Expected rise in students getting top A-levels not a 'devaluing of grades'

Students receiving their A Level results at Thetford Academy.

Students receiving their A Level results at Thetford Academy last year. - Credit: James Bass Photography

A record number of students achieving top A-level results would not represent a "devaluing of grades", a school leaders' union has said.

Former Bury St Edmunds headteacher Geoff Barton, now general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said this year's students have suffered more disruption than any cohort and their results should be "celebrated".

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union. - Credit: Archant

His comments came ahead of students receiving their A-level results on Tuesday after exams were cancelled for the second year in a row due to the pandemic.

Teachers have assessed pupils’ work and submitted grades after drawing on a range of evidence, including mock exams, coursework and in-class assessments using questions by exam boards.

Pupils in class

A-level grades have been assessed by teachers based on mock exams, coursework and in-class assessments. - Credit: PA

Mr Barton said: "There has been speculation about the possibility of grade inflation this year.

"It would not be surprising if the distribution of grades is different from years when exams take place, or indeed the grade distribution last year, because this year's approach to assessment is different from other years and making direct comparisons is therefore akin to comparing apples with oranges."

Children's and families minister Vicky Ford.

Children's and families minister Vicky Ford. - Credit: Richard Townshend Photography

Children’s minister Vicky Ford, speaking during a visit to Norwich, said: “I know that students have been working extremely hard during the pandemic and it’s important they have the confidence in the system. 


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“There will be a huge amount of support but I do expect that the vast amount of students will be very pleased with their grades tomorrow and that is absolutely fair because they have worked so hard for them.” 

Students sitting exams

Cancellation of exams means gardes are being based on teacher assessements. - Credit: PA

Clare Marchant, of admission service Ucas, said a record number of students will still take up places through clearing and it could be much more competitive for applicants this year.

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She urged prospective students to make a decision about courses "in a matter of days" rather than waiting weeks as she expects the system to be "active".

Richard Harvey, director of admissions at the University of East Anglia, said some UEA courses were better placed to cope with over-recruitment than others. 

Professor Richard Harvey, UEA director of admissions. Picture: Richard Harvey

Professor Richard Harvey, UEA director of admissions. Picture: Richard Harvey - Credit: Richard Harvey

“For some courses, extra students aren’t a problem: you can just add an extra seminar group, and maybe you have plenty of accommodation spare,” he said.

“But in some cases you can’t take any more, for instance nursing, medicine and dentistry, so you have to hope that grade inflation hasn’t taken you over your target.”

• We will have live rolling coverage of results on our website throughout Tuesday. Don’t miss Wednesday’s EDP and Norwich Evening News for reports, results and analysis. 

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