Nearly 40% of A-levels are downgraded: Despair for 280,000 students whose results are lowered – but number of A and A*s rises to all-time high
Thousands of pupils’ results have been downgraded after this year’s summer exams were cancelled because of Covid-19 despite record-high results.
The proportion of A-level entries awarded an A grade or higher has risen to an all-time high, with 27.9 per cent securing the top grades this year, figures for England, Wales and Northern Ireland show.
But exam boards downgraded nearly two in five (39.1 per cent) pupils’ grades in England, according to data from Ofqual – which amounts to around 280,000 entries being adjusted down after moderation.
Teachers were told to submit the grades they thought each student would have received if they had sat the papers, alongside a rank order of students, after exams were cancelled amid the pandemic.
Key statistics in this year’s A-level results
Here are the main figures in this year’s A-level results:
– The proportion of candidates receiving top grades is the highest on record. A total of 27.9% of entrants scored either an A or A*, up from 25.5% in 2019.
– Some 9.0% of entrants received an A*. This is another record high, and is up from 7.8% last year.
– The overall pass rate (grades A* to E) was 98.3% – again, another record high. It is up from 97.6% in 2019.
– Some 78.4% received a C or above, up from 75.8% in 2019 and the highest since at least 2000.
– Girls have extended their lead over boys in the top grades. The proportion of girls who got A or higher was 28.4%, 1.1 percentage points higher than boys (27.3%). Last year, girls led boys by just 0.1 percentage points (25.5% girls, 25.4% boys). Boys briefly took the lead in 2017 and 2018, following a long period in which girls had been ahead.
– The gap between the best-performing boys and girls has fallen slightly. The proportion of boys who got A* was 9.3%, 0.5 percentage points higher than girls (8.8%). Last year, the gap was 0.7 points.
– The most popular subject this year was maths. It was taken by 94,168 entrants, up 2.5% on 2019.
– Psychology was the second most popular subject, overtaking biology. It was taken by 65,255 entrants, up 1.0% on 2019. Biology slipped to become the third most popular subject, taken by 65,057 entrants, a fall of 6.0%.
– ICT (information and communications technology) saw the biggest drop in candidates for a single subject with more than 1,000 entrants, falling by 15.3% from 1,572 to 1,332.
– Computing saw the biggest jump in candidates of any subject with more than 1,000 entrants, rising by 11.7% from 11,124 to 12,426.
– There were 780,557 A-levels awarded, down 2.6% on last year’s total (801,002) and the lowest number since 2004.
Exam boards moderated these grades to ensure this year’s results were not significantly higher than previously and the value of students’ grades were not undermined.
In England, a total of 35.6 per cent of grades were adjusted down by one grade, 3.3 per cent were brought down by two grades and 0.2 per cent came down by three grades, figures from Ofqual show.
But overall, the proportion of entries in England, Wales and Northern Ireland awarded the top A* grade this year has surged to 9 per cent – the highest proportion since the top grade was first introduced in 2010.
In total, 27.9 per cent of entries were awarded an A or A* grade this summer, which is up by 2.4 percentage points on last year when 25.5 per cent achieved the top grades.
The figures, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications, cover A-level entries from students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland where around 300,000 students are receiving their results.
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.
Speaking about the A-level results, Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: ‘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.’
He added that school leaders are ‘dismayed’ that the statistical model used to standardise grades has had a ‘devastating impact.
Mr Barton said: ‘We are now calling on the government and the exam regulator Ofqual to review the situation as a matter of urgency, and we would warn them against simply digging in their heels, and insisting all is well.’
Dr Philip Wright, director general of JCQ, said: ‘Students across the UK receiving their A-level results today should be proud of their grades, which reflect their hard work and commitment over the previous two years.
‘Thank you to all the teachers, senior leaders and exams officers whose efforts to produce the Centre Assessment Grades will mean students are able to move on to the next phase of their education or into employment.
‘This is a moment for students to celebrate their learning and we wish them all the best as they take their next steps in life.’