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Desperate scramble for university places as A-level kids appeal grades after 40% marked DOWN

A-LEVEL students have been forced to desperately scramble for university places as 40 per cent of kids’ grades were marked DOWN.

Hundreds of thousands of pupils have had their marks downgraded and have only three weeks to secure their final scores through an appeal to get their spot at university.

Minister rushed through a “triple lock” system late on Tuesday night to allow more students to challenge the grades awarded to them by a computer-generated system this morning.

But Education Secretary Gavin Williamson admitted today the appeals process was “not ready yet” and the exam regulator Ofqual has said it won’t be able to confirm the process until next week.

Students only have until September 7 to secure their final grades in order to be accepted to universities.

Normally school leavers have until the end of August to get their results in and then another 7 days to go through clearing to try and bag a last-minute spot.

But this year the August deadline will be pushed to September 7 to give kids more time to go through the appeals process.

It still might not give students enough time to meet the deadline, and university leaders have held urgent talks with an education minister to seek clarity on the new rules.

Mr Williamson said this morning there could be a “later clearing” deadline which allows students to start university in January, rather than September or October.

Teachers initially gave individual assessments on each student based on what they thought they would get.

Those marks were then standardised by computers and moderators.

But it means nearly two in five, or 39.1 per cent, of pupils had marks downgraded, according to data from Ofqual.

Mr Williamson said he hoped universities would be more “flexible” because of the pandemic.

More students have been accepted on to UK degree courses this year, Ucas figures show.

As many as 358,860 people from the UK have already had places at universities confirmed – a rise of 2.9 per cent on last year – according to data by Ucas.

Of these, 316,730 have been accepted on to their first choice, up 2.7% on the same point last year.

Another 7,600 students have found places through clearing, roughly half of whom went directly into clearing rather than applying through the main scheme.

But many have still been left “gutted” by losing out of the marks they think they deserve.

The new appeals process means if one student appeals their grade it could cause havoc for the entire cohort at that school.

Ofqual has warned that a successful appeal from one student could push another student down in the rank order system – and that student could then appeal.

The “triple lock” system means students can rely on their mock exam results to prove they should have been awarded a higher grade – or take the exams which were cancelled during lockdown.

Mr Williamson said 97 per cent of youngsters who are receiving their results today will be getting either the grade the school actually gave, or within one grade of what that school gave.

On the most chaotic A-level results day in years:

Around 300,000 school leavers in England, Wales and Northern Ireland excitedly opened their calculated grades this morning .

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.

However, A-level student Megan, from Hull, received A, B, B when she was predicted three As.

She bravely told GMB she would have got the required grades to go to Leeds University if she had taken the exams. 

Megan said: “I got an A and two Bs. I needed three As to get into the University of Leeds.

“That was my three predicted grades from my teachers. So I’m a bit disappointed.

“I think I could have got my three As if I did my exams which I’m sad about.

“I think I deserved three As, so it’s annoying. I’m just hoping Leeds will let me in with these grades.” 

Her principal Mr Britain said: “It’s completely unfair (for) students like Megan when an algorithm, some sort of standardisation process has meant she hasn’t got the grades that she should have got.

Students were left in tears after being disappointed with their results – with some even burning their letters.

Unions are demanding teachers’ predictions of students’ grades are used instead of the standardised results.

Scotland was forced into a massive U-turn earlier in the week and the Education Secretary announced computer moderated exams would be scrapped.

Mr Williamson’s change to the “triple lock” system followed swiftly after the fiasco over Scottish grades.

Jo Grady, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), said: “The Government needs to accept it has got this badly wrong, stop trying to pull a rabbit out of the hat and keep things simple by using teacher predictions – as happened in Scotland.”

Larissa Kennedy, president of the National Union of Students (NUS), said: “England must follow Scotland’s lead and scrap moderated grades, moving to give all students their teacher assessed grades.

“We must look at what this will mean for individual students without such action, many of whom will miss out on opportunities to attend the university of their choice because of this process.”

Abby, from Hull, admitted to breaking down after seeing her results after receiving D, D, E grades in her A-level subjects – meaning she missed both her firm and insurance university places.

She told the BBC: “My future has been set back completely. I might have to wait one or two years now to go to university.

“There’s been loads of people crying, not getting the results they wanted, and it’s down to something that wasn’t our choice.”

Lilly Keeley Watts achieved A*, A, C meaning she didn’t get her place at Durham University even though she says she knows she deserved more than a C.

“I have called up this morning and I haven’t got in. I am absolutely gutted. I know our school has been hit by these science grades.”

On the verge of tears she told ITV: “I know I deserve more than a C in biology. I don’t want to be big headed, but I know I would have done better than that.

“It’s very unfair that because of past performance in this area and in my school, that I haven’t got in. It’s heartbreaking seeing my friends upset because they haven’t got in because of previous results, because of what school you go to. It shouldn’t’ determine how you can do.”

Abbie Cooper, an AS-level student from Cwmbran, said she was “distraught” after receiving two Ds and a U.

The 17-year-old said: “Last year I couldn’t attend college a lot due to anxiety and mental health issues but any time I did a mock or a piece of work I’d still get a D, a C or a B. The Ds that I did get had been improved to a B and a C at the end of the year, and my predicted at the end of the year was a B-B-B.

