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Steep Fall in Top Grades For A-level Students 

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The number of A or A* grades is 27.2% down from a peak of 44.8% during the pandemic. This comes as the Government has sought to lower the number of top grades awarded back down to pre-pandemic levels. 

Pre-pandemic A-level grades

As with last year, the Government has sought to lower the number of top grades given; only 26.5% of grades in England were awarded the top grades which compares to 2019 levels of 25.2%. However, this has been criticised due to claims that a disparity has been created across the United Kingdom as Welsh and Northern Irish students have received a higher proportion of the top grades. Unlike in England, grades were not tailored to return to the 2019 standard. This has translated into 34% of students in Wales and 37.5% in Northern Ireland received an A* or A, higher than the figures recently announced for English students. 

Results have also been coming out for T-levels, the overall pass rate being 90.5% (3,119). T Levels are an alternative to A levels. Equivalent in size to 3 A levels, a T Level focuses on vocational skills, including an in-depth industry placement that lasts at least 45 days, with the first qualifications awarded last year. 

The University and Colleges Admission Service (UCAS) revealed that 79% of students have secured their first choice for university, a slight downturn from last year’s 81% (74% in 2019). Meanwhile, 12% have been placed at their insurance choice (11% last year, 14% in 2019). The remaining 9% are now in clearing and have a choice of nearly 29,000 courses and 8,000 apprenticeships. Overall, 414,940 applicants have gained a place at university or college, a 2.6% decrease on the same point last year. Of those, 230,600 are UK 18-year-olds. 

Schools Minister Nick Gibb has said exam results in England need to return to pre-pandemic levels to ensure A-levels carry “weight and credibility” with employers and universities. But he said “additional protection” has been in place this year where grade boundaries have been altered if senior examiners found national evidence of a drop in standards compared with 2019. 

Reaction to the drop in grades 

Gillian Keegan, Education Secretary, said on Twitter, “A massive congratulations to everyone getting T level, A level and BTEC results today”.

Keegan followed on to explain that “this is the first year we’ve returned to pre-pandemic assessment and grading, so results were always going to come down from 2022. But overall results are up from 2019 – the last pre-pandemic year, so a huge well done to all students and teachers for this achievement”. 

However, much criticism has come from figures such as Gary Neville, Founder of University Academy 92, who said, “I have a different belief around exams. I don’t believe you should work for 16 years at school and college and then it all depends on a 2-hour assessment. I think it’s prehistoric. It needs ripping up and you should be judged over your body of work”.

Final Thought 

In the aftermath of the pandemic, A-level results have seen a substantial decline in top grades, reflecting a deliberate move by the UK government to restore pre-pandemic grading levels. This may be viewed as unfair by students receiving their results this year, as they are less likely to receive the top grade.  

However, grades maintaining credibility is important, so the return to pre-pandemic levels is key to establishing a difference in results between students. The debate surrounding exam evaluation continues, as educators and experts advocate for a holistic assessment approach. 

Curia’s Levelling Up Commission

The Levelling Up Commission intends to consider ways to implement the Government’s Levelling Up White Paper and subsequent Bill from the perspective of local and regional government. Too often the Levelling Up agenda is something being done ‘to and for’ local and regional government, the Commission intends to make sure it is done ‘with and by’ them.

Through roundtable meetings with MPs and senior leaders of local and regional government from across the UK, quantitative data analysis and regional sprints, the Commission intends to set out a series of recommendations to consider how regional inequalities can be reduced from the perspective of public services in four key areas:

Health and Social Care

Housing and Homelessness

Education, Skills and Training

Crime, Justice and Rehabilitation

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