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Tuesday 10th August 2021 is Results day for A-Levels and Vocational Qualifications. This week is #ResultsWeek as Tuesday 10th August is A-Level and Vocational Qualifications and Thursday 12th August is GCSE results day.
More than 210,000 18-year-old students in England have had their university places confirmed, with 192,000 at their first choice and increases in top grades for students from all backgrounds.
A record rate of students from disadvantaged backgrounds will be starting university courses, up 11% proportionately on last year.
Nineteen per cent of entries are at grade A*, with 44.3% at grade A or above – up 4.6 percentage points (ppt) and 6.0 ppt on 2020 respectively. This is lower than the uplift seen between 2019 and 2020, where A*s increased 6.6 ppt and A or above 12.7 ppt.
The uplift in top grades reflects the fact the grading process gave all students a chance to do their best, only being assessed on what they had been taught across multiple pieces of work.
This helped bring fairness between students with different levels of disruption to their learning, and helped limit any increase in historic disparities between different groups of students and types of schools.
Statistics published today show:
Due to the Covid pandemic, grades were awarded around Teacher Assessed Grades (TAGs). Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson announced in January 2021 that Teacher Assessment, not Algorithms will be used to assess grades in 2021, after the 'mutant algorithm' used for assessment in 2020 caused a lot of disruption to the 2020 results day.
Teachers have assessed the standard at which students were performing based only on what they had been taught so far. There was no minimum amount of content required, this means that schools/colleges that had not covered all of the content would not be disadvantaged. Teachers’ judgements would have been based on a range of evidence relating to the subject content that your teachers have delivered, either in the classroom or via remote learning:
There was also a quality assurance process in place, with all grades being checked by schools – and one in five schools having a sample of their grades checked by exam boards – helping to give students, parents, colleges, universities and employers confidence in grades.
Non-exam assessment (NEA) work or coursework, including for Project qualifications, would have continued, wherever possible. Teachers marked NEA and it contributed to learners overall grade, whether or not it had been completed.
For AS and A level art and design, the grade was based on a learners portfolio only, whether or not this was finished and for GCSE English language, GCSE modern foreign languages and A level sciences (biology, chemistry, physics and geology), schools and colleges submitted a separate grade or result for the spoken language or practical skills tested, based on work completed by a learner.
For many qualifications, teacher judgement will have played a central role – more so in some qualifications than others. Where possible some exams and assessments, went ahead this year either remotely, or in person where it was safe to do so. Gavin Williamson advised colleges and schools to complete January 2021 exams if they judged it right to do so.
A student unhappy with their grade should submit an appeal to their college, so that they could check whether an administrative error had been made. If a centre does find an error in the grade submitted, they can submit a revised grade for the board to consider. If a centre does not believe an error had been made, the centre will appeal to the exam board on the student’s behalf, and will be supported to do so.
Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said:
“Students have worked very hard in what has been an extraordinary and challenging year, and each and every one of them should feel incredibly proud of their achievements. We should all celebrate their resilience and ability to overcome adversity.
“Teachers and staff have ensured that, despite the disruption caused by the pandemic, all students are able to get grades this year and so can take their next steps and make their choices about further study or entering the workplace.
“I am hugely grateful to teachers and also parents for supporting our young people in progressing to the next stage in their lives with confidence."
“Receiving results is always a huge milestone in people’s lives and after a difficult year, every student should be incredibly proud of what they have achieved. The results are testament to young people’s hard work and resilience alongside the commitment and expertise of their teachers.
“It’s fantastic to see a record number of disadvantaged students going to university. While there has been an increase in the number of top grades awarded, young people and their families can be confident grades carry the same weight as any other year and will allow them to progress to the next stage of education or work."
Universities Minister Michelle Donelan said:
“Results day is the culmination of years of schooling and dedication and I want to congratulate students, teachers and parents on all their hard work.
“Despite the challenges of the last 18 months, students will today receive a qualification that carries weight and acts as a passport to wherever they want to go, whether that be to university, or into further education and apprenticeships.”
Commenting ahead of A-level results day, Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, said:
“It is deeply concerning to see widening socio-economic divides in this year’s A-level results, confirming our worst fears: the pandemic has exacerbated educational inequalities outside and inside the school gates.
“The Government urgently needs to set out its plans for a return to national exam system from next year that is fair to all pupils irrespective of what school they attend or home they come from.
“The race for places on the most popular degree courses will intensify to unprecedented levels amid this year’s steep rise in A and A* grades. Demand for higher education will increase at a time when jobs are harder to come by. Unless universities up their game, we could see social mobility put back years: our research has shown that poorer pupils have suffered disproportionate learning losses during the pandemic.
