Thank you for contacting me about the awarding of this year’s A-level results.
I am extremely pleased that the Government has seen sense and decided to revert to using centre-assessed grades, creating a fairer system and placing trust in the teachers who know pupils best. They have also removed the cap on university places in response, which is another welcome move.
I have been speaking with pupils, parents and schools in order to understand what they would like to see happen to address both the correction of the results and the impact on young people’s careers and university places. I have also been lobbying Universities UK and professional bodies asking that universities show leniency to pupils and give them their promised places, or at least hold them open pending any necessary appeals. As a last resort, pupils should be able to have a guaranteed place at the same university for the same course next year.
The cancellation of the examinations was always going to leave this year’s examination cohorts at a disadvantage when it came to assessment. It was simply impossible to have a system that exactly reflected the one used in previous years. However, the situation in Scotland clearly highlighted the potential for the algorithm to produce problematic results, and the Government certainly should have recognized this sooner.
Part of the reason that the Government originally decided not to rely on the predicted grades from teachers was the belief that teachers would be more lenient towards pupils and that centre assessed grades would be higher than usual. However, the headteachers I have spoken to clearly had robust and realistic processes in place to predict accurate grades for their students which included stringent internal moderation procedures and considered past performance.
Nationally, around 40 per cent of results were downgraded under the old system, but one of our schools had 55 per cent of their submitted grades downgraded. They were quite rightly angry about this.
Pupils in Teignbridge have been lucky that some schools in the area have seen significant improvement to their results over the last few years, which is a positive for the future life outcomes for pupils. However, under the algorithm, these schools have been negatively impacted because it factored in the examination performance of previous cohorts at the school. Any system which causes the future of an individual pupil to depend on the performance of their peers is deeply unfair.
The resulting fallout also seemed ill prepared for. Universities clearly had not been consulted about what they would do. Some rejected applicants, some accepted them, and others agreed to wait for appeals. This was a complete mess which needs sorting out very quickly.
The only reasonable solution was to scrap the cap on places, which the Government has now done. Places must be there for all those promised and those who have already been accepted. If that is not possible then a guaranteed place next year is the only fair solution.