From education to employment

A-Level Results Day: Sector Response

A-level Results Day

#ResultsDay2022 : Every year, students across the country receive their A-Level results. Today is Results Day 2022! Students will be collecting A-Level results after sitting exams for the first time in three years (first time since 2019).

36% of entries for A levels are at grade A or above in the UK – up from 25% in 2019, and down from 45% in 2021, reflecting the target set out last autumn. 

Statistics published today also show:

  • 83% of entries for A levels are at grade C or above – up from 76% in 2019, and down from 89% in 2021, reflecting the target set out last autumn. 
  • The gap between the proportion of top grades (A*, A and above and B and above) in independent schools and academies in England has narrowed compared to 2021.

First Choice University Placements

Nearly 180,000 18-year-old students in England have had their place at their first choice of university confirmed. This is the largest number ever on record for an examination year, a 20% increase on 2019, when exams were last sat.

Overall, 425,830 students of all ages and domiciles will be going onto university, including a record number of 18-year-olds from a disadvantaged background for an examination year. The gap between the most and least advantaged progressing to university has narrowed to a record low (from 2.29 in 2019 to 2.26 in 2022, and from 2.32 in 2021.)

Triple Results Day

Today is also the first time for a triple results day, with A-Level results day, the first T-Level Results day and Vocational / VTQ results day all happening today.

This year, exams have returned to some kind of normality. The disruption caused by the pandemic meant that exams have previously been cancelled and replaced with teacher assessed grades and assessments for the past two years. However, the pandemic’s long-lasting effects on learning has meant that adaptations to the exams were still required.

In 2020, the pandemic hit. Students were forced to learn from home with lessons moving online. This also meant that exams were cancelled and teacher assessed grades were used.

Exams had slightly more normality in 2021. Teacher assessed grades were used once again. However, with most students being back in the classroom, they could give students assessments to help them to determine their grades.

Now in 2022, all restrictions have been removed and the whole country is returning to normality. This means that exams were back to almost normality. Students who sat their exams in 2022 have faced massive disruptions to their education due to the pandemic. Because of this, the Government placed a number of adaptations. These included:

  • Advance information on the content of some exams.
  • Some GCSE subjects, including English literature, geography and history, were given a choice of topics or content which the students would then be assessed on.
  • For GCSE mathematics, combined science, and physics students, formulae or equation sheets in the exam room’s were provided. 
  • A spaced out exam timetable which had at least ten days before the first and last exam in every subject.

Marking a significant milestone in returning to normality post pandemic, today’s results day includes students who sat A and AS levels, level 3 vocational and technical qualifications, and for the first time ever – T Levels – paving the way for pupils’ next steps to university, further training or the world of work.

Students will receive higher grades this year than in 2019, but lower grades than those awarded in 2021

As part of a transition period put in place by Ofqual to return to pre-pandemic grading, students will receive higher grades this year than in 2019. This recognises the disruption that students have faced over their exam years due to the pandemic. Students were given an unprecedented level of support to mitigate the impact of covid, including a range of adaptations to exams and assessments. Those adaptations included advance information on exam content for the vast majority of A levels, and longer assessment windows for vocational and technical qualifications.

Today’s grades will be lower than 2021 when exams didn’t take place as schools remained closed to most pupils until March, and covid cases and isolation rates remained high in schools. Students’ grades were determined by their teachers after being assessed internally.

UCAS expect that the majority of students will gain a place at their firm choice university today. As with every year, there will be competition for places at selective institutions, but record numbers of students, including high numbers of disadvantaged students, are still expected to start university in September.

Education Secretary, James Cleverly said:

“I want to congratulate students getting their results today and say a big thank you to the teachers who helped them get to this point. These students have experienced unprecedented disruption over the last couple of years, and such excellent results are a testament to their resilience and hard work.

“Our plan this year was to ensure that students could sit their exams for the first time since 2019, be graded fairly and move on to the next stage of their lives as we return to normality after the pandemic.  

“We have now seen the largest number of students on record for an examination year – including a record 23,220 of disadvantaged 18-year-olds – going on to university, while many others will take their next steps in further training or the world of work.

“Regardless of what those next steps are, I wish all students the very best on this exciting new chapter in their lives.”

Sector Response

David Hughes, Chief Executive of the Association of Colleges (AoC) said:

“Congratulations to the hundreds of thousands of students receiving results in colleges today and to the staff who have supported them on their journeys. The class of 2022 has faced unprecedented disruption to their education, and many have never taken public exams before due to the pandemic. So their achievements are a testament to their resilience and hard work throughout this period and to their outstanding teachers and support staff who have helped them to achieve success. 