“This year’s covid cohort of A-level students will be navigating a completely new world, with all the assumptions of previous years thrown up in the air. You have to feel for all the young people getting their A-level and other exam results who have endured so much disruption during the pandemic. A particular concern is for disadvantaged pupils who are less likely to be backed up by parents fighting their corner.”
This week A-Level and GCSE students will be receiving their results. Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the largest school leadership union NAHT, said:
“All students receiving their results this week deserve our congratulations. This is the culmination of a huge amount of work in the most challenging of circumstances. Students have shown great resilience and determination this year. For each individual student, their grades are a passport to the next phase of their education, training or employment.
“Students, parents, education providers and employers have every reason to be confident in this year’s results, even though there have been no exams. This year’s grades are based on students’ actual work, assessed by their teachers, moderated and quality assured. There are no algorithms this year, just human effort and human expert judgement.
“Talk of grade inflation is unhelpful. The results in 2021 cannot be easily compared to any other year. The methods used to generate them are very different to normal years when exams take place, and even to the processes used to award grades in 2020. The grades awarded in 2021 are a holistic judgement based on work which students have produced.
“These evidence-based decisions are very different to the normal way grades are awarded through exams. Many students will be able to demonstrate higher levels of attainment through shorter assessments taken throughout their course than in an exam on one particular day in June. Students should be confident that they are getting the grades they deserve and that reflect the standard of achievement they have demonstrated.
“In making any comparisons, between years or between different groups of students, care must be taken not to come to quick and simplistic conclusions for differences. Differences in results between types of school or groups of students are very complex issues and, in the circumstances, will reflect issues of educational inequality which have been exacerbated by the pandemic.
“Government and Ofqual made the policy decisions and exam boards created the detailed guidance on awarding grades this year. Schools and colleges implemented those processes with professionalism and integrity. It was obvious to schools and colleges last summer that contingency arrangements would be needed in 2021, and yet it took until the end of March to produce the details for generating grades in the absence of exams. School and college staff are to be commended for the way they have managed to bring a sense of calm and rigour to proceedings. The government’s contribution was to create an unnecessary layer of risk and instability by failing to act swiftly enough.”
Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, commenting ahead of students receiving their A-level and BTEC results, said:
"Students have worked incredibly hard in extraordinary circumstances and should be proud of the results they are receiving today.
“They have done this in spite of a Conservative government which has let them down at every turn and shown no ambition for their futures.
“Labour is calling for all students getting results to be supported by a Next Step Guarantee so no young person loses out on future opportunities because of Conservative chaos.”
Association of Employment and Learning Providers research director Paul Warner said:
"Unfortunately, as recent UCAS research has shown, too many school and college students are simply not made aware of apprenticeships and their benefits while they are still studying. Schools are required by law (the so-called Baker Clause) to invite local employers and apprenticeship training providers to come and speak to pupils about apprenticeships but compliance is generally poor. The government therefore needs in its Skills and Post-16 Education Bill to take tougher formal action against non-compliance."
*There was a 13% fall in starts for 16 to 18 year olds in the same period
Commenting on the publication of level 2 and level 3 qualification results this week, the Federation of Awarding Bodies (FAB) Chief Executive, Tom Bewick, said:
“On behalf of the Federation, I would like to congratulate all learners across the UK who have received their level 2 or level 3 qualification results. I hope you’re proud of your significant achievement and can now take the next step in your journey – whether that’s into further education or the world of work.
“While many learners will use their results to get into university later this year, many others will take a different path. We welcome the recent commitment from UCAS to improve information and their services for those seeking to progress from level 3 study to an apprenticeship instead of a traditional university degree.
“Unlike GCSE and A Levels, vocational and technical qualification results are released throughout the year to meet the needs of a broad range of learners and employers. While the spotlight isn’t always on achievement outside of ‘results days’, we must celebrate the accomplishments of every learner who has completed a qualification or apprenticeship this year - overcoming national lockdowns and closures to schools, colleges, training providers and workplaces.
“In addition to the determination shown by learners, the many thousands of educational successes this year were made possible by the hard work and commitment of teachers, tutors, assessors, support staff and colleagues at awarding organisations and EPAOs. Thank you to them all for their expertise and dedication.”
David Phillips, MD City & Guilds said: “We would like to offer our congratulations to all of our learners and our centres today.
“After another disrupted year thanks to the impact of Covid19, those receiving their results should feel hugely proud of their achievements, as should the teachers, assessors and instructors that have worked so hard to deliver teaching, training and assessment in unprecedented circumstances.
