BTEC and other vocational exams will still go ahead this month despite the new national lockdown restrictions, the Department for Education has confirmed tonight.

The prime minister Boris Johnson announced this evening that schools and colleges will move to remote learning for most students from tomorrow and that summer exams will “not go ahead as normal”.

But a spokesperson for the DfE has told FE Week that the 135,000 BTEC and other technical exams starting from tomorrow and being sat over the next few weeks will go ahead as planned.

The government’s national lockdown guidance was published shortly after and states: “Public exams and vocational assessments scheduled to take place in January will go ahead as planned.”

David Hughes, chief executive of the Association of Colleges, believes this is the wrong decision.

He said: “I think they should be cancelled – it is not safe for them to go ahead and it is not fair for students nor for staff. The prime minister has said that everyone should stay at home as much as possible, so how can he expect college staff to go in to invigilate, or students to feel safe enough to sit exams?

“I cannot see any reason strong enough for them to go ahead, and to cancel the summer exams and not the January series is inexplicable. Attendance anyway would be low, and travel for students and staff will be difficult, so I hope that the DfE recognises the impossibility of the situation and announces a cancellation as soon as possible.”

Shadow apprenticeships abs lifelong learning minister Toby Perkins added: “It will be a huge disappointment to FE students and staff that BTEC exams didn’t even merit a mention in the PMs address to the nation.

“Once again it feels like BTEC students who have in many cases missed lots of practical coursework are an afterthought for this government.

“With the prime minister back-tracking on the position he laid out yesterday on schools, FE college leaders face running BTEC exams in empty colleges with underprepared and worried students.

“We need to see that government has truly thought through the implications of running these exams now and if BTEC students aren’t going to have a fair crack of the whip they should consider cancelling them.”