Week 4 – BTEC or GCSE

We have now had 4 weeks at school, and they have been busy as usual of course. The main focus of my last week at school was BTEC. We have options evening coming up after half term and needed to decide as a department which courses to offer to our current year 8 pupils. They start their GCSE courses in year 9. This was a change our head implemented 2 years ago. The reason for this, I believe was to prepare them earlier for their GCSEs and hopefully improve their grades.

I currently teach GCSE PE, BTEC Sport and GCSE Dance. I am a massive fan of teaching exam PE as I like to challenge the pupils and enjoy the theory side of the subject. It tests my memory and knowledge too which I really like.

The BTEC course has changed in the last couple of years. There are now online assessments which are conducted in exam conditions. The current course we teach is the old specification, which is 100% coursework but is the last of it’s kind. In respect of this, I needed to do some research into our options for the new course. There is lots of speculation about BTEC courses and their worth compared with GCSEs. I believe it is a good option for pupils with a lower practical ability in sport. Yes, there is a lot of written work, but it also depends on the units you choose. There are some which include a lot of practical too. It teaches them how to evaluate and explain things in more detail. This is something I think many pupils lack. Their understanding of command words and what they mean. The BTEC helps them understand these and then has a knock on effect with their other subjects. In theory anyway. There are other units that they wouldn’t get to learn about in the GCSE course. It can be a varied course depending on the units you choose. 

Many pupils and parents don’t know he difference between the BTEC and the GCSE, this forms part of the problem. I have read many comments on various forums on peoples opinions on them. Comments like “BTEC’s aren’t as good as GCSE’s.” “BTEC’s are regarded as lesser of a qualification.” “How can a BTEC be worth 2 GCSE’s?” These are all valid opinions but said with a lack of understanding. Many schools now offer BTEC qualifications to enable lower end students to achieve. This may not have been possible in a GCSE. It can also enable students who are able to gain a higher qualification than they would in a GCSE. In PE, the GCSE course is 60% practical and 40% theory. For the pupil that really enjoys PE and might want to become a coach or a leader of some sort, yet lacks skills on a practical level, therefore their 60% practical grade wouldn’t be as high as they would like or need, then the BTEC could be perfect for them. It allows them to lead sessions, plan events, evaluate their own and others work in detail, learn about sports development and psychology. These are things you wouldn’t get to do with the GCSE course. As teachers we should be developing pupils and preparing them for their life after education. This gives some pupils a different avenue to follow and allows them to succeed. This is why I think it is an important course to be offered and children need to choose which course they are best suited to wisely. 

Having researched which BTEC course to choose for September; the award, certificate, extended certificate of the diploma, we opted for the one which would challenge the pupils but not provide an unrealistic amount of work. The certificate has 8 units which can be spread over the 3 years. The idea then is to start the course with study skills and improve their understanding of command words before starting any of the units. The next task was to choose the individual units to teach. 2 of then are externally assessed, this provides an extra challenge for the lower ability pupils who struggle with recall. We decided to add in as many units with practical elements as possible. Things like leading a session, fitness for sport, planning an event as these can give them different skills to prepare them for college/work. Some of these are also very different to GCSE PE. 

The next step unfortunately is to attend a course and then re write all of the assignments for each unit. This is something that of course will take lots of time. But I know it’ll be worth it to provide a rounded curriculum in PE. Who knows how long the BTEC will be about, but for now, it is a valid qualification which should be seen as an equivalent to GCSE. If it isn’t, then what was the point in creating it up in the first place? 

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