“Throughout the pandemic we have worked closely with the Department for Education, the various regulators, other awarding organisations and our centres to ensure our assessments could be delivered enabling learners to get the grades they deserve despite the disruption.
“We would like to thank all those involved in ensuring that we have been able to continue to award qualifications to our learners throughout the pandemic, enabling them to progress with their careers and further studies.”
Russell Hobby, CEO of Teach First, said:
“Congratulations to pupils receiving their A-level results today and thank you to the teachers, staff and parents who have supported them through such an extended period of disruption and difficulty.
“But while today will be a cause for celebration for many, we must remember that those from disadvantaged backgrounds will be fair less likely to receive grades which truly reflect their potential. They simply aren’t born with the same opportunities and this inequality continues throughout childhood. It’s not their fault and it isn’t fair.
"To tackle this once and for all, we must prioritise investment in schools in low-income areas to build a fairer, thriving society – so every child has the chance to receive the grades that truly reflect their potential.”
Hengjie Wang, CEO and co-founder of Kami said:
“It's been a really tough year for A Level students – having to learn in and out of the classroom – and looking ahead it is still unclear whether that uncertainty will continue. Seeing off this class of students, the attention now turns to the next school year, and many will be keen to ensure that they are better prepared for the new term than when the first lockdown hit back in March. There is no question that the remote learning experience relies on technology, but what needs more recognition is that right now this is in stark contrast to the current paper-based education system in classrooms, giving more room for learning to be disrupted.
“Thinking beyond the pandemic, our recent research showed significant concern from teachers that the paper heavy in-classroom experience - that looks the same as it did back in the 90s in places - will not prepare students for the digital-based careers they will soon enter into. That’s why while learning and teaching under these circumstances is, obviously, not ideal – there are benefits. Those who have embraced digital tools – be it devices or software - have found that it increased engagement from pupils, that it helped deliver more personalised learning and made tracking progress easier. By investing in the right tools and software, schools can help deliver more relevant learning experiences both long term, and whether students are in or out the classroom".
Comment from Kirstie Donnelly MBE, CEO of City & Guilds:
“As the jobs landscape continues to reel from the impact of Covid-19 and Brexit, more school leavers are turning towards university as a default choice. But, with our Skills Index research revealing that employers are twice as likely to take on apprentices or trainees to fill skills gaps (36%), as opposed to graduates (18%) within the coming years, a university degree might not be the golden ticket to a job that many had hoped. As young people get their results this week, it’s more important than ever that they explore all the options open to them – whether that’s a degree, an apprenticeship, or a degree level apprenticeship – and ensure they are fully informed about career opportunities, so they can make the smartest choices about their futures.”
Alice Barnard, CEO, Edge Foundation said:
"Our young people are more than just exam results; they are our future designers, leaders, and thinkers. As well as exam grades, let’s also celebrate broader skills such as problem solving, communicating, being a good team player, which we saw shining through the pandemic. After a turbulent year, we have witnessed incredible resilience in our young people and in our teaching workforce. We caught a glimpse into how we might teach, learn and examine in new and innovative ways. Let’s continue to build on this, and celebrate our young people and teaching workforce who have worked so hard over the last year."
Fiona Aldridge, Director for Policy and Research at Learning and Work, said:
“Congratulations to all of the young people and adults receiving their results this week - and to the teachers and trainers who have supported them. You have worked so hard in such difficult circumstances to achieve your grades. Well done!
"This generation of young people have experienced the double whammy of both a disrupted education and reduced job opportunities, risking long-term damage to their career prospects. Our role now is to ensure that they have the right opportunities and support to take the next step, whether that is further learning and training, a job or an apprenticeship.”
Manan Khurma, Founder and CEO of Cuemath, said:
“Irrespective of today’s results, the indisputable fact is hundreds of thousands of UK students have had their education disrupted by school closures and interruptions in the pandemic. EdTech companies can help close this gap by educating students in visual, engaging ways – and easing the huge burden of teachers’ workloads.”
“Although Results Day is a reason to celebrate for many, for others the build-up and aftermath is hugely stressful – with a notable rise in student and parental anxiety this year. EdTech platforms ease this anxiety, by complementing curriculums in an affordable way. Students learn at their own pace, in engaging ways and it is a smoother path to achieving their desired grades.”
“The story of education in the last 18 months is that EdTech is here to stay, and will increasingly influences students’ results. When students return to in-person teaching in September, EdTech will be more core than ever, and a permanent feature of school life.”
Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:
"We congratulate all students and teachers on their resilience and dedication throughout an extraordinary year. Today’s results were achieved amidst unprecedented levels of disruption and adversity, but students can rest assured that they have been judged according to the work they have actually done. Each student has received a grade which was arrived at using evidence of their own work, rather than relative to the work of others or through a high-stakes one-off exam. We are pleased that Ofqual has been so forthright in reiterating this. That this may have led to different proportions of grades than other years should have been expected – a completely different system has been used. It isn’t a reflection on the value of the grades and simply shows how the exam-only system pre-pandemic did not allow all students to demonstrate their abilities.
“Exam boards checked evidence supporting grades at every single school and college in the country to ensure the grades were reflective of students’ work. Students and parents can therefore have every confidence in the results received, but of course an appeals process is in place which they should feel able to pursue if necessary. It is Gavin Williamson’s job to ensure this is properly resourced so that any uncertainty can be swiftly resolved without further increasing the workload of hard-pressed teachers and school leaders. Young people’s futures must not be stalled by a Government whose record on action has been so poor.
"Emerging from the pandemic should be an opportunity to reassess the established ways in which we carry out exams and award qualifications. That is why the NEU is supporting an independent commission on assessment and qualifications, chaired by Professor Louise Hayward of the University of Glasgow, which seeks to meet the future needs of students, teachers, our economy and our society.
"Gavin Williamson may commend teachers today, but his praise comes too late – and rings hollow. Late and incoherent guidance on how they should submit grades resulted in increased workload and stress for teachers as well as uncertainty for students. Government has taken school and college staff for granted and ignored their calls throughout this pandemic, maintaining the silence of a monk for much of it. This cannot and must not continue.”
Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said:
“Our priority today is to congratulate students on successfully completing their sixth form education in extraordinarily difficult circumstances, and securing such excellent grades. Teachers’ dedication and relentless focus on high standards, and students’ determination and resilience have been the bedrock of this year’s results. Teachers have done all they can to keep students healthy and safe while continuing to deliver a high-quality education; students have worked tirelessly in the face of unprecedented change and challenge.
“Talk of grade inflation is wide of the mark. This years’ results cannot be compared to the pre-Covid era as students have been assessed in a very different way and have had a very different educational experience. Our hope is that the exam system will gradually return to normal from next year, and when it does, the pattern of results will broadly return to 2019 levels”.
Responding to this morning’s results for students studying A levels and other equivalent qualifications, OfS Chair Lord Wharton said:
“Students have worked incredibly hard under continually trying circumstances. I congratulate them on their well deserved results today.
“This will be an exciting time for hundreds of thousands of students as they prepare to head off to university this autumn. While record numbers of students will have secured a place on their first choice course, other students will be spending the coming days finding the right course for them. Many courses will have places made available through Clearing, while the Discover Uni website lets students compare courses to see what is right for them. Others may consider alternative routes such as apprenticeships.
“This is another unusual admissions year for universities, but they must still honour the places of students who meet the terms of their offer. I have been clear that it is not acceptable for universities to put pressure on students to defer their course, or to take up a place on a different course. Incentives can be offered, but students need to be treated fairly at all times – with universities recognising that they must honour offers for students who wish to accept them. Universities need also to recognise the continuing commitments they have made in their access and participation plans, ensuring that everyone with the ability to excel in higher education has the opportunity to do so.
“The OfS warned universities and colleges in March not to risk the quality of higher education by overrecruiting to courses. When the new term starts they must make sure that students have access to high quality, well resourced provision which is academically stretching and opens students’ minds to new ideas. The OfS is currently consulting on new proposals which would give us sharper tools to take action where the quality of courses slips.
“With coronavirus restrictions removed, universities are now free to return to in-person teaching and they should have credible plans for this to be restored. Universities will be making sensible contingency plans for the possibility of further restrictions and they will want to build on some of the innovations that have served students well during the pandemic. Where some universities plan a mix of in-person and online learning, the OfS’ primary concern will continue to be around course quality and we are clear that – however teaching is delivered – students should receive a good quality experience of higher education. In making decisions about how provision will be delivered, universities and colleges must ensure that they keep students properly informed. They should take into account the views of their students when making decisions about how courses are taught.”
Professor John Latham CBE, Vice-Chancellor, Coventry University Group, said:
"The pandemic has made this an even more stressful time for students and they all should be immensely proud of the resilience and hard work they have demonstrated over the past year.
“I would like to congratulate all A-Level and BTEC students on their hard-earned results and wish good luck to everyone who is looking to move into university, college, an apprenticeship or the world of work.
“Those who didn't get the results they were hoping for today need not despair or panic - there are still many opportunities to pursue higher education."
