Friday, 30 October 2020

Students face uncertainty after A-level results fiasco

Students face uncertainty after A-level results fiasco

STUDENTS face uncertainty after the Government U-turn on this year’s A-level results.

With the summer exams being cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, teachers were asked to submit centre assessment grades, based on mock exams and coursework, which were used to help calculate results.

Nearly 40 per cent of these estimates were downgraded by exam regulator Ofqual using an algorithm based on information from previous years in order to standardise results.

However, this was heavily criticised by students, headteachers and universities who said it did not accurately reflect pupil progress, so the Government said teachers’ predicated grades could now be used instead.

This will also be the case for GCSE results, which were due to be released yesterday (Thursday)

Now schools and colleges are having to reassess the impact of the U-turn while students try to work out what it will mean for their university
applications. Despite the confusion, some schools reported record-breaking successes, with students achieving top grades and getting into their first-choice universities.

Many schools and colleges issued results by email, while others invited students to collect their results in person at a pre-arranged time.

For some, this was the first time they had seen their friends and teachers for months and they were asked to follow a socially distanced queuing system.

At The Henley College, the overall pass rate was 98.6 per cent, an increase of 1.3 per cent from last year.

The A* to B grade pass rate was 51.4 per cent, a rise of 12.3 per cent.

The proportion of A* to C grades went from 67.8 per cent on results day to 76.5 per cent with centre assessment grades. The percentage of A* to C grades last year was 70 per cent.

Prior to the U-turn, 33 per cent of the college’s centre assessment grades had been moderated down by at least one grade.

There was a 100 per cent pass rate in 25 subjects, up from 21 last year, with 76.5 per cent of photography students and 66.7 per cent of further mathematics students achieving A* to B grades.

Vocational subjects were also strong, with a 100 per cent pass rate and 44 per cent of students gaining a distinction or higher.

Ninety per cent of students have received a university offer, including two from Oxford, while others have gone into clearing or to start apprenticeships with companies such as technology firm Cisco.

With no exams, the college provided centre assessment grades to indicate how pupils had progressed.

After being rated “good” by the education watchdog Ofsted in October, it was expecting to see improvements in outcomes on previous years.

Principal Satwant Deol was scathing of the results system, saying students deserved a better outcome after what they had been through this year.

She said: “It should be a celebration and yet many hardworking students have been left distressed and uncertain by their grades. We are here at the college to support incredible young people who have shown us the way during this pandemic, have been creative, resilient and strong.

“When it became clear that the government’s model was incapable of generating accurate grades, honouring students’ centre assessed grades was the best way to end the uncertainty and anxiety experienced by many students since Thursday morning.

“The whole situation has been stressful and frustrating for students, parents and staff. They deserved these results as they worked for them under exceptional circumstances and I am pleased the Government finally listened to the voices of the country’s young people.”

Abbie Simpson, from Peppard Common, originally received C grades in psychology and English literature and language as well as a B in art.

The 18-year-old had an unconditional offer to study fashion communications at Nottingham Trent University but she was still disappointed with her results.

She said: “I was not particularly happy. I was predicted to get As in art and psychology and a B for English. I have never had a C in my life and my predicted grades were much higher.

“I think they’ve just bumped me down for some reason but there is no evidence to back it up. Maybe they just look at last year’s results. I got a B in my mocks and I was really happy.

“Luckily, I did have an unconditional offer because I wouldn’t have got in with those grades. It is just a shame because it makes me feel like I’m not as smart as I know I am.”

Oscar Hewlett, from Goring, received A*s in computer science, mathematics and further mathematics and will now study computer science at the University of Bristol from next month.

He was originally given an A in further maths but this was upgraded using his centre assessment grade.

Oscar said: “I am very pleased with my results and with getting a confirmed place at my first choice university. Thankfully, I felt reasonably confident that I would attain the grades needed for my offer after the hard work I’d put in over the past two years.

“Personally, I don’t feel as though my studies have been hugely impacted by the pandemic, although this is understandably not the case for everyone.

“However, after achieving three A*s in my mocks and being on target to repeat this in the summer, I can’t help but feel that — had the exams gone ahead — I could have attained a higher grade than what was calculated.

“Despite this, I do feel very grateful that I’ve been able to continue on my planned route into higher education and I wish all the best to those who have been so severely affected by the new grading process.”

Saoirse Coveney, also from Goring, achieved an A* in geography, an A grade in biology and a B in chemistry.

She will be going to Imperial College in London to study geology.

Saoirse, a former pupil of Langtree School in Woodcote, said: “I am really pleased with my results as I feel they reflect the hard work I have put into each of my subjects over the past two years and have enabled me to meet the offer conditions for my first choice university.

“I’m extremely lucky to have been taught by some great teachers who are enthusiastic and passionate about their subjects and are always willing to go above and beyond to help me out, even more so during lockdown.

“The college is excellent at offering support to students, which is something they continue to do despite the pandemic.

“The student services team and staff have all been fantastic at helping me with any issues I have had.

“During my time at Henley, the college has been subject to government cuts in funding for further education. This meant that, as an A-level student, I received a reduced amount of lesson time in my second year in comparison to my first year, amounting to a loss of 40 minutes per subject each week.

“Despite this, I have still received a fantastic education due to the dedication and hard work from my teachers and all the staff, who have gone above and beyond to support us in the face of these challenges.”

At the Piggott School in Wargrave, the overall pass rate was 99.7 per cent. The proportion of A* to C grades was 88 per cent compared with 87 per cent last year.

A record 33 per cent of students achieved A* and A grades, up from 31 per cent last.

The vocational level 3 pass rate was 100 per cent, with distinction star to merit being 97 per cent. For technical subject entry, every student passed the course with at least a merit.

Headteacher Derren Gray said: “Staff and students have all worked exceptionally hard and this is reflected in the grades awarded.

“This once again shows our outstanding sixth form as a centre of excellence for academic, applied general and technical learning.

“I wish all our students the very best for their future and thank all the teaching and support staff for their continued dedication and professionalism.”

A spokesman for the school said the initial grades would stand until further clarification was received.

At Highdown School and Sixth Form Centre in Emmer Green, the proportion of A* to C grades was 80 per cent, up from the 79 per cent last year.

Sixty per cent of grades were A* to B and 31 per cent were A* or A.

Headteacher Rachel Cave said: “Highdown sixth form students worked incredibly hard this year and leave us to go to college, apprenticeships, employment and university with fantastic outcomes.

“This year, students have had unprecedented additional anxieties. Their outcomes are outstanding and reflect the hard work and that of their teachers.

“Highdown teachers know their students and made accurate assessments of how they would achieve.

“Where these have not been granted by the awarding bodies, we will be supporting students with appeals to ensure they receive the grades they deserve.”

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