A-level results: What next for students?

PUBLISHED: 17:52 14 August 2020 | UPDATED: 17:52 14 August 2020

Students receiving their A-level results at Thetford Academy. Picture: James Bass/Inspiration Trust

Students receiving their A-level results at Thetford Academy. Picture: James Bass/Inspiration Trust

© James Bass 2020

After the release of this year’s A-level results, many students will be pondering their futures.

John Fisher, cabinet member for childrens services. Picture: Norfolk County CouncilJohn Fisher, cabinet member for childrens services. Picture: Norfolk County Council

The disruption caused to the exam process by the coronavirus pandemic has led to much uncertainty across the education system.

John Fisher, cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said students had shown “remarkable resilience during an extraordinary time”

He said: “The best of luck to those students who will be heading to the university or the job of their choice. For those who haven’t received the results they hoped for, there are plenty of options out there.

Teaching staff speaking to the students receiving their A-level results at Thetford Academy. Picture: James Bass/Inspiration TrustTeaching staff speaking to the students receiving their A-level results at Thetford Academy. Picture: James Bass/Inspiration Trust

“This could mean heading to a different university, studying a new course or starting their working life with an apprenticeship.”

Norfolk County Council’s Labour group leader Steve Morphew said: “There’s always controversy when exams results come out - this time the anxiety for young people is even worse than usual.”

Here is a breakdown of what next steps students can consider:

Can unhappy students challenge their results?

In England, the Government has outlined a “triple lock” process that could help students’ boost their results.

This would allow a pupil to either accept their calculated grade, appeal to receive a valid mock result, or sit a new exam in the autumn.

How do appeals work?

Pupils can ask their school or college to check if an administrative error was made when they submitted their grade - and they can ask them to pursue an appeal if this happened.

But individual students cannot directly challenge their grades to the exam boards - it needs to be done by a school or college on their behalf.

Ofqual previously said results can go to appeal if a school can show grades are lower than expected because previous cohorts are not “representative” of this year’s students.

The exam regulator said schools and colleges can appeal if they can prove historical data used to standardise grades is not a reliable indicator of this year’s results due to a change of circumstances.

How do mock results come into play?

It is not yet fully clear. Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said Ofqual would be “issuing clarity” on how mock tests - held before schools were forced to close amid the pandemic - can form the basis of an appeal. Ofqual indicated this may be by the start of next week, if not before. The concern for students is how seriously they took mock tests.

How will exams work later this year?

The Government has said it will provide a support package to help schools cover the costs of running new exams in the autumn. This includes booking venues, hiring invigilators and paying for exam fees if they exceed rebates given this summer. Much will depend on how the pandemic plays out and whether further restrictions on social distancing or a re-tightened lockdown again affect exam plans.

How is this affecting university applications?

According to figures from university admissions service Ucas, more students have been accepted on UK degree courses this year.

Ministers had urged universities to adopt a “flexible” approach to assessing applications, with institutions told to hold places for students pending the outcome of any appeal. But exam boards will have less than four weeks to process appeals, with a Ucas deadline of September 7 for applicants to meet their academic offer conditions.

Corrienne Peasgood, principal City College Norwich, said: “More so than in any previous year, I expect institutions to be very willing to talk in detail with students about their suitability for courses, even if their grades aren’t quite as hoped.”

What about clearing?

So far, 7,600 people have found places through clearing this year.

Mr Williamson said a “late clearing process” is expected to be available for pupils taking A-level exams in the autumn. He said discussions were being held with the university sector so students can possibly start university in January, rather than the usual September/October time.



If you’ve applied through UCAS to university or college, you can login to Track from 8am on results day to check whether you’ve been accepted by your firm or insurance choice. The UCAS results day guide will help you to prepare for results day.

If your results don’t meet the conditions of any of your offers you’ll automatically be entered into UCAS Clearing where you can apply to universities and colleges that have course vacancies. If your results are better than you expected the UCAS adjustment service has courses with higher entry requirements.

The national Exam Results Helpline on: 0800 100 900 between 8am and 10pm, 7 days a week until August 29.


Help You Choose lists apprenticeships available locally and allows you to set up email alerts for vacancies you might be interested in. The National Apprenticeship Service website list apprenticeships across England and Apprenticeships Norfolk also have a list of current local vacancies particularly at the higher levels.

Information and Advice

If you have concerns about the accuracy of your results you should firstly approach your school or college for advice.

For further information go to Your Results, What Next?

The National Careers Service offers careers information and advice to young people and is open between 8am and 10pm every day. You can also telephone a careers adviser on 0800 100 900.

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