Tens of thousands of A-level pupils may miss out on first choice university

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Tens of thousands of A-level ­students are astatine hazard of losing a spot astatine their preferred assemblage adjacent week aft caller investigation recovered a crisp autumn successful apical grades compared with past year.

Amid warnings that this year’s admissions circular would beryllium “the hardest successful surviving memory”, probe suggests a autumn of 10 percent points successful the fig of A and A* grades successful England, Wales and Northern Ireland, pursuing the reintroduction of exams this summer.

After 2 years of higher mean grades during the pandemic – erstwhile exams were cancelled and enactment was teacher-assessed – the authorities asked regulators to acceptable boundaries truthful that grades, to beryllium published connected Thursday, would beryllium halfway betwixt those successful 2019 and 2021, with grades to instrumentality to pre-pandemic levels successful 2023.

After grounds results past year, erstwhile 44.8% of grades were either A oregon A* astatine A-level, the calculation is that this volition autumn to 35% (up from 25.5% successful 2019).

While astir 1 successful 5 (19.1%) grades were A* past year, this twelvemonth the proportionality is expected to diminution to 13.5%. Similarly, the fig of A* to C grades are expected to spell down from 88.5% successful 2021 to 82%.

The displacement successful results is apt to origin a large governmental fallout successful a twelvemonth that has seen 4 antithetic acquisition secretaries.

The program for this year’s A-levels was archetypal enactment successful spot by Gavin Williamson, who was blamed for the government’s chaotic attack to acquisition during the pandemic. The program is present being overseen by James Cleverly who whitethorn beryllium fixed a caller relation erstwhile a caller premier curate is appointed successful September.

Labour has accused the Tories of a “miserable nonaccomplishment to assistance children retrieve from the pandemic” and of failing to enactment successful spot capable other measures for this year’s exams.

One adept said this year’s acquisition would awesome a cardinal displacement that volition past for a decade, arsenic request for higher acquisition places remains high.

“Instead of universities competing implicit students, it volition beryllium students warring implicit constricted grade places,” said Lee Elliot Major, prof of societal mobility astatine Exeter University.

“Thousands of students with comparatively precocious grades are apt to beryllium disappointed and not unafraid their archetypal choices,” helium added.

This year’s results are besides expected to amusement an betterment successful the show of antheral candidates, who are apt to person benefited from the reintroduction of exams.

They volition besides bespeak changing taxable preferences, with science increasing successful popularity arsenic the uptake of English continues to fall.

Prof Alan Smithers, manager of the Centre for Education and Employment Research astatine the University of Buckingham, has calculated that if each campaigner drops an mean of 2 grades owed to the post-pandemic rebalancing, up to 60,000 students applying to assemblage could beryllium astatine hazard of losing their preferred place.

“The 2022 A-level results are perchance the astir absorbing successful years,” said Smithers. “The instrumentality of exams volition alteration america to statesman to gauge the interaction of teacher assessment.

“The summation successful apical grades has been bonzer – they went up from 25.5% of the full successful 2019 to 44.8% successful 2021,” helium said, adding: “Some candidates were fixed a mendacious thought of their talents and volition person made incorrect choices, portion universities could not archer applicants isolated arsenic accurately and reasonably arsenic they had been utilized to.

“Universities person reacted to the teacher-assessment roar successful apical grades by raising requirements and reducing steadfast offers. For galore of this year’s schoolhouse leavers, the hard enactment did not extremity with A-levels, but begins again connected results time successful the pursuit for the coveted places.

“As a effect of bringing down the apical grades, astir 40,000 applicants could miss retired connected their archetypal choices, though it could beryllium arsenic galore arsenic 60,000.”

There volition nevertheless inactive beryllium 80,000 much apical grades than successful 2019 erstwhile exams were past held and Smithers said that, though determination volition beryllium unit connected apical courses, determination would beryllium plentifulness of places elsewhere.

With the instrumentality of exams, which were reintroduced with adaptations to bespeak pandemic disruption, Smithers predicted that boys volition commencement to drawback up with girls, whose results person improved with the intermission successful exams and the usage of teacher assessment.

On taxable trends, provisional figures amusement the numbers studying science person gone up 10%, making it the 2nd astir fashionable A-level aft maths. Numbers studying English proceed to fall, down by astir a 3rd since 2009 to 62,000 successful 2021, with a further 8% driblet successful 2022.

Major said: “This twelvemonth volition beryllium the hardest admissions circular successful surviving representation for galore applicants – and it signals a cardinal displacement that volition past for a decade.”

He said this new, much competitory epoch of assemblage admissions was being driven by rising numbers of 18-year-olds, a rebalancing by immoderate universities which are reducing places aft taking successful further students during Covid, and a looming recession cutting disconnected occupation alternatives.

“We indispensable bash each we tin to guarantee that our astir disadvantaged and susceptible students aren’t unfairly elbowed retired arsenic candidates bash everything imaginable to unafraid the astir sought-after degrees.” He expressed interest that the spread successful A-level results betwixt authorities and backstage pupils had besides widened.

“The biggest situation for schools successful the post-pandemic epoch volition beryllium to trim the world divides that person opened – nonaccomplishment to bash truthful volition permission a procreation permanently scarred.”

Chris Hale, interim main enforcement of Universities UK, which represents the higher acquisition sector, said that astir students were expected to get their first-choice people this twelvemonth with plentifulness of high-quality courses disposable successful clearing.

“They person taken into relationship that this year’s applicants volition astir apt person a little proportionality of apical grades than the past 2 years with the instrumentality of exams pursuing the pandemic’s disruption. Decisions are not made connected grades alone.”

A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Ucas expects the bulk of students to unafraid their spot astatine their steadfast prime this twelvemonth and successful mentation our absorption has been connected moving with universities to guarantee offers bespeak the grades students volition person this summer.

“Competition for places astatine the astir selective universities has ever been precocious and this twelvemonth is nary different, but determination volition ever beryllium tons of options for students either astatine different university, done clearing oregon high-quality vocational options that are conscionable arsenic prestigious and rewarding arsenic world routes.”

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