A Level results 2021: Pupils ‘resilience’ praised as top grades rise

James Corke, Sam Mason, Lucy Knights, Max Bardwell with A Level results.

James Corke, Sam Mason, Lucy Knights, Max Bardwell with A Level results. - Credit: Taverham High School

Education chiefs have praised the “resilience and determination” of A-level students after a big increase in those achieving top grades.

After an unprecedented year of disruption to their studies, students have received grades determined by teachers, rather than exams, assessed on what they have been taught during the pandemic.

After a year of education hugely disrupted by the pandemic, 44.8pc of students in this region have gained A* or A grades, up from 38.3pc in 2020.

However the figures, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), show that the 
region’s overall A-level pass rate for entries awarded A*-E grades are down slightly to 99.4pc from 99.7pc last year.

Students at Open Academy Norwich receiving their A-Level results.

Students at Open Academy Norwich receiving their A-Level results. - Credit: Danielle Booden

Daniel Elmer, deputy cabinet member for children’s services at Norfolk County Council, said “We couldn’t be prouder of our young people and school and college staff after the courage they’ve shown throughout this year. 

“This cohort of young people have faced an incredibly challenging and disrupted period of education. 


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Nationally, the proportion of A-level entries awarded an A grade or higher has risen to an all-time high after exams were cancelled for the second year in a row due to Covid-19.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson.

Education secretary Gavin Williamson. - Credit: PA

Education secretary Gavin Williamson said students getting their A-level results today "deserve" the grades they get, dispelling worries about so-called grade inflation.

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He said: "Any debate about the system we've used this year should not undermine or question the value of the grades students will be getting.

"We should congratulate them all for their resilience and determination not to allow the pandemic to be a barrier to their futures."

He added it would have been "unfair on students" to examine them after more than a year of virtual lessons for many.

Students celebrating A-level success at Springwood High.

Students celebrating A-level success at Springwood High. - Credit: Ian Burt

The minister added an appeals system would allow students to challenge their grades if they believed a "genuine error" had been made, and that universities had been asked to be "flexible" in holding open places for these students.

Former Bury St Edmunds headteacher Geoff Barton, now general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said: "It is important to understand that the system used to assess students this year is different from both formal exams and the approach that was used last year too, when an attempt to use an algorithm to standardise grades nationally went wrong and had to be abandoned.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the ASCL headteacher union.

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

"It is therefore invidious to make direct comparisons with other years and vital that we celebrate the achievements of this year's cohort who have had to endure so much over the past 18 months."

• See a full round-up of results in Norfolk and Waveney at the EDP website

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