“As we look ahead to the new academic year, colleges face a double whammy of a staffing crisis and soaring inflation. This week I have written to Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss urging them to make it their priority when one of them enters Number 10 to tackle these dual challenges. One way they could do this is to exempt colleges from VAT – as schools and academies already are – which would give colleges extra cash to boost staff pay and meet the rising costs of running college estates. 

“This year also sees the first 1,300 T Level students graduating from their courses. The staff and students on these courses have blazed a trail for those who come after them and colleges have been at the centre of this landmark reform. While we want to see T Levels grow in student numbers and in reputation, we don’t believe that defunding existing applied general qualifications like BTECs and Cambridge Technicals is the right step to achieving that. T Levels will be successful in their own right because they are good qualifications, recognised and respected by students, teachers, and employers, so we hope that the new Education Secretary will understand that and not try to force students away from other qualifications which may work well for them.”

Robert West, Head of Education and Skills Policy, CBI said:

“Congratulations to all those receiving their A-level and T-level results today. Due to Covid-19, recent years have been difficult for students. They have overcome unprecedented challenges and should be proud of their achievements. We would also like to acknowledge the hard work of teachers, who have provided steady support in these tough times.”

On increased pressures for university places, Robert said:

“A-level students hoping to continue their studies at university this September could find themselves competing with more students than usual. This is due to the combination of a record number of applicants to university, and the increased number of deferrals in 2021 resulting in fierce competition for places.

“It is crucial that the university admissions service, UCAS, work with higher education institutions to get people to the right destination.

“Some students may have to be more flexible than they initially planned, but there are plenty of exciting options both via universities and through opportunities provided by apprenticeships.”

On regional differences in A-level results, Robert said:

“Students have had a particularly challenging couple of years due to the impact of Covid-19. Every school has experienced the pandemic differently.

“Further and Higher Education institutions, as well as employers, must recognise that students from certain areas may have faced bigger barriers than others, and take this into account when assessing results.”

On most popular subject areas at A-level, Robert said:

“It is good to see STEM subjects within the most popular at A-level. High quality science education is crucial to driving forward the Government’s plans to level up the UK economy.

“The increase in young females taking up subjects such as biology is a step in the right direction. But more needs to be done to foster diversity across science, technology, engineering, and particularly in maths where there was a fall in take-up by female students.

“The decrease in entries in all A-level English subject areas is also important to address. We need young people studying a broad and balanced range of subjects, as students of the arts, humanities and the social sciences remain an important part of the future workforce.”

Lee Elliot Major, Professor of Social Mobility at the University of Exeter, said:

“The divide in A and A* grades between private schools and state academies remains stark – pupils in private schools for example are still over twice as likely to get A* grades this year. We won’t know the full picture for social mobility until results are released in the autumn for children on Free School Meals. But these results for the highest grades are important as they determine who secures sought after university places so point to a stark academic divide in the post pandemic era.

“This school cohort is in many ways the unluckiest of all – disrupted by the pandemic and now facing one of the toughest university admissions rounds in years. My biggest concern is that in the scramble for places the most disadvantaged students get squeezed out. We have to ask ourselves if we doing enough to ensure younger generations are getting a fair deal – a decent chance to fulfil their potential and secure a positive future.”

David Phillips, Managing Director of City & Guilds:

“As the UK battles against skills shortages, a cost-of-living crisis and with a potential recession on the horizon, it’s more important than ever that young people make informed decisions about their futures. Our latest research found that 40% of young people in the UK plan to attend university – up from 35% this time last year. But, with labour market analysis from Lightcast suggesting that only 29% of UK jobs typically require a degree level qualification, young people could be setting themselves up for unnecessary debt without a clear onward trajectory. 

“While university is the right path for some, it’s certainly not the only option. Our recent Great Jobs research shone a light on the essential jobs and meaningful careers that make up 50% of all UK employment opportunities – many of which rely on vocational routes such as traineeships, apprenticeships and T Levels. As young people look to invest in their future, its vital schools provide robust careers advice based on current labour market insight to ensure that young people, parents and teachers are made aware of the full breadth of educational and training routes, outside of just traditional academic ones, that can lead to rewarding and well-paid careers.”