“We are being as flexible as possible with admissions and are taking a range of factors into account to prevent applicants, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, from being unfairly affected by the pandemic, and hope they can benefit from the excellent teaching quality and student experience offered by Coventry University Group."
Commenting on today’s A-Level results, Tom Richmond, Director of the EDSK think tank, said:
“Studying during a pandemic has clearly been a difficult experience for many students but handing out almost half of grades as A’s and A*’s could undermine the credibility of their A-level results. Even if awarding such high grades feels fair to some students, it may harm their long-term prospects when they apply for jobs in future.
“The purpose of any grading system is to differentiate between students in terms of what they know, understand and can do. With 37 per cent of A-level students getting three As or better – more than double the rate in 2019 - there is now a serious risk that this year’s grades are simply meaningless in the eyes of employers and universities.
“To ensure that this year’s grades were credible and trustworthy, A-level exams should have gone ahead as normal. Any student who wanted more time to study before taking their exams could have been offered an additional year at school or college for free to make up for lost learning. It is also vital that A-level exams go ahead in 2022 to prevent this untenable situation from occurring again.”
Commenting on today's A level results, Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:
"Young people have done fantastically well to cope with the challenges of the past 18 months and we should celebrate their achievements.
"Today's higher grades will not come as a surprise. We have been warning the government and Ofqual since January that such rises will transpire unless they put in place a robust system that ensures consistency of assessment and anchors grades to previous years' results.
"But we can't lose sight of the most pressing issue, which is lea Commenting on today's A level results, Natalie Perera, Chief Executive of the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:
"Young people have done fantastically well to cope with the challenges of the past 18 months and we should celebrate their achievements.
"Today's higher grades will not come as a surprise. We have been warning the government and Ofqual since January that such rises will transpire unless they put in place a robust system that ensures consistency of assessment and anchors grades to previous years' results.
"But we can't lose sight of the most pressing issue, which is lea rning loss. Many students will have experienced considerable learning losses and there is a risk that the higher grades today distract from this.
"We need to see a far more ambitious response from the government to help students with education recovery. Our research has shown that a three-year recovery package totalling £13.5bn will be required to reverse the damage seen to learning from the pandemic – but to date the government has only committed a fraction of this support."
David Robinson, Director of Post-16 and Skills at the Education Policy Institute (EPI), said:
“It is unsurprising that we’ve seen considerably higher grades among students. Limited controls, a lot of flexibility on what could be included towards assessment evidence, and students often being given the benefit of the doubt, have all contributed towards this rise seen today.
“More of a concern than increases is the fact that some groups of students will have lost out from inconsistencies in grading. But greater still is the problem of pupil learning loss caused by the pandemic, which will have been masked by these higher grades.
“The focus now needs to be on giving maximum support to students to ensure that they progress into their next destination, whether that’s in education, training or employment."
Lee Biggins, CEO and Founder of CV-Library said:
"With records being broken in both A-level results and numbers applying for university places, plus bumper job postings and staff shortages in many sectors, opportunities are there for the taking for this years A-level students. According to our survey of recruiters last year, a whopping 95.4% feel that CVs are still integral to the hiring process. The traditional CV isn't just about work experience and it's a great way for these young candidates, who've had an unprecedented journey through their studies, to show recruiters clearly and quickly, the skills they already have, their aptitude and their willingness to learn. We wish them the best of luck."
Responding to today’s A level and BTEC results, University and College Union (UCU) general secretary Jo Grady said:
‘Today’s results are a reflection of hard work and dedication of both students and staff after an incredibly difficult year.
On staff pay, Jo said:
‘Sadly, in spite of these efforts, college employers only saw fit to offer staff a 1% pay rise, which is actually a significant real-terms pay cut. They need to think again and demonstrate they value their workforce otherwise we will see sustained strike action at colleges across England come autumn.
‘University employers also need to put the same faith in staff that this year’s university applicants have and pay them fairly. A below inflation pay offer cannot be justified with record numbers of students entering higher education this year.
On the UK government’s plans to scrap BTECs, Jo said:
‘Thousands of students who receive their level 3 BTEC qualifications will now be able to enter higher education. Many will be the first in their families to do so. BTECs are a crucial entry route into university for those from working class backgrounds, yet the government wants to scrap them. The Department for Education needs to urgently change course if it truly cares about supporting students to reach their full potential. Cutting BTEC funding would hamper plans to level up communities and widen participation.
On the university admissions system, Jo said:
‘After two extraordinary years, it’s now time for the government to focus on ensuring the fairest possible system for the future of university admissions. If we want to begin removing the disadvantages currently baked into the system, students should apply to university after they receive their grades. Now is the time for bold reform which supports applicants to make better informed choices. Reforms also need to be underpinned by properly funded, structured advice and guidance to make the system fairer for all students.’
