Nearly half a million pupils face a fresh round of results chaos after exam board Pearson pulled its BTec results on the eve of releasing them.
Pearson said it would be re-grading all its BTecs to bring them in line with A-levels and GCSEs, which are now being graded via school-based assessments.
The 11th-hour move affects 450,000 pupils, 250,000 of whom received grades last week.
The rest were due to collect results on Thursday along with GCSE candidates.
Pearson apologised and acknowledged the additional uncertainty the decision would cause. The exam board also offers a large proportion of the GCSEs and A-levels taken by UK pupils.
However, the late decision will cause even further disruption to students seeking places in further and higher education.
Universities are already struggling to cope with the impact of grade changes on their admissions process.
Pearson said in a statement: “BTec qualification results have been been generally consistent with teacher and learner expectations, but we have become concerned about unfairness in relation to what are now significantly higher outcomes for GCSE and A-levels.”
England’s exams regulator has already said that the school-assessed GCSE and A-level grades are likely to be higher than last year by nine and 12 percentage points respectively.
The Association of Colleges’ chief executive, David Hughes, said it had asked Pearson to look at a small number of results which had seemed unfair.
He added: “The timing is worrying, because thousands of students were due to get their results in the morning and others have already got results which we know will not go down, but might improve.
“So it is vital for students that this is sorted in days rather than weeks so students have the chance to celebrate and plan their next steps.
“It is a stressful time and this delay will extend the uncertainties.”
Leora Cruddas, chief executive of the Confederation of School Trusts, said Pearson was right to act but added: “This late notification will cause very significant challenges for schools, trusts and colleges.
“It simply is unacceptable that some of the most disadvantaged students will not receive their grades tomorrow and that nothing has been done to correct this over the past few days.”
Pearson has now written to all schools, colleges and training providers to say the following qualifications are being re-graded:
- BTec Level 3 Nationals (2010 QCF and 2016 RQF)
- BTec Level 1/2 Tech Awards
A Pearson spokesman said: “Although we generally accepted centre assessment grades for internal (i.e. coursework) units, we subsequently calculated the grades for the examined units using historical performance data with a view of maintaining overall outcomes over time.
“Our review will remove these Pearson-calculated grades and apply consistency across teacher-assessed internal grades and examined grades that students were unable to sit.
“We will work urgently with you to reissue these grades and will update you as soon as we possibly can.
“We want to reassure students that no grades will go down as part of this review.
“Our priority is to ensure fair outcomes for BTec students in relation to A-Levels and GCSEs and that no BTec student is disadvantaged.”
“Therefore, we ask schools and colleges not to issue any BTec L1 and L2 results on 20 August, as these will be reviewed and where appropriate, re-graded.”