Sam Tuckett, Senior Researcher for Post-16 Education and Skills at the Education Policy Institute, said:

“Marking an end to teacher-assessed grades and a return to exam-based assessment, 2022’s cohort of students should be proud of overcoming the substantial disruption they have faced, with many not having sat a formal exam ahead of this summer. Given Ofqual’s strategy to return to pre-pandemic styles of exams and grading, it’s no surprise that this year’s results sit between the lofty results students gained in 2021 and the last exam-based assessments of 2019. In what has been a fiercely competitive year for university applications, students that fall short of their grade requirements should take a broad view of the options available to them and not forget that degree apprentices and higher technical routes can lead to successful employment outcomes without the same student loan debt incurred from a full undergraduate degree.

“This year’s return to pre-pandemic styles of assessment accompanied a continuation of several trends. Female students continue to outperform males in most subjects. However, the gap between female and male attainment narrowed this year and is likely a result of the return to exam-based assessments. This year’s results also indicate the preservation of a strong geographical divide between students, with those in southern regions, by and large, outperforming their peers in the north and the midlands. Large grade increases of independent schools under teacher-assessments in 2021 were considerably reversed this year. Worryingly, it’s clear that there has also been a serious decline in attainment within FE settings. As data continues to emerge, focus should be given to investigating the impact educational disruption has had on the attainment gap between disadvantaged pupils and their more affluent peers.”

Steve Haines, director of youth charity Impetus:

“A third of young people won’t be joining the A-Level results celebration today. Year after year around 200,000 don’t get the chance to progress because they didn’t get the GCSEs they needed to move onto this phase of their education. They are disproportionately young people from disadvantaged backgrounds. They’re not front page news, but they need to be at the top of the next Prime Minister’s in tray.”

On the access gap that sees fewer young people from disadvantaged areas progressing to university:

“Waiting until A-Level results day is too late to make a meaningful difference to the gap between young people from disadvantaged backgrounds and their better-off peers going to university. If we’re serious about tackling the access gap we need to focus on helping young people long before they sit their GCSEs by ensuring they get the GCSEs that unlock opportunities in higher education and work.”

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:

“Our best wishes to all students who are collecting results on Thursday. It is important to bear in mind that this cohort has been more disrupted than any set of students since the second world war. They have spent the past two-and-a-half years under the shadow of the coronavirus pandemic which has had a massively disruptive impact on their learning.

“Their teachers have worked very hard to support them during this time, and adaptations were also made to this year’s exams to try to mitigate the learning disruption in as much as this is possible, including pitching grading standards at a midway point between those of last year and those of 2019 when exams were last taken.

“However, it remains the case that the impact on learning and results is likely to be uneven depending on how different schools, colleges and communities have been affected.

“This is why it is so important to focus on supporting students to progress to the next stage of their lives, in higher education or work-based training, rather than to fixate too heavily on distinctions between grades both within this year’s cohort and compared to other years, particularly as this year’s grading standards are different from those both during and before the pandemic.

“It is also important to bear in mind that many young people will tomorrow collect results not only in A-levels but in excellent vocational and technical qualifications such as BTEC Nationals and Cambridge Technicals, as well as the first cohort of students to graduate with T-levels.

“These are superb achievements which need to be celebrated just as much as A-level attainment, and it is of vital importance that the government maintains this breadth of qualification choice as it brings more T-levels on stream rather than removing other vocational qualifications which are immensely popular.

“Much has been written over the past few days about pressure on university places. It is likely that there has been more competition for the most selective universities and courses but this is because of a rise in the number of 18-year-olds and has nothing to do with adjustments in grading standards.

“Universities made their offers with all these factors in mind and where students miss places on their first-choice courses there will be many other options available. We would urge students in this situation not to panic and to talk to their school or college where their teachers are very experienced in providing advice and support.

“A-level entries are up 4.2% this year – partly because of the increase in the 18-year-old cohort – and it is great to see subjects such as psychology and sociology doing so well with big rises of 11.6% and 9.5% respectively.

“However, we have to express severe concern about the continuing decline in English entries at A-level with English Literature down 8.9% this year. It should be perfectly clear to the government that its reforms to GCSE English Literature are obviously putting students off the subject because of the grind of memorising large amounts of traditional texts.

“Literature is a vital part not only of our cultural past, but of our diverse cultural present, and it should be a living, breathing subject which inspires and empowers young people. The GCSE specification needs to be urgently reviewed and action taken to stop the spiral of decline we are seeing at A-level.”

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said:

“Congratulations to all students receiving results today. They have experienced large amounts of disruption due to Covid throughout their courses and have worked hard with their schools’ support to achieve today’s results. For many students receiving results today, these will have been the first formal national exams they have ever taken. We know from our members just how resilient and tenacious pupils have been in meeting the challenges facing them.