Matthew Fell, CBI Chief UK Policy Director, said:
“Congratulations to those receiving their A-Level results, after many years of hard work.
“Regardless of the outcome, young people should remember that qualifications are just one of the factors employers look at when recruiting. Businesses value the resilience students have demonstrated throughout the pandemic enormously, alongside skills like creativity and teamwork.
“Firms are committed to helping young people get ready for the world of work - be it through Kickstart placements, apprenticeships, or work experience. Universities will similarly be working hard to support students, helping them find places and showing flexibility when making admissions decisions.”
On STEM subject uptake, Matthew said:
“It’s fantastic to see uptake of maths, computing, and sciences increase, with students performing well. As digitisation and automation change how we work, equipping young people with these skills will help them succeed, and ensure firms can reap the benefits of new technologies.”
On the number of entries for arts and creative subjects, Matthew said:
“Having a balanced curriculum that broadens young people’s horizons is valued by employers as a way of developing skills like creativity and strong communication. Businesses will be disappointed to see a continued decline in uptake of subjects like arts and design, in the context of the contribution that the creative industries make to the UK economy.”
Responding to today’s A-Level results, Carole Willis, chief executive of the National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), said:
“Young people receiving their A-Level results today have been through an unprecedented period of disruption over the last two years.
“These results are the outcome of incredible levels of determination and tenacity from teachers, pupils and parents.
“It is essential this cohort of young people is supported to plug the gaps of any missed learning and to make successful transitions to the next stages of their education or employment career.”
Peter Collison, Head of Formative Assessment and School Platforms at RM:
“Meaningful assessment should do three things: engage students, prepare them for the world of work or higher education, and ensure fairness by eliminating bias and inaccuracy. The swathes of appeals against today’s teacher-assessed grades not only highlights the importance that assessment outcomes hold for students in England, but also the challenges that arise when assessment is felt to be unfair, biased or inconsistent – either across certain schools, certain demographics, or simply entire generations in the education system.
“It’s important to keep in mind that a consistent approach to assessment doesn’t have to mean testing all students in the same way, or even on the same day. It’s a question of equality vs equity, and education systems should carefully consider which methods of assessment – for instance, establishing the right questions, in the best context, delivered in an authentic way –best suit each individual learner. After all, teachers and school staff have gone to great lengths over the last eighteen months to digitally fast track their lessons and teaching methods; it’s about time assessment undertook a similar make over.
“What’s more, knowing when to assess a student is just as important as knowing how to assess them. Assessment methods should be trusted and reliable and that means establishing the best outcomes from students by giving all learners a fair crack at the whip. It’s only once the education sector figure out their own unique balance between formative and summative assessments – and avoid being drawn into one camp or another – that attainment gaps will become a thing of the past. All of this can only be achieved if all the stakeholders, from Government down, work towards a common goal of a more authentic and meaningful assessment system.”
Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chair of the Sutton Trust and chair of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:
“Students getting their exam results today face major challenges and my congratulations to them for overcoming these challenges. I wish them all the best for the future, whether that’s taking up a university place, starting an apprenticeship or going straight into the workforce.
“Since March 2020, our research has consistently shown how much harder state schools – particularly those in less affluent areas - have been hit by the pandemic. The pandemic has compounded existing inequalities and today’s results are a reflection of that. We're seeing growing gaps between independent and state schools at the top grades.
“This poses an immediate challenge for university admissions. While it’s encouraging to see more students from less affluent areas going to university this year, it’s of real concern that the gap between those from less affluent areas and those from well-off areas has grown. Given that disrupted learning has affected lower income youngsters more, we urge universities to give additional consideration to disadvantaged students.”
Students across the country are collecting their A level and vocational and techincal results today. In response, Chief Executive of Association of Colleges, David Hughes said:
"I’d like to congratulate all students receiving their A level and vocational results today. They have worked so hard in a hugely disrupted year and they should be proud of their results. Teachers and colleges have done an amazing job in supporting people to progress onto their next steps. It’s good to see record numbers getting their higher education places at universities and colleges, but we must also celebrate the many students moving onto great apprenticeships, further training and work. Whatever students decide to do after today, I offer my best wishes and good luck.
"Every single result has been earned by the student and is a fair reflection of their performance and abilities. The changes implemented due to cancelled exams could never have addressed all the shortcomings in the system, but college staff have worked really hard to set and mark assessments and ensure they are consistent and fair. The grade profile is different to previous years, but we would expect that given the different approach to assessments.
