Research published today (11 Nov) by @AccessHE, the network for social mobility through higher education for London has analysed A Level attainment profiles for students in the capital and nationally over recent years to project the impact of learning loss on next year’s A Level students.

A one grade fall in attainment for A Level students next year could lead to students missing out on university places with those from Black and Minority Ethnic backgrounds at the most risk.

The report ‘University entry & the class of 2021: Who is set to miss out’ finds with a one grade decline in achievement:

  • over 5000 fewer students from London may be able to enter HE in 2021 of whom nearly 75% are from BAME backgrounds and a quarter are from Black African backgrounds.
  • over 60% of this 5000 students who are most at risk of losing a place in higher education are from the poorest areas as measured by Index of Multiple Deprivation.
  • if the grade profiles of BAME students nationally follow those in London over 27,000 students are at risk of missing out on places and nearly 11,000 from BAME backgrounds.
  • with a two grade decline in achievement a further 11,000 students from London would be at risk of losing out on higher education places and a further nearly 50,000 students nationally.

This research supports the call for a specific package of support for the ‘class of 2021’ who will be looking to enter higher education next year launched today by the National Education Opportunities Network (NEON) and the National Union of Students (NUS).

Larissa Kennedy 100x100As Larissa Kennedy, NUS National President states:

‘Just months ago, we saw the government’s blatant disregard for young people, disproportionately young working-class people, young people of colour and young disabled people, manifest in a classist, racist, ableist grading system. Those currently on year two of a BTEC and in year 13 are at significant risk of being further marginalised again, and it’s vital that they see targeted support and an overhaul of assessment. The pandemic has exposed so many flaws in our education system already, and it is deeply unjust that the government has been content to further entrench educational injustice, rather than targeting support and focusing on a bold, new vision for funded, accessible and lifelong education.’

Salsabil Elmegri, NUS Vice President (Further Education), states:

‘COVID-19 has had a disproportionate impact on learners from already disadvantaged backgrounds, and as this report shows we are now in a situation where we risk preventing students from being able to progress through education unless urgent action is taken.

'The government must introduce a package of support for the ‘class of 2021’ to ensure that we do not set back social mobility in this country for years to come.’

This package should include:

  • A special cross-sector taskforce including universities and schools/colleges and students to ensure that the class of 2021 are not unfairly disadvantaged.
  • Extending the deadline for UCAS applications for 2021 entry to give students more opportunity to consider future choices.
  • Reducing the level of assessment required by students taking final A Level and other vocational examinations in summer 2021 or introduce a model of assessment based on teacher predications.

Dr Graeme Atherton 100x100As the Dr. Graeme Atherton Director of NEON / Head of AccessHE and the lead author of ‘University entry & the class of 2021: Who is set to miss out’ states:

‘There must be action now to support students wanting to enter higher education in 2021 or we risk thousands of young people, in particular those from the communities hit hardest by COVID, without a future’.

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