“It is important for everyone to remember that some students and some schools will have experienced more disruption due to the pandemic than others, so results should be seen within a personalised context. That said, students should be able to feel confident this year that where those results rely on performance in exams, they have been marked and graded consistently across all centres and all students.

“It’s also important to remember that these results are not comparable with previous years. We are expecting results overall to be lower than in 2021, but higher than in pre-pandemic years. This year is a transition period following two years of significant disruption and no exams. Flexibility and understanding must be shown.

“Universities and all onward routes for training, employment and further education should take into account the realities of students’ experiences and work with them to get them on the right courses and paths for their futures. Regardless of national grade patterns, what is important is that today’s results act as a passport for students to the next stage of their education, training or employment.”

Jo Holmes, BACP’s Children, Young People and Families Lead, comments:

“As more students are expected to receive lower A-level results than predicted,  it leaves for a potentially disappointing and highly stressful results day. Not making their first-choice university or dealing with the chaos of clearing can cause major strain to a student’s mental health and it is important they receive the support they need during these challenging times. According to our survey, 74% of the public agree that counselling and psychotherapy should be available to all children, throughout all schools. However, funding for mental health support within higher educational institutions continues to decrease, leaving many young people without vital transition support. Having a safe space to talk about feelings and external stressors with a qualified professional can hugely help alleviate the pressure that young people are currently facing in education.”

Khyati Sundaram, CEO of debiased hiring experts, Applied:

“Thousands of students will have missed out on university places this year. But lower A Level grades are not an accurate reflection of our young people’s potential. They’re a reflection of years of disrupted education, and they’re a reflection of how this has widened the gap between disadvantaged and more privileged students. 

“Now universities and employers need to take responsibility for leveling the playing field. When offering places through clearing, and when reviewing job applications from Covid cohorts, panels must remember that the grades a person achieves and the university they attend (or not, as the case may be) tell us little about applicants’ abilities – but a huge amount about the opportunities and support they’ve had access to, as well as their luck on exam day. 

“Disappointed students should take comfort from this, too. Fair and inclusive employers who are committed to unlocking the next generation of talent will look past academic histories, and use objective skills tests to determine true potential and create equal opportunities.”

Anna Brailsford, CEO of Code First Girls, said:

“Women are still seriously underrepresented in STEM and computing education, with over four in five computer science applicants being male. That educational gender gap is then carried into employment with women making up just 21% of the tech industry, and black women making up less than 3%.

“It is clear schools, universities and businesses need to do much more to support women into tech, at every stage of the pipeline. Our tech industry is vital for our economic competitiveness, innovation, national infrastructure and security, and to ensure it is as strong as possible it must draw on the widest possible range of voices and insights.

“The UK’s tech job market is projected to be worth £30bn by 2025 – six times larger than it is now. That kind of growth brings big opportunities for our economy, but as things stand, there will be 1 qualified woman for every 115 roles by 2025. We need to recognise that the current system is still not building the diverse tech talent pipelines needed, and companies, universities and the wider tech industry need to support candidates with a range of education pathways into tech and make all A-level students aware of the options available to them.

Comment by Dan Pell, GM and SVP EMEA, Tableau

“Amidst growing economic uncertainty, a looming recession and political instability, it’s not surprising that today’s A-Level leavers might find their prospects daunting.

“For those opting to enter straight into the workforce, it’ll be important that businesses offer on-the-job training to teach the most in-demand workplace skills.

“For example, according to our recent research, CEOs are unequivocal (83%) that their organisations are becoming more data-driven. But are struggling to find new hires willing and capable of learning how to use data in their decision making. There’s a real opportunity here for school-leavers entering the workforce to plug this growing data skills gap.

“But crucially, the responsibility does not just sit with school-leavers to upskill themselves. For businesses looking to reap the competitive advantages of a data literate workforce, offering training, upskilling and mentoring opportunities at the entry-level will be critical. And, it can help to future-proof the business for years to come. Employees proactively trained in data skills by their employer are also more likely to stick around. Our recent research with Forrester found that employees who are highly satisfied with their company’s data programmes are 10 times more likely to be highly satisfied with their organisation overall. Additionally, they are nearly twice as likely to stay for two to five years”. 

Liberal Democrat Education Spokesperson Munira Wilson MP said:

“The Government deserves an ‘F’ for letting down these pupils, their parents and their teachers since day one of the pandemic.

