THE highest marks in at least a decade have been awarded to students this morning after final exams were cancelled for the first time ever due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Despite the last minute upheaval, 2.9 per cent more students are off to university this year compared to last, initial UCAS figures revealed.

The total number of students accepted on to UK degree courses has now risen with 358,860 taking up uni places as 27.9% secured top grades.

But despite the staggering results, 39% of students – about 280,000 school leavers – saw their teacher's predicted grades marked down.

Around 300,000 school leavers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland excitedly opened their calculated grades this morning – with some delighted while others were left in tears or even burnt their letters.

A breakdown of the results released this morning have revealed the pass rates are up by 0.7% (those achieving A*-E) from both 2019 and 2018.A*s were only introduced in 2009.

This morning's results have revealed…

  • Pass rates are up by 0.7% from both 2018 and 2019
  • The highest A-C grades in a decade were recorded
  • Girls received better grades than boys overall but boys were awarded more A*s
  • 96.4% of grades awarded in England were the same as or 'within one grade' of predicted grade
  • Nearly two in five students – about 280,000 – were marked down
  • The total number of students accepted into uni has risen by 2.9%
  • Education Secretary Gavin Williamson ruled out further changes to the grading system in the face of any exams backlash
  • Scotland overturned more than 124,000 results after admitting less well-off children had been penalised by computer moderation

Their final grades were calculated after this summer's exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Figures from Ofqual show a total of 35.6% of grades in England were adjusted down by one grade, 3.3% were brought down by two grades and 0.2% came down by three grades.

The Government announced late on Tuesday that students in England will have the "safety net" of being able to use mock exam results as the basis for an appeal if they are higher than the calculated grade.

It came hours after Scotland's Education Secretary announced that moderated calculated grades would be scrapped following an outcry after more than 124,000 results were downgraded.

Gavin Williamson this morning stood by the system, saying that 97% of A-level students in England will be getting within one grade of what their teacher predicted.

Almost 60% of grades received by students are exactly the same as those submitted by schools and colleges.

He said that Ofqual would explain the appeals process for students unhappy with their results at the start of next week.

School and university leaders have demanded clarity from ministers on how the appeals process in England will work – and whether it will be completed in time for universities opening in the autumn.

Exam bosses have already admitted that they haven't figured out how the appeal process will work, while four in ten grades have been changed as teachers tried to dish out a record number of A*s.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said teachers are likely to face questions from "disgruntled" students over appeals on Thursday – which they will struggle to answer due to the lack of detail about how the process will work.

And NUS National President Larissa Kennedy told Sky News: "I think that the way the government has handled this has been absolutely shambolic. We have seen decisions being made at the eleventh-hour which has confused and bewildered students and educators, alike."

The UCAS deadline for applicants to meet their academic offer conditions is September 7, which leaves exam boards less than four weeks to issue outcomes of appeals from schools and colleges.

England's exams regulator Ofqual has already announced a 2% rise in A* and A grades this year at A-level.

Three students from Northampton bravely opened their exam results live on Sky News this morning.

A student named Ellen almost broke down in tears when she received the grades she needed. She said: "I might cry. I'm really happy. I got an A* in my EPQ – I was expecting an A."

Another student, Elsie, received B, C, B grades and said she was "happy with that".

But another A-level student Megan said she was disappointed with her results – getting an A, B, B when she was predicted three As.

The Wyke College student needed those grades to get into Leeds University.

The teen said: "I'm a bit disappointed and I think I could have got my three As if I did my exams."

Her principal Paul Britain added: "It's completely unfair – an algorithm, some sort of standardisation process means she hasn't got the grades she should have got."

Other parents have taken to Twitter to vent their frustrations with one mum saying: "Well the A-Level results are absolute rubbish! My son was predicted straight As but received a B and 2 x Cs. Disappointed doesn’t even cover it, I’m glad he’s going to appeal.

"I feel for the others that have been marked down today."

Another added: "My daughter, whose predicted A level grades were A,B,B has just been ‘awarded’ C,C,C and all of her UCAS offers have been withdrawn.

"Gavin Williamson and Boris Johnson You are an utter disgrace and we won’t put up with this #AlevelResults"

Some universities are concerned that students may not be given enough time to secure a final grade ahead of the start of term in autumn.

Ministers have urged universities to be "flexible" and take into account a range of evidence when choosing which youngsters to admit to their degree courses on Thursday in the wake of coronavirus.

But the head of UCAS has suggested it will be a "good year" for teens in Britain who want to attend university in the autumn – as institutions will be competing to fill courses at a time of uncertainty.

A potential fall in overseas students amid Covid-19 – alongside a drop in 18-year-olds in the population – could help school leavers in the UK secure a place, Clare Marchant, UCAS' chief executive, has suggested.

Clearing is increasingly becoming a popular route for students to find a degree course – with leading universities among those to offer last-minute places through the system.

Of the 24 Russell Group universities, 17 have at least one course advertised on the clearing site, with 4,485 courses potentially available.

Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at the Higher Education Policy Institute, believes university admissions officers and UCAS will receive more calls from students "than ever before" following the last-minute decision to allow English students to use mock grades if they appeal.

She said: "It may well be that this change pushes more students to seek to appeal their grades, leaving universities to consider how to manage their places between those who achieve the grades, clearing and those seeking to appeal.

"The reintroduction of the numbers cap for this year has further complicated this by restricting the places that universities have to give."

Last year, 25.5 per cent of UK entries were awarded an A or A* grades, the lowest proportion since 2007, according to statistics published by the Joint Council for Qualifications.

England's exams regulator Ofqual previously said that the national results are likely to be higher this summer than previous years following disruption.

Teachers were told to submit the grades they thought each student would have received if they had sat the papers after exams were cancelled.

Exam boards have moderated these grades to ensure this year's results are not significantly higher than previous years.


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