A-level pupils ‘should be proud’ after Covid chaos

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The students who got their results on Thursday would have been part-way through Year 11 when the pandemic hit and schools closed during the first national lockdown, with GCSE exams cancelled. Further school closures followed while they were in Year 12 and many also experienced disruption due to Covid at the beginning of Year 13. It meant A-Level students would have sat their first public exams this year.

But the impact of closures varied depending on how badly communities were hit by Covid and how prepared schools were to handle the transition to remote learning.

This year the percentage of students achieving an A* or A grade in England, Wales and Northern Ireland fell to 36.4 percent, compared with 44.8 percent in 2021. But this is up from 25.4 percent in 2019 when results were last based on public exams.

There were also regional disparities, with 39 percent of A-Levels graded A* and A in London, compared with 30.8 percent of exam grades in the North East.

The year before it was 47.9 percent and 39.2 percent respectively.

Mr Halfon congratulated all the students on what they had achieved but said a review of the ethics behind the decision to close schools during the pandemic ruled that it had been “a moral catastrophe”.

Despite this, UCAS said 425,830 students will be offered places at university this year, with fewer students going into clearing.

Mr Halfon said this meant 19 percent more students this year have been accepted to university compared with 2019, and 71 percent of the first cohort of students taking the new vocational T Levels have gained a place at university.

He said: “These initial results are positive, reflecting the trends we expected to see this year as students return to the ‘normal’ exam sittings.

“The impact of the pandemic and school closures for most pupils over the past two years will, of course, frame the context for these results.”

“But as further analysis is conducted, it is concerning to see the regional disparities between results this year.”

Those disparities also existed in the take-up of the National Tutoring Programme, which was 95 percent in the South but only 56 percent in the North.

Mr Halfon said the Centre for Social Justice report highlighted more than 13,000 pupils in critical exam years were severely absent during the past academic years.

“As education recovery continues, it will be critical to ensure the catchup programme is found to be working for all pupils, regardless of their postcode, to ensure every child has the ability to succeed and overcome the disruption to their learning.”

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