“The Conservatives have fiddled the figures and failed our young people yet again. Ministers are throwing into question thousands of students’ futures by taking their grades away to correct two years of exam chaos.

“This uncaring Conservative carousel of Education Secretaries cannot be trusted with our young people’s future any longer. We need proper investment in helping children recover lost learning from the pandemic, and we need this Government gone.”

Dr Jacqueline Hall, Head of Apprenticeships and Skills, BAE Systems

“The turbulence of the last few years has led many young people to re-examine what they want from their future education and career development. Results alone should not be the dominating factor when determining their future career prospects, and particularly in light of ongoing economic challenges neither should the traditional, linear path to university. There are a broad spectrum of avenues available when it comes to higher education, including degree apprenticeship schemes that provide access to practical real work experience that can’t be replicated by traditional routes, and skills that add value and experience beyond grades. In a time of uncertainty for many young people, it’s time to shine even more light on the brilliant opportunities posed by alternative routes to higher education.”

Bill Watkin, Chief Executive of the Sixth Form Colleges Association, said:

“This year’s results in both A Levels and BTECs show how well students managed to focus on their learning and their preparations for examinations in spite of the Covid challenges they faced. This cohort of young people had lost significant learning time over the last two years, they had no prior experience of sitting public exams, and they had to contend with a number of modifications and adaptations on their journey. The results also reflect the invaluable role played by their teachers, who worked tirelessly throughout the worst of the pandemic to support students in both their learning and their welfare, and who maintained a relentless focus on the highest standards, against the backdrop of a conscious decision by the regulators to make sure that this year’s grades were lower than last year’s. In sixth form colleges there are remarkable success stories all around the country that we should celebrate and that should see greater numbers than ever reaching their first-choice university or employment destinations.”

Manny Gill, Business Head of PMI (Project Management Institute) in the UK, said:

“Almost 75% of today’s students lack the necessary skills for employment, according to UNICEF and the Education Commission. While congratulations must go to the students who have worked hard and attained good A level results, we must do more to prepare our young people for the workplace.

“Digital transformation and the race to net zero mean that different skills are necessary to succeed in the workplace in 2022 and beyond. As a society, we must recognise these trends and do a better job of equipping young people with qualities that will stand the test of time.

“Qualities that were valued twenty or thirty years ago – such as technical proficiency in older machinery – are less important now. The ability to manage a project remotely, however, is now vital. As a result, soft skills have risen in demand to the point where we label them power skills. This is a transition that had been ongoing for decades, but the pandemic ensured it is now the new norm in our global workplaces.

“Through simple training such as PMI’s KICKOFF course, we can channel the skills learnt via the A-Level curriculum and teach the basics of project management in under an hour. Today, everyone needs project management skills – regardless of their sector, role, or seniority – and developing those skills early can help students navigate a turbulent job market and make a greater contribution to the organisations they join.”

Niamh Sweeney, Deputy General Secretary of the National Education Union, said:

 “Congratulations to all students receiving results today. This is the second time that the cohort has experienced a disrupted set of major national qualifications. The effort and resilience they have demonstrated to get to this point today, supported by their parents, carers and teachers, is a credit to them.

 “Unfortunately, NEU members and students have reported that the adaptations made to exams, which were meant to mitigate the pandemic’s disruption of face-to-face learning, were insufficient. The students who have suffered disproportionately greater disruption to learning are those from the most disadvantaged backgrounds and so it is they who will be hit hardest by the lack of sufficient mitigations to ensure grades are fair. Both their learning and their ability to access future study courses may be impacted.

 “For some such students the disruption of face-to-face learning amounted to six months or more. Yet, despite this, in most subjects there was no slimming down or prioritisation of topics by the government, merely an extensive list of topics to guide revision. This list of topics was released just 11 teaching weeks before the exam period, and the guidance was of little use to those who had been deprived of the chance to study all their topics in the necessary detail.

 “It has been a third summer of short-sighted negligence and students once again suffered as a consequence. Their teachers made the best of the situation but were forced to question why government so often prefers to bury its head in the sand until it is absolutely necessary to act. 

“While this operational decision has imposed stress on teachers and students, there are also major long-term problems with our exam system. Expecting two or three years’ worth of teaching to be completed before all assessments are taken creates a dangerous single point of success or failure which impacts on students’ wellbeing. Even without disruption, exams alone fail to tell employers or universities about the wide breadth of skills and abilities a student might possess.