“I thought I’d pretty much secured at least a C, but I checked my results this morning and it said U-D-D.”

In a snap poll run by The Student Room this morning, already close to 60% of students have already responded saying that their A-Level grades were worse than expected. 

One student commented “I honestly have a rock in my stomach, I wanna get blackout drunk and just cry right now.

“I got predicted a ABC and just received CCE, I got all 7s and 8s during GCSEs and didn’t do well during mocks but at worst expected BCD or something like that.

“I can’t even apply for clearing with hope.”

A number of parents and relatives also took to social media to vent their frustrations after seeing their family members’ predicted results drop.

One dad, Nick Day, tweeted his dismay at his daughters results being marked down blasted: “My daughter, whose predicted A-level grades were A,B,B has just been ‘awarded’ C,C,C and all of her UCAS offerstr have been withdrawn.

“@[email protected] You are an utter disgrace and we won’t put up with this #AlevelResults.”

Another added: “Please can someone explain to me how my god-daughter, who was predicted A, B, C, can be given B, D, U for her A-level results. Ungraded?! It’s outrageous!”

However, after record high grades for many, other pupils were delighted with their marks.

Lorna Gauvain, 18, collected three A* grades at Norwich School and plans to study forensic psychology at the University of Kent starting in 2021 after a year out.

She said the results are what she was hoping for but added: “For the first few months it didn’t really feel like they were going to be our results.”

Lorna, who lives near Wroxham in Norfolk, said: “I was happy and very relieved.

Identical twin sisters Arianne and Enyala Banks are setting off to Oxford University together, too.

Arianne will study Law with French Law at Mansfield College – while Enyala will read Materials Science at Queen’s College.

A Level student James, from Brighton, is overjoyed after beating leukemia and smashing his exams.

During chemotherapy he focused on academics as he was unable to play sports other than tennis.

Having secured ten 9-7s in his GCSEs, James is now celebrating outstanding A*A*A*A results (physics, economics, further maths, maths).

He has beaten leukemia, and plans to study Economics at Warwick University. 

Kids can’t launch an appeal, but the schools can do it for them. And they can use their mocks to help decide on a grade after a last-minute change of plan.

However, exams regulator Ofqual haven’t yet set out the details of how to submit these appeals – and what mocks will be valid to use.

Students can also choose to sit the exam in the autumn too, and pick the best mark they have available.

Some schools will today send out the teacher-predictd results they would have got to kids – who can then decide whether to appeal or not.

Gavin Williamson, the Education Secretary, has been under fire for the last minute change of appeals process – which isn’t yet ready for kids to use.

And he refused to apologise for the standardising system which led to grade being marked down.

The Cabinet minister told Sky News: “If we do not have checks and balances within the the system you’ll have even greater unfairness.

“Potentially some people would take advantage of the fact that there aren’t checks and balances.”

He defended not ditching standardised grades and using teachers ones in a fiery exhcnage on This Morning.

Mr Williamson was confronted by Christine Cunniffe, the principal of LVS Ascot.

Ms Cunniffe said she had seen some of her top students downgraded by two grades as a result of the system put in place by the Government for moderating exam results in England.

She urged the Education Secretary to follow the example of Scotland and abandon the system, saying students had “been through enough”.

But he told the show:: “Well, overtime they [students] are in competition and you have to have some consistency in terms of grades. We have to be sure that we maintain standards…

“Not having standards, not having the same level of consistency, we’ve had some schools, for example, that have put every child in as either an A or an A* or B.”

Meanwhile heads and teachers lashed out at the results today.

A survey of sixth form college principals suggested the process for calculating this year’s A level grades is flawed and unreliable.

The Sixth Form Colleges Association said that switching to grades predicted by teachers is the only way to address failure of the system.

Commenting on today’s A-level results in England, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said the system was having a “devastating impact” on kids today.

He blasted: “While there has been an overall increase in top grades, we are very concerned that this disguises a great deal of volatility among the results at school and student level.

“We have received heartbreaking feedback from school leaders about grades being pulled down in a way that they feel to be utterly unfair and unfathomable. They are extremely concerned about the detrimental impact on their students.

“This is in terms of both the number of grades lowered, and some students’ results being pulled down by more than one grade.”

He said the way kids get their grades has “created clear injustices.”

Teachers are calling on the Government to review the system as a “matter of urgency” but Mr Williamson has insisted there will be no more changes.

Mr Barton added: “We have done everything we possibly can to support the grading process in difficult circumstances, but there is a time to say enough is enough.”

Michelle Meadows from Ofqual admitted that poorer kids did have their grades pulled down more than richer ones.

She said earlier today: “The research literature shows of A-level predictions for university entrance is that there is a tendency to be more generous for students of lower socio economic status.

“So there will be a tendency for there to be more generosity.

“The important thing is to look at the analysis for the end grades students take away – you can see there is no evidence of systematic bias.”

According to UCAS, a total of 415,600 people, from the UK and overseas, have had university places confirmed – an increase of 1.6%.

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.

 Clare Marchant, the Chief Executive of UCAS, said that this will be a “big year for clearing” following the last-minute change to the appeals process.

At least 80,000 students are expected to go into Clearing, in comparison to last year’s 70,000, according to Marchant.

Phones have been “ringing off the hook” in the call centre at Bristol University this morning – as thousands of students attempt to secure places amid A-level grading confusion.

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