That old saying, ‘if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck then it is a duck’, is also true of the Next Generation BTECs. They remain similar to the ‘old’ BTECs in that much of the content is still the same and the learner outcomes are similar.

These revamped Level 2 BTECs are therefore very much still BTECs with all the flexibility and opportunities they offer learners. Particularly when it comes to offering a much needed alternative to the traditional GCSE route. As before, this route provides a progression pathway which can take pupils onto National Diplomas, Further Education and employment.

But there the duck-like similarity ends. One of the changes is that there is now an on-screen test which, being an exam, may prove a daunting prospect for many learners, especially if they have previous bad experiences of exam-sitting, which many learners do. One tip for teaching this is to explain to learners that training in taking an on-screen test is no bad thing. After all, the theory part of the driving test is an on-screen test and there are numerous tutorials online to practise this. Interviews for many jobs, especially recruitment agencies, have an on-screen test component.

Research also shows that repeated practising of on-screen tests can significantly improve scores. If this practice can be provided, learners need not be too concerned about the exam element of the Next Generation BTECs. However, coursework still dominates the Next Generation BTECs. The introduction of external assessment contributes to a maximum of 25% of the overall assessment, which Rod Smith, MD of Pearson UK asserts: “keeps teacher-led assessment at the heart of BTEC learning”.

Other changes include the wider range of support that will be given to teachers and lecturers who will be delivering the new BTECs. Rod Smith comments: “I’m delighted to introduce myBTEC, possibly the most significant advancement in our support offering during the lifetime of BTEC. This online toolkit will transform the planning, delivery and assessment of BTEC programmes by allowing you to build courses, create assignments, access resources and track learner progress in one place.”

MyBTEC enables educators to plan BTEC courses more quickly than previously. Teachers and lecturers can also find authorised assignments and develop their own assignments more easily with templates to create assessments customised to your own content and teaching. There are also online teaching and assessment packs which provide the tools needed for planning, delivery and assessment in one convenient place. These can be viewed at www.btec.co.uk/myBTEC.

BTECs have always involved a lot of coursework for the pupils, and the ‘new’ BTECs need the pupils to take more responsibility for their coursework.

For example, the e-portfolio space on myBTEC enables learners to upload their own evidence and monitor their own progress. So how can teachers prepare their pupils? As there is a greater focus on learner autonomy, teachers need to concentrate on teaching the skills needed to self-manage projects, including:

  • Planning
  • Initiative
  • Self-motivation
  • Self-evaluation
  • Self-discipline
  • Time management
  • Reflective learning
  • Target setting

These skills are also useful in developing vocational skills and preparing pupils for the workplace.

One of the challenges of teaching BTECs is keeping students engaged. The adjustments made to the BTECs could improve engagement for some pupils but for the students who traditionally disengage from exams the challenge for the teachers and lecturers will be to help them overcome their fear. The improved monitoring facility should free up teachers to be able to quickly identify and then offer more support to those who need it.

With a suite of 15 subjects, the Next Generation BTECs look to be addressing much of the teachers’ and lecturers’ feedback as well as the recommendations of the 2011 Wolf Report to keep young learners engaged and improve progression routes. The good news is that by keeping so many of the successful elements of BTECs in the revamped next Generation BTECs, they should not ruffle any feathers for pupils, teachers and lecturers alike.