“There is a broad consensus that assessment practices in England need urgent reform. NEU members alongside parents, students, employers, policy makers from across the political spectrum and academics produced the report of the Independent Assessment Commission, calling for change. The Times Education Commission, which also reported earlier this year and included former Prime Ministers, likewise called for an end to exam-only assessment.”

“Government must listen to this loud and unified message. They should look to spread assessment risk by not having just one cliff-edge assessment window and allow students to demonstrate all they are capable of, beyond the memorisation of facts. This could be achieved by using broader more intelligent assessment methods such as presentations and portfolios of work, rather than relying solely on exams.

 “There are fantastic examples of successful, rigorous, well-regarded qualifications which already do this. However rather than looking to learn from and spread this good practice of mixed modular assessment, government is wrongly ploughing ahead with reforms which will remove funding for many vital applied general qualifications such as BTECs and Cambridge Technicals.

 “This is a high-risk, unnecessary move which could ruin access both to Level 3 qualifications and higher education for many students: we would urge government to listen to the sector, protect student choice and not continue with the de-funding of these important qualifications.”

Professor John Latham CBE, Coventry University Vice-Chancellor:

“After many months of hard work, students receiving their A-Level and BTEC results can rightly be extremely proud of what they have achieved. As we emerge from a period in which the education sector has suffered significant disruption due to the global pandemic, young people should be congratulated for their resilience and determination.

“I would like to wish students good luck, whether they decide to move onto university, an apprenticeship or into the world of work – they can face the future with an optimism that anything is possible.

“As with every results day, not everyone will have gained the grades they were hoping for but that does not close the door to amazing opportunities to move into higher education.

“Our Clearing team is here to help – they can explain what options are available and talk students through the process. At Coventry University we believe high-quality education should be available to all who can benefit from it and we have designed our admissions process to be as flexible as possible to give those from all backgrounds the chance to thrive at a vibrant, forward-looking university. “We are a truly global university, collaborating with companies, organisations and higher education institutions in numerous countries, offering students fantastic opportunities right across the world.”

The Green Party has praised A-level, BTec and T-level students for achieving their results today [Thursday 18 August] in some of the most challenging circumstances in recent memory.

Students picking up their grades have succeeded despite the impact of covid on their studies, the lack of comprehensive catchup funding and disjointed changes to exam requirements in the last couple of years. 

Vix Lowthion, Green Party Education spokesperson and an A-level teacher on the Isle of Wight, said:

“If education could be measured in terms of courage, resilience and determination then the class of 2022 and their teachers should sweep the board with honours. 

“They have had to adapt to many different forms of learning and assessment, and this deserves acknowledgement and recognition as they hopefully are able to take the next exciting steps in their future.

“I call for the new Prime Minister to look to the example of our students adjusting to these changing circumstances in education, and pledge to prioritise a commission to reform our fragile and outdated assessment and exams system so that it is relevant, robust, fair and fit for the 21st century.

“Imagine how well our young people would do in the future if the assessment system was as strong and resilient as they have been.”

Jane Baston, co–chair of the Young Greens, said: 

“Congratulations to all students receiving their results today. It’s an incredible achievement, especially in light of having had to adapt to difficult circumstances created by the government’s chaotic, dangerous mismanagement of education during Covid.

“However you plan to proceed, the value of learning is inherent: we share your fury at a government which time and time again puts the economy over your education, and celebrate the resilience you’ve shown. The fight for a fair education system continues, one which isn’t solely focused on capitalist profit making.”

Ian Castledine, Head of Proposition – Digital Assessment at RM said

“Resuming traditional exams after two years of disruption was always going to be a gradual process rather than a big bang. Therefore, it is no surprise that this year’s A Level results are lower than the teacher-assessed grades of 2020 and 2021. However, results are higher than when pupils last sat exams in 2019, in line with the government’s strategy, making meaningful comparisons difficult.

“At RM, we believe it is time to consider how pupils should be assessed in the digital age. We encourage stakeholders to understand the assessment approaches that are emerging and being adopted in other countries and other parts of the education sector, such as higher education or professional qualifications. Our experience suggests that new assessment models can result in more relevant qualifications that better recognise an individual’s skills and better prepare them for their next stage of life.

“While we are far from a world in which all students are tested online, our own research reveals an appetite for digital assessment, with countries such as New Zealand already moving to digital school leaver exams. The time is coming for digital assessments to provide an important contribution to the qualifications that students in the UK receive on results day.”

Laura Cleaver, Vice President of EMEA & APAC at Udacity, comments:

“The culture around A Level results day continues to be highly centred around university acceptance, despite the fact that nearly three quarters of employees are less interested in university degrees than a decade ago. 