"There remain, though, big inequalities in our education system which need fixing. No one year will eradicate inequalities built into the system and we know the pandemic has impacted more on young people who are already disadvantaged. We will study the equalities impact analysis closely but it’s reassuring that today’s grade distribution suggests that there is no significant worsening of these achievement gaps this year.”
Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group, said:
“I want to congratulate all students receiving their A level and Higher results today. They should be very proud of their efforts and achievements especially given the difficult circumstances this year and we look forward to welcoming a record number of them to our universities this autumn.
“I would also like to thank all of the teachers who have, once again, worked tirelessly to support their students to succeed.
“There has been unprecedented demand for places this year, but over the next few weeks Russell Group universities will be working hard to accommodate as many students as possible. However, our universities also need to ensure every student gets the high-quality teaching and learning experience they quite rightly expect from us. Unfortunately, this means that on some courses our universities may not be able to accept students who narrowly missed their offer grades this time. Places may also be limited on some courses where clinical placement demand is significantly higher than normal. Where students are unsure of their options, they should contact their university directly.
“To meet additional rising demand on top of the demographic increase in 18-year-olds expected over the next decade, we are asking the Government to prioritise long-term sustainable funding for teaching on a per student basis to guarantee quality and student choice can be maintained. The funding available to universities for teaching has been eroded significantly over time and we hope the Government will look to address this in the autumn Spending Review.”
David Gallagher, Chief Executive of NCFE said:
“We’re so proud of all that our learners have achieved this year in the most unusual of circumstances; they’ve risen to every challenge and overcome so much.
"There are so many opportunities ahead, regardless of results, and we want our learners to know that the future is theirs - they’re leaving this stage of their education empowered to make great choices.
"Whether they go on to university, an apprenticeship, into further vocational training, into the workplace or even take a gap year to take a breath – they have so many options available to them. It’s really important that they explore all these routes and make informed decisions which suit their skillset, their passions, their ambitions and which will ultimately bring them happiness and fulfilment.
"The path to career success is never linear – most people have a variety of different roles in their lives as they learn and grow. However, those core meta skills that learners have developed in this extraordinary year, such as resilience, confidence and communication, will underpin everything they have learned and will take them wherever they need to go.
"As well as congratulating learners, we also want to say thank you to the amazing educators that we have worked with this year to ensure learners receive their grades this week. Teachers have done a phenomenal job, working incredibly hard to continue delivering teaching, learning and assessment activity as well as supporting learners through the pandemic. We hope that those educators share in their learners’ successes today as they watch them progress to the next stage in their lives.”
Nathaniel Okenwa, Developer Evangelist at Twilio, said:
“Well done to everyone receiving A-Level results today. It’s been a really tough year to be a student but the resilience in this year’s cohort has been incredible. It’s especially exciting to see how many more young people are taking STEM subjects than ever before. According to the government’s education hub, acceptances into computer science courses have risen by almost 50% since 2011, including substantially more women and people from disadvantaged backgrounds. This really points to the impact early access to courses like computing in schools has had on higher education.
Even if results didn’t go the way students hoped, there’s so much room for opportunity in the tech world via non-traditional paths. Since working at Twilio I’ve been so impressed at the number of developers I've met who learned to code through bootcamps and how many of my colleagues come from non-traditional tech-backgrounds. One even started her career in a bakery before doing a bootcamp! We’re also seeing more companies opening paths for early-in-career developers with non-traditional experience to get their foot in the industry.
The self-taught coding movement is really helping open doors and bring in diverse talent with new perspectives and skills into the tech world. Whilst there is still some way to go towards making STEM careers more accessible for all, there are many initiatives in place that will inspire the next generation of developers, engineers, and scientists. Bootcamps, networking and finding opportunities to have meaningful conversations with people within the industry are all just as beneficial as good grades. And soft skills like effective communications are often not as highlighted as they should be, yet they are just as important to young people's career journey as academic results. So those who didn’t study computer science at school shouldn’t write off the tech sector just yet, there very likely is an opportunity there for them.”
“With exams cancelled for a second year running, 18 months of lockdowns and homeschooling, and the day itself having been brought forward to allow time for students to contest grades - A-Level results day undoubtedly looks a little different this year. However, behind the usual backdrop of celebrations and commiserations, echoes the shared sentiment: “we made it through”.
"In the UK, entries from women and girls to STEM A-levels have increased by over a third in the last 10 years. It's fantastic that this year’s A Level results show a continued upward trajectory, with a 5.79% increase in female students taking STEM subjects. Continued education and action has been instrumental in inspiring this increase. So too has the ever-growing list of female role models pioneering change.
