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A Level Results Day Letter from the Editor. Is the class of 2022 the unluckiest cohort ever? Planned A-level grade slashes put this year’s students at a ‘unfair’ disadvantage and thousands will miss out on their university offers says experts. Our A Level Results Day coverage begins with recognition of the challenges this year’s graduates have faced….
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Welcome to A Level Results Day 2022 and the beginning of our coverage for this year.

SchoolsCompared will be with you throughout the day, reporting on the achievements of students, schools – and the parents that have provided such extraordinary support, over a  two year period that has been at least frustrating – and in many cases disabling.

Whatever else, as we all receive our results,  we know that it’s going to be a rollercoaster for so many students today receiving their A Level results, the parents that will be worrying as they help them through clearing  – and the schools that are so invested in their success. We can expect, we believe, outstanding results from our schools – but we need all to be ready to manage expectations and for a drop in grades from the pandemic years as British regulators start addressing grade inflation. As these come into play, we know already of students hard hit by a storm of impacts over the last two years – with many fearful of securing acceptances at their chosen universities. So much so, many of us are now asking: “Is the class of 2022 the unluckiest cohort ever?

Those leaving school this year have been through an educational experience that is completely unprecedented.

They’ve been at home for great swathes of their academic careers – not only dealing with the solitude and lack of hands-on learning that comes with remote schooling, but also missing out on milestone experiences like school trips, graduations and the formative social interaction – so important for teenage development – that comes with being amongst a group of your peers day in and day out.

Their final school years have been characterised by incessant yet unpredictable disruption, and there are countless times when they’ve been told to prepare for one scenario, only for another one to crop up out of the blue. Even down to the pain of wearing masks – these two Sixth Form years have been like none other preceding them. For many students they have been, frankly, awful. And it just seems to get worse for some many of this year’s graduating Sixth Formers.

While their forebears in 2020 and 2021 were also denied the opportunity to sit key external exams, for the 2022 cohort this has come back to bite them; although they did not get the practical experience of handling the pressure of in-person GCSE and AS-Level exams, they were ‘lucky’ enough to sit in-person A-levels – not without their fair share of uncertainty of course, as the UK government and exam boards shifted their views on how likely this was to happen from one week to the next.

And yet the exam watchdog, Ofqual, has announced that the 2022 A-Levels – taken by pandemic-affected students, still under the shroud of constant Covid disruption – are going to have tougher grade boundaries than those of 2021 or 2020.

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It is estimated that about 60,000 fewer top A-level grades will be awarded this summer, compared with last year. This could mean thousands of students – who might have got higher results if they’d been born a few months earlier and sat their exams in 2021 – missing out on their university offers.

Ofqual says that it plans to set exam grade boundaries this summer to reflect “a midway point between 2021 and 2019”, so the proportion of students getting an A* or A grade at A-level will fall.

While this is all in aid of reducing grade inflation, it does little to help the plight of exam students this year, who have not only grappled with pandemic disruption to their education and but in some cases even distressing errors in their final exam paper questions.

Thousands likely to miss out on university places

But the prospect of lower exam results and a tougher grading system than 2021 is especially worrying for this year’s school-leavers, because they also face unprecedented competition for university places.

University offers have plummeted by almost 10% in the most competitive universities, with only 16% of applications to dentistry and medicine receiving an offer this year, according to university admission service UCAS. While medical and dental degrees have always been fiercely competitive, it’s important to note that almost 30% of applications received an offer in 2019 – very nearly double the number of this year.

This is partially as a fall-out from the pandemic – which means this year’s cohort will be competing against many of the more generously graded deferred students from 2021 – and partially due to a mid-2000s baby boom, which is set to affect future years too. It’s also the case that many universities were obliged to take on more students than they had originally anticipated over the past two years due to grade inflation, and they are now attempting to correct the balance.

Dennis Sherwood, a former external consultant for Ofqual and partner with accountants Coopers & Lybrand, told The Times that he expects a backlash from students when A-level results are released on August 18. He predicts that the number of A* grades will drop by about 40,000 compared with last summer, and the number of A grades by about 20,000.

In 2019 – the last year when in-person external examinations were held before Covid – 57,410 A* grades were awarded, equal to just under 8% of all grades.

That jumped to almost 20% (144,440) last summer, when exams did not take place and grades were determined by teachers. Overall, 45% of A-level grades were marked at A* or A in 2021, compared with 25% in 2019.

Sherwood told The Times that the dip in top grades at A-level, combined with other factors, would “cost students places in one of the most competitive university admissions rounds for years”.

He said the class of 2022, who did not take their GCSE exams due to Covid, were being treated unfairly compared with last year’s school-leavers. Not only will fewer top A-level grades be awarded but more students have struggled to achieve university offers. Sherwood told The Times:

“The upshot is that teenagers who would have had opportunities two years ago are not getting the same chances this year,”

“Their older siblings had opportunities, they were the lucky ones, but the class of 2022 is unlucky in that they were born into this year’s cohort rather than being in the class of 2021 or that of 2020.”

We also now know that It seems that the Class of 2022 is stuck between a rock and hard place; just as (if not more) affected by the pandemic, and yet not fully benefitting from the allowances made for their pandemic predecessors.

Exactly how tough that hard place turns out to be remains to be seen as A-level results come out today….

More on this story here.

Do you have personal experience with being a parent, teacher or member of the Class of 2022? We’d love to hear your story. Please email [email protected] to share your thoughts.

Join us throughout the day for more news, results and stories as we celebrate A Level Results Day 2022.

© SchoolsCompared.com. A WhichMedia Group publication. 2022. All rights reserved.

About The Author
Tabitha Barda
Tabitha Barda is the Senior Editor of SchoolsCompared.com. Oxbridge educated and an award winning journalist in the UAE for more than a decade, Tabitha is one of the region's shining lights in all that is education in the emirates. A mum herself, she is passionate about helping parents - and finding the stories in education that deserve telling. She is responsible for the busy 24x7 News Desk, our Advisory Boards and Specialist Panels - and SchoolsCompared.com's The School's Report - the global weekly round up of what matters in education for parents which is published every Friday, reviewing schools across the UAE - and features on issues that really matter. You can often find Tabitha on Parents United - our Facebook community board, discussing the latest schools and education issues with our parent community in the UAE - and beyond.

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