Schools need to be doing more to show students that university is not the only path to accessing further education. There is an overwhelming technical skills gap in our country, and tech job vacancies are at an all-time high. As such, organisations have come to accept that they must provide their employees with adequate skills-based training to meet their business needs.

This is the perfect opportunity for bright young talent to access further education without enrolling at university. With work-based learning now the norm, a positive and eager attitude is the most valued attribute that school leavers can offer their prospective employers.” 

Joaquin Cuenca Abela – Founder and CEO, Freepik

“It’s a great shame that the percentage of students who are choosing to study IT-related subjects is falling. The possibilities of working within the technology sector are endless. It’s disappointing that many students are being held back from working in an area that they enjoy and are intrigued by because of societal pressures and norms.

“The technology industry, all the way from founders to engineers, needs to do more to open the doors to young people in the industry. The skills shortage that we are facing will only be solved if we start investing from the ground up. Whether that’s investing in an apprenticeship scheme or becoming a mentor, businesses must act now to make a lasting impact and change the perception of STEM subjects to make it an even playing field for the next generation. Education around the types of roles and all the subsectors that technology encompasses is key too. From using artificial intelligence to create art to inventing lifesaving healthcare solutions, technology needs to be championed as an inclusive alternative for all students receiving their results, whether going to university or not.”

NUS Vice President Further Education, Bernie Savage, said: 

“Congratulations to every single student getting their results today. This cohort has faced so many barriers, so to have overcome them is a massive achievement in itself. If you didn’t get the grades you wanted, you should still be incredibly proud and know there are lots of options open to you. 

“Students worked for these results under the toughest studying conditions we’ve ever seen, and now their future is threatened by the cost-of-living crisis. Students are a cross-section of society – they’re of all ages; they’re workers, parents, carers, migrants, refugees – and they deserve a leg up right now. 

“That’s why we’re calling on the government to ensure all students can access cost of living support, so that they can focus on what’s important: achieving their goals and gaining an education that will help them make the world a little better for us all.”

Dr Patrick Roach, General Secretary of the NASUWT-The Teachers’ Union, said:

“Congratulations must go to pupils and their teachers who have worked so hard in uniquely challenging circumstances to secure today’s results.

“These grades are a reflection of the circumstances in which exams were held and it would be wrong and wholly inaccurate to compare these results to previous years or make comparisons about performance in relation to previous pupil cohorts.

“It will be essential for higher and further education providers and employers to recognise the challenges pupils have faced this year and to act sensitively when considering their place offers or offers of employment to young people.

“Young people due to sit qualifications next year have also faced substantial and relatively recent disruption to their learning that can and should be addressed in qualifications arrangements and in forms of wider support. This needs to include greater investment in education recovery.      

“Government plans and funding for education recovery fall far below that seen in other comparable countries.

“The results achieved today were secured largely in spite of, rather than because of, the support received from Government for education recovery programmes.

“Teachers have pulled out all the stops for their pupils and after a decade of real terms pay erosion, deserve for their hard work to be matched with a restorative above-inflation pay award.”

Agata Nowakowska, Area Vice President EMEA,Skillsoft:

While the technology industry continues to grow rapidly, a diversity gap remains. Currently, women make up just 17% of the UK tech sector, signalling little growth over the last decade.  It’s disappointing to see that this trend is set to continue with this year’s A-Level results showing the percentage of girls taking maths, further maths and physics has decreased this year. 

There are so many programmes aimed at getting girls interested in these areas. However, we need to go further to challenge and eradicate the old-fashioned views that are still very much ingrained in the public consciousness. With over a quarter of female students saying they’ve been put off a career in technology as it’s   too male-dominated, schools need to challenge this perception by offering female students opportunities to learn to code, build websites or use robotic toys. 

With almost 15,000 tech jobs being created in the UK this year alone, equipping young people with the skills needed to bridge this gap is instrumental in supporting the country’s economic growth. Businesses can help supplement these initiatives by showcasing female role models, organising technology-related events and work experience opportunities. With technology evolving at pace, and the skills crisis threatening future economic growth, investing in girls in STEM will enable organisations to open up a crucial talent pool. We must do more to encourage inclusion, business leaders can’t afford for interest in STEM to wane.”

Lindsey Rowe, Head of Purpose Programmes & Sustainability GTM at SAP UKI said:

“Today marks an important day for A Level students as they take the next steps in their development and careers. The results indicate a rise in the number of students passing STEM subjects at grades A*-C, and so the outlook for UK STEM is very positive. 

