More about changes for 'narrow miss' passes on BTEC Nationals
More detail on changes to level 3 qualifications for learners who narrowly miss a pass grade.
Last updated on 15 May 2018
In March we shared a letter published by Ofqual encouraging awarding organisations to “consider changes” to their level 3 Applied General and Tech Level qualifications "to provide a ‘safety net’ for students who narrowly miss a pass on one or more externally-assessed units.” Since we shared the letter with you, Ofqual have published a blog post that provides more detail on the implications of these changes.
This is great news, as more of your learners should successfully achieve their BTEC Nationals.
Introducing the “Near Pass” grade
We’ll be introducing the N grade or “Near Pass” for most* BTEC Nationals (RQF, teaching from 2016). This means that learners can pass the qualification without passing the external assessment as long as they achieve the N grade and meet all other eligibility requirements, which remain unchanged. Learners will be able to do this if they narrowly miss the Pass grade, and if they still achieve enough points throughout the qualification.
These changes come into effect immediately and retrospectively for all learners who were registered on the new BTEC Nationals (RQF) in 2016 or 2017. We will be in touch with you soon if any of your learners (whose qualification has been previously 'claimed') are now eligible for a qualification and weren’t previously.
We now need to update our systems to reflect this change, so please note that results online for learners who have an N grade may still display as a U. This will not impact their eligibility for the N grade. However, a learner's NOP (Notification of Performance) will include the N grade where applicable and this achievement will be reported to UCAS for those with HEI applications.
*Please see FAQ question at the end of this article: “Which qualifications are affected?”
Amended unit grade points
We’ve put together a table and some screenshots to help guide you through these changes.
BTEC Nationals are graded by aggregating points achieved in all units according to the grade outcome. The changes accommodating the new N grade are shown underlined in bold in the following table.
Please note that these changes only apply to the external units, and no changes are being made to grades for internal units.
Guidance on these changes for Edexcel Online
The following examples provide some guidance on how these changes will look on Edexcel Online.
The following image from Edexcel Online (EOL) for a 90 GLH result unit shows two fictional candidates with a U grade. The first is below the U grade threshold with 5 points. The second has met the N grade threshold with 6 points.
The following image from Edexcel Online (EOL) for a 120 GLH result unit shows two fictional candidates with a U grade. The first is below the U grade threshold with 4 points. The second has met the N grade threshold with 8 points.
We’ll be in touch
If these changes do affect any of your learners, we will be getting in touch in the week commencing 16 April 2018 to guide you through the process.
We have provided some more detail and answered questions that you may have in the following FAQs. However, if these don’t answer your questions, please contact your account specialist or get in touch via our website.
With a small number of exceptions*, all external assessments in BTEC Nationals will no longer be ‘must-pass’. Instead, learners will be required to achieve a minimum ‘N’ grade in each external assessment. N is a “Near Pass” grade which gives learners credit below a Pass, where they have demonstrated evidence of positive performance which is worth more than a U but not yet enough to warrant a Pass grade.
What this means in practice is that we are changing the ‘rules’ that govern when a learner is eligible to claim a final qualification grade. In summary, the rules will be that learners must:
- take a valid combination of units as set out in the specification (no change)
- take and pass all internal mandatory units as stated in the specification (no change)
- take and achieve an ‘N’ (or higher) in each of the external units (this element is new)
- achieve minimum points for each of the grade thresholds (no change).
The N grade applies to external units only; the qualification grades remain as P/PP/PPP to D*/D*D*/D*D*D*.
*Please see the FAQ question “Which qualifications are affected?” for more information.
Updates to BTEC National Specifications to reflect the Near Pass Grade
We are in the process of updating our specifications to reflect the introduction of the Near Pass (N) grade. Until the amendments are complete, you can use this document to replace the existing Section 9: Understanding the qualification grade in each specification.
These changes come into effect immediately and retrospectively for all learners who were registered on the new BTEC Nationals (RQF) in 2016 or 2017.
We need to make some changes to our IT systems to reflect these changes, so results online for learners who have an N grade may still display as a U. This will not impact their eligibility for the N grade, and the Notice of Performance (NOP) will now display the correct grades. You can also check the updated grade boundaries on our website which now show the N grade.
This means that a number of learners who were not previously eligible for a qualification because they did not pass one or more external units may now be eligible for a qualification. We will contact your centre with details of any learners who are now eligible to certificate.
There are learners who may be eligible to certificate for a qualification that they were ineligible for last summer. We will be in touch with any providers where claims have previously been been submitted and learners are now eligible for a qualification. If you have learners for whom a claim has never been submitted but are now eligible for a qualification, you may wish to submit those claims now.
This change impacts most of the BTEC Level 3 National (RQF) suite for first teaching 2016 - 2018. The grading structures will be amended, which will result in changes to specifications and training materials, all of which will be updated on the Pearson qualifications website in the coming months.
The eligibility rules for the following qualifications however will follow a different pattern:
- BTEC Level 3 National Diploma in Children's Play, Learning and Development (Early Years Educator) (teaching from: 2016)
- BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma in Children's Play, Learning and Development (Early Years Educator) (teaching from: 2016)
- BTEC Level 3 National Foundation Diploma in Music (teaching from 2018)
Why do the changes to the grading model apply differently to the above qualifications?
Children’s Play, Learning and Development (Early Years Assistant)
The Diploma and Extended Diploma are approved to show competence to work in early years settings. As a result, all units in these qualifications which are ‘must-pass’ will remain so.
We are introducing a new music qualification from 2018 which has a very high proportion of external assessment. Because this qualification is considerably different in structure from other BTEC Nationals we will be applying the N grade differently.
No. This is just a change to the way the grading works on external units. It means that a learner who achieves between a Pass and an Unclassified grade on any external assessment can now be confident their marks will contribute to their final qualification grade, and they will not be required to re-take the unit in order to pass the qualification as long as they achieve the N grade. Learners who have already gained a pass grade or higher on an external unit will not be affected.
The removal of the “must-pass rule” has no impact on the additional re-sit opportunity which was announced earlier this year. These are two separate policy changes implemented by the DfE, and we are currently awaiting confirmation on whether this additional attempt at external units will be available for learners completing in 2018/19.
Please get in touch with your account specialist if you have any further questions on these changes or contact us via our website. We will be continuing to support you and your learners by updating this FAQ with any further important details, and we will:
- provide updated specifications
- be available with customer service support
- get in touch to advise if learners are eligible to certificate under the new N grade
- inform UCAS and HE of this new eligibility criteria.
We've also put together this letter for you to share the news with colleagues, parents and learners.