"Just look at Wally Funk, the trailblazing pilot who, having been denied the job of astronaut in the 1960s over her gender, last month, aged 82, fulfilled her dreams by becoming the oldest person to travel into space. She is just one of the many women breaking through the glass ceiling (or earth’s stratosphere) to show that STEM is a place where girls and women can thrive.
"Championing leading females in the world of STEM is key to driving gender parity and changing the mindset that STEM industries are the domain of men. In every classroom lies the potential for the next big breakthrough, discovery or cure - we mustn't alienate half the room and risk untapped talent going to waste. We need girls in STEM and they need our continued support. Let’s keep the momentum going!”
Kate Green MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:
“Labour congratulates all students receiving their grades today and thanks the incredible education staff who worked tirelessly to award these results.
“Yet the Conservatives’ chaotic last-minute decision making has opened the door to unfairness. The increase in A grades is 50 per cent higher among private schools, while Black students, students on free school meals and in areas of high deprivation are being increasingly out performed by their more advantaged peers.
“The Government’s measly recovery plan will see half a million students leave school this summer without any support to recover lost learning or boost their wellbeing. Labour has set out a comprehensive Children’s Recovery Plan with opportunities for all young people to learn, play and develop post-pandemic. The Conservatives’ need to match Labour’s ambition for our children’s learning and their futures.”
Salsabil Elmegri, NUS Vice president (Further Education) said:
“A massive congratulations to everyone getting their A Level and BTEC results today. From a pandemic to the government messing about with exams, you’ve done this in an environment like no other – whether you’re off to uni, to college or on to an apprenticeship, well done!"
"We’re so proud of the record numbers of students getting higher grades. It only goes to show that when grades are given based on the assessment of professional educators who know them well, rather than on one or two high pressure exams, people can achieve their full potential.”
Ben Hansford, Managing Director of Apprenticeships at Firebrand Training:
"Universities are not the be all and end all of education. We have seen a positive response during the pandemic as we have continued to deliver apprenticeship and commercial learning throughout, where other institutions have struggled to adapt to an online learning model that is adequate to support its students and provide them with a satisfactory learning experience. It’s time we prioritised other routes into employment that better prepare young professionals for the world of work.
"Despite government support for degree apprenticeships, this alternative route is often overlooked in favour of an outdated emphasis on going to university full time. Apprenticeships provide students with hands-on experience, allowing them to put their learning into practice and get a better understanding of the inner workings of a business. Apprentices who develop their knowledge whilst embedding the learning into the workplace are able to accelerate into a business often faster than alternative routes. There are suitable options for all individuals who want to learn and develop.
"It’s key that businesses start looking to apprenticeships as a way to bring more talent into the company and that schools get rid of the rhetoric that university is the only path to job success after leaving school."
Stephanie Baxter from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) said:
“Congratulations to all those receiving their results today. It has been a difficult year for many and with almost no students taking any form of exam this year and limited opportunity to undertake any practical work experience.
“This makes it incredibly complex for colleges and universities to select who will be the best candidates for the future workforce of engineers. Employers and academia must be flexible and understanding when taking on new students or employees, acknowledging that grades have been awarded differently this year. They must also be aware of the loss of learning that has accumulated during the pandemic and take time to ensure all students have opportunities to access industry experience where possible.
“When choosing the future workforce of engineers, work from the IET showed the importance of looking at the aptitude of candidates when assessing who would make the best future engineers. This included looking for students with more creativity and removing the requirement for engineering that students had to have studied maths and physics to an advanced level. Students should be engaged with trying to create problem-based solutions and have a greater interdisciplinary focus than it currently does. Academia and employers must ensure there is greater diversity within the engineering field, in both minority groups but also in ways of thinking.
“It must also be remembered that university is not necessarily the best route for all students aspiring to become engineers. Apprenticeships, including degree apprenticeships are just as strong qualifications when entering the engineering workforce. These hands-on apprenticeships provide students with the training and experience they need to become problem solving, skilled workers, ready for the future of work.
“As today brings much joy, Higher Education and employers must remember that engineering requires the right aptitude and ability. These must be assessed alongside the grade any student receives.”
Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK said:
“Universities are planning to deliver the vast majority of their teaching and learning face-to-face – with most seminars, group study, practical work, extra-curricular activities, social events and sports taking place in-person.
“Universities are following the latest government guidance. Where lectures are being taught online, there will be clear benefits for students’ learning or specific health and safety considerations. Students should look out for communications from their university for more detail on what to expect this autumn.”