“However, it’s important for students to remember that careers in STEM subjects, like technology, aren’t just open to those who have studied maths, sciences or engineering. Those who opted to study other disciplines, and have chosen to undertake degrees or alternative qualifications outside of STEM, have just as much chance at finding a role within the industry. Businesses are now much more flexible with their application criteria and many want to see the passion and determination in candidates above everything else.   

“For those excited at the prospect of pursuing a STEM career, an internship is a fantastic way of gaining hands-on work experience and testing out a company or industry to make sure it is a right fit. Each year, we recruit over 60 interns, with our programme available to any student in their penultimate year of study who is attending a university that supports a year in industry. We recruit from across the country and allow interns to work across a wide variety of projects and teams, including tech, analytics, software development and operations. Our interns have a diverse range of backgrounds and bring something unique to the business – keeping us innovative and pushing forwards.”

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation, said:

“Today’s results are a pivotal moment in young people’s lives: their grades are passports to their next steps into university, an apprenticeship or joining the workforce. Students should be proud of their achievements, sitting their first ever formal exams in the face of ongoing disruption.

“It’s great to see that many disadvantaged youngsters are gaining a place at university, and that there is a slight narrowing of the gap between the most and least advantaged. Universities have rightly prioritised widening participation in spite of an extremely competitive year. However, the gap is still wider than it was pre-pandemic, highlighting that there is more work to be done.

“Today’s data also shows that there are regional disparities in attainment. The government must work to ensure that students from all backgrounds, in all areas of the country, have the opportunity to succeed.”

Bridget Phillipson MP, Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary, said:

“Students receiving their results have worked incredibly hard through unprecedented circumstances, but these inequalities reveal the Conservatives’ continued failure to enable all young people to thrive post-pandemic.

“Students in the North East are no less capable but after 12 years of Conservative governments they’re seeing their results go backwards compared to their peers across the South of England.

“Labour set out an ambitious recovery plan, delivering small group tutoring, mental health support, free breakfast clubs and afterschool activities for all. Our plans would enable young people to thrive, instead the Conservatives are once again failing our children.”

Gareth Stockdale, CEO, Micro:bit Educational Foundation, said:

“Computing has established itself as core subject at A-Level, with more students choosing to study it than French and English Language. It’s continuing to grow too, with a 17.6% increase in student numbers this year. This is fantastic progress for a subject that was only introduced to the curriculum in 2014, opening up rewarding careers to more people and giving a much needed boost to the country’s digital skills.

“However, today’s A-Level results are a stark reminder that we cannot take our foot off the pedal when making tech more accessible to girls and young women. With 82% of students male, Computing sadly remains the subject with the biggest gender imbalance. But progress is being made at a grassroots level, with predominantly female teachers in primary schools becoming positive, early, computing role models. Teacher resources, hardware and software used in the classroom are all being designed with greater inclusivity in mind, which will undoubtedly have an impact in the years to come too.”

Stewart Watts, Vice President EMEA for education technology expert D2L has made the following comments:

“Changes made during the pandemic mean that students expecting their A Level results this year may have never sat a public exam before. The cumulative pressure that this causes, as well as recent reports of predicted grades not matching actuals, is yet another reason to rethink summative exams in favour of more continuous assessment over the academic year. This shift can ‘even the playing field’ for students who don’t perform well under pressure, as well as giving them a more lifelike assessment structure that mimics demands of the working world.

“Previous grades or results from mock testing can offer one part of the puzzle but getting an accurate reflection of the overall picture calls for investment in technology that can deliver continuous learning analytics. Teachers can see students’ average grade easily, but looking at access information, utilisation of revision materials, and other data points can give a holistic view of how students would be working towards a final exam so staff can fill in the blanks regarding their effort.

“We’ve seen our customers use analytics and learner data to improve retention and graduation rates – but specifically, they have been able to use engagement metrics from each student to predict outcomes with precision. Many institutions already make use of predicative algorithms to identify at risk students – but if there is ever a shift to more continuous assessment, institutions will have many more data points to base predictions and interventions off than ever before.”

Fair Access Coalition Co-Chairs Rae Tooth (Chief Executive, Villiers Park Educational Trust) and Johnny Rich (Chief Executive, Push) said:

“Yet again A-level results show that the system is stacked against hard-working, bright students from poorer families. This can only be addressed through action by policymakers working in partnership with practitioners and communities to create new solutions to old problems.”

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