As Thursday the 13th of August dawned, thousands of students across the UK awoke with trepidation ahead of receiving their A Level results; with the pandemic disrupting the last term of their schooling and cancelling exams these students were already somewhat used to the unexpected, however, as the country’s 17/18 year olds nervously accessed their results, they were unprepared for the latest fiasco.
In lieu of formal exams, it was decided that an algorithm used by Ofqual (Office of Qualifications and Examinations Regulation) would determine the grades assigned to each student. The same system was used across England, Wales, Northern Ireland and for the Scottish Higher qualification (Scotland’s A-Level equivalent).
Ofqual asked teacher to provide the following information for each pupil for each subject:
- An estimated grade for that subject
- A ranking compared with all other pupils at the school who had the same estimated grade
The argument from Ofqual was that this would be a more accurate system rather than relying on teachers predictions, since they might be inclined to be more generous when giving grades, leading to grade inflation. However, many students were left bitterly disappointed as nearly 40% of grades ended up being lower than estimated across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with Scotland facing similar problems. Despite Ofqual refuting any claims of bias, the down-grading of A-Levels appears to have negatively affected colleges and students in a lower socio-economic background more.
Outraged students then took to protests, appeals and contacting their local MPs and thankfully after days of efforts, succeeded on securing a U-turn from the Government — results will now be based on teacher predictions.
Unfortunately it is not totally clear-cut what happens next. Students who have already accepted their second choice university will have to contact both their school and the university they were hoping to attend to see if there is still a space for them. The head of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis has said the group “will do everything they can” to help students over the coming weeks; it is also likely that there will be a sizeable reduction in the amount of international students taking places at UK universities which will ensure they are more spaces available for UK students who have now achieved higher grades. However, with coronavirus restrictions limiting over-subscription for University courses, there will unfortunately still be some students who end up without a place this September or at least a deferral until next year.
The situation appears to be changing rapidly from one day to the next but for those who did not secure their choice of university and those questioning whether they wish to attend this year, there are still options; if you don’t start a Uni course in September there is the chance instead to look for other opportunities to boost your skills and CV, such as online courses and voluntary or paid roles. Also, with the majority of university teaching taking place remotely in September, waiting another year might not be the end of the world; in a years time it is likely university systems will be a lot better equipped to deal with the challenges brought about by the pandemic. The other good news is that there are plenty of support avenues available; aside from discussing your options with your school or college advisors, you can contact services like Prospects, AllAboutSchoolLeavers, Not Going to Uni and the National Careers Service (links below).
Although it may feel like a pressured time there’s no sense in rushing into any decisions too quickly; take the time to consider all your options and what it is you really want to pursue and go get it! Whatever path the news generation of students decide to take, over here at Class of 2020 we’re expecting great things.
If you don’t start a Uni course in September there is the chance instead to look for other opportunities to boost your skills and CV!
Take the time to consider all your options and what it is you really want to pursue and go get it!