results data

At Level 2, we see a more stable pattern in the top grades following a big drop in 2014/15:

  • Nearly 335,000 students completed their qualification (74% of those registered). At Level 3, this was just over 380,000 (79% of those registered)
  • D* grades have fallen from 13.1% in 2013/14; to 4.9% in 2014/15; and to 4.1% in 2015/16

At Level 3, we see greater stability in top grades following some increases in recent years:

  • For triple-grade qualifications (the most common BTEC route to university), as indicated in August's provisional results, the proportion of students achieving the top grade is stable (at 16.3% achieving D*D*D*) compared to 16.2% in the previous year.
  • For double-grade qualifications, there was a small increase in top grades with 17.7% achieving D*D* in 2015/16 compared to 16.3% in 2014/15.
  • This pattern is repeated with single grade qualifications where there was an increase in the top D*grade from 27.8% in 2014/15 to 32.0% in 2015/16. Pearson is commissioning research to understand this increase, which may reflect a more academically able cohort taking single-grade BTECs alongside A levels.

Performance of BTEC students in Higher Education

Pearson is also releasing today some new findings, drawing on a Pearson analysis of the latest available Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) data on university entry. Our analysis shows:

  • BTEC students achieve well at university - 89% achieve a first or second class degree - lower than, but comparable to A level students (97%). 93% of students who combine A level with BTEC achieve a first or second class degree
  • BTEC students entering university are more diverse than their A level counterparts, supporting drives to widen participation across socio-economic and ethnic groups
  • BTEC students are more than twice as likely to come from the lower socio-economic groups. 41% of students entering HE with BTECs come from the lowest three groups, whereas for A levels the figure is 19%. The figure is 36% for students entering HE with a combination of BTEC and A levels
  • 12% of BTEC students entering university are Afro-Caribbean - for A level students the figure is 5%.

Rod Bristow, President of Pearson in the UK, said:

"A huge congratulations to all the students who have achieved a BTEC qualification this year. It's encouraging to see such fantastic results and students choosing to study subjects, like Engineering and Science, which they know are in demand from employers.

"The global economy doesn't just value what people know, it values what they can do, and as a practical, hands-on way of learning, BTEC offers proof of just this. We are really proud that the evidence shows that a BTEC gets students directly into a career, or increasingly into university and then into a career".

Ends 


Notes to Editors

  1. View the full presentation of results
  2. Read the blog from Rod Bristow, published on the HEPI website, outlining the value of BTECs to students, employers and universities
  3. Please note that, as part of wider changes to all of Pearson's vocational and academic qualifications, from September 2016 students have begun to take the revised Level 3 BTEC qualifications which will include a new element of external assessment
  4. See the case studies of BTEC students succeeding in higher education
  5. Pearson is the first awarding body to publish the achievements of students in schools and colleges studying a major vocational qualification. We are committed to the annual publication of these statistics.
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