‘Unluckiest’ group of students nervously awaiting results

Experts are warning prospective employers to be aware of the potential grade disparity with this year’s students – who have been dogged by teachers’ strikes and pandemic measures. They have been dubbed “the unluckiest cohort”.

Campaigners point out that the highest A-level grades were achieved in the year that schools were largely shut because of Covid.

But the Centre for Education and Employ-ment Research at the University of Buckingham suggest tens of thousands of A-level students will receive disappointing results on Thursday.

They estimate 50,000 fewer A and A* grades will be awarded compared with last year, as marks are brought down to pre-Covid levels.

It estimates that to return grades to 2019 levels, A*s will have to fall from 14.6 per cent last year to 7.8 per cent – meaning 59,000 fewer A*s and 36,000 fewer As.

READ MORE: As or A*s ‘no longer attainable for 100,000’

Prof Alan Smithers, CEER director, said: “There was a great A* and A grade giveaway during the pandemic. Employers need to know these grades were easier to come by compared to 2019. The aim is to get back to pre-pandemic grades this year, but I think exam boards will find it difficult to go back to those levels. This year is the unluckiest cohort as their education has been affected by the pandemic measures and also by the teacher strikes.

“The genie is out of the bottle and now expectations of pupils, parents and schools have changed.

“We still don’t know how this will be resolved. It could be the Government will accommodate this and accept that grades need to be re-negotiated to reflect this. If not, it might take a hard line. But with confounded expectations it is likely more parents will take to the appeals procedure. It’s down to politics.”

Chris McGovern, of the Cam-paign for Real Education, said: “After school closures in 2020 and 2021 due to lockdowns, pupils across the country achieved record high A-Level results with marks based on teacher assessments.

“The biggest jump followed the longest school closures in 2020. That summer, around 45 per cent of A-level pupils achieved an A or an A* grade – up from 25 per cent in 2019. This represented an 80 per cent increase.”

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He added: “We don’t do it with driving tests. The hugely inflated grades awarded in the pandemic have caused irreversible damage.

“The game is up for GCSEs and A-Levels in their present form.

“Our qualifications currency has lost any meaningful value.”

England’s exams regulator, Ofqual, said while the objective is to return to pre-
pandemic results, additional protection has been built in this year that allows grade boundaries to be altered if senior examiners find evidence of a drop in standards.

The Department for Edu-cation said: “We have made £5billion available to help pupils recover from the impact of the pandemic, including over £1.5billion for the National Tutoring Programme and 16-19 Tuition Fund, which have supported millions of students.

“Students can be assured the options available to them are the best they have ever been.”

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