School Leavers Face Academic Disadvantage Despite Government Efforts

Education experts are warning that this year’s school leavers could be among the most disadvantaged by the pandemic. Data reveals that twice as many sixth formers as last year could fail to obtain the high A-level grades necessary to secure spots at prestigious universities.

Ministers in England have been firm in their intention to bring A-level results back to 2019 levels by the end of this summer. However, experts are questioning whether the government is rushing to curb grade inflation too quickly. These students, who missed out on sitting their GCSE exams due to the pandemic, had their learning significantly disrupted.

Under the government’s plans, nearly 60,000 sixth formers with predicted A-level grades of AAB or higher will not receive the grades they were expecting. This represents an increase of 27,000 students compared to last year—the largest ever shift in high-grade expectations.

According to Mark Corver, founder of DataHE, this will come as a shock to students who achieved the strongest ever GCSE results. Despite warnings about potential grade drops, sixth formers have not hesitated to apply to competitive universities this year. Their confidence was boosted by excellent GCSE results and witnessing their older siblings achieve good A-level grades during the pandemic.

However, Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, expresses concern for the 2023 generation. These students completed their GCSEs in a year of high grade inflation, making them look like academic prodigies on paper. Nevertheless, their A-level results will place them among the most disadvantaged, as they will be competing for jobs with cohorts who had the highest A-level results ever.

While rooting out pandemic grade inflation is important, Hillman argues for a more gradual approach, given the significant disruption to these students’ education caused by Covid-19.

+ Q: What is grade inflation?
+ A: Grade inflation refers to the increase in average grades given to students over time without a corresponding increase in their academic performance.

+ Q: What are A-levels?
+ A: A-levels are advanced level qualifications typically taken by students in the UK during their final two years of secondary education. They are important for university admissions.

+ Q: What is GCSE?
+ A: GCSE stands for General Certificate of Secondary Education. It is an academic qualification in the UK usually taken by students at the age of 16.

+ Q: What is the Russell Group?
+ A: The Russell Group is a consortium of 24 leading UK universities known for their research-intensive programs and high academic standards.