A level results day 2023: what news for ‘unluckiest cohort’?

Students in the UK and around the world have been receiving their A level, T level and B tec results today, with 79% receiving the grades to see them through to their first-choice of university. There was also much praise for every student's reslience, achievements and determination.

Happy female high school students holding educational exam results, talking and laughing. Teenage girl standing in the school corridor.
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As expected, the number of top A and A* grades declined with exam boards seeking to bring the overall trend back to pre-pandemic levels. Candidates in this session were the first since 2019 to sit full summer examinations and advised grades would be lower than the past two years, which saw record pass rates.

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Top grades fall back on previous three years

In England, the pass rate at grade C and above fell to 75.4%. This is slightly below 2019’s figure of 75.5%. This year, 3,820 students passed three A levels with an A* compared to 2,875 in 2019; below 2021’s peak of 12,945 where grades were protected due to the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.In Wales, 25.6% of 18-year-olds taking three or more A levels received at least three As. The number of A and A* grades accounted for 34% of all results, falling from 40.9% last year and 2021’s peak of 48.3%. The overall pass rate of 97.5% was slightly lower than 2019’s benchmark of 97.6%.Northern Ireland's Council for the Curriculum, Examinations & Assessment (CCEA) also continued its journey to pre-pandemic grading. Here 37.5% of students achieved A-A* grades, with "results higher than pre-pandemic levels [and] lower than 2022".Earlier this month, the Scottish Qualifications Authority published the results of Scottish Higher examinations, which marked its "further progress on the path back to normal awarding" after the pandemic. This year, 78.8% of National 5 results were at A-C; 77.1% for Highers; and 79.8% for Advanced Highers.

Celebrating success

Among those receiving the highest grades was Grantham King’s School student, Luke, who achieved three A*s and an A. “The exams were hard exams and I am genuinely amazed. I was really hoping to get these grades and I’ve done it.” Today's result confirms his plans to study for an MSc in Chemistry in September.The selective boys’ grammar in Lincolnshire – a region with one of the lowest percentage of top grades in England at 22.3% – said its students achieved a set of results even better than the pre-Covid levels, despite warnings nationally about declining grades. Nearly 40% of all exams entered by pupils at the King’s School resulted in A* and A grades with more than a quarter of the 144 students getting three A grades or better. Grades of A* to B were achieved in 73% of all exams and the overall pass rate was 99.5%.“These are an exceptional set of results from an exceptional set of students,” said headmaster Simon Pickett. “The years of study leading up to these exams has been extremely challenging for teachers, students and their families. Despite this they have excelled, and I want to congratulate them for their perseverance, determination and commitment. Particular thanks go to teachers and parents for the unwavering support they have given the boys throughout their A level studies.”At independent girls' school Headington in Oxfordshire, there were also plenty of reasons to celebrate. Reflecting national data showing girls outperformed boys in the highest grades, 49% of A levels awarded this year to students were A-A* (23% A*). Three-quarters were A*-B. Headmistress Mrs Caroline Jordan said: “I am so immensely proud of all our girls who have achieved fantastic results, especially given the disruption they have experienced in the last few years of schooling. I am really excited to see what they will achieve as they pursue such a wide range of interesting, challenging and creative career paths."

Praise for students and teachers in a challenging year

Around 3,500 students also received their T level results today in the ten pathways, with 90.5% achieving a pass or above and 94.9% completing an industry placement. Education Secretary Gillian Keegan praised the resilience and hard work of young people receiving their A and AS level, T Level and Level 3 vocational and technical exam results today. “I’m incredibly proud of all students receiving their results today. For many, this will have been the first set of formal exams they have ever taken, having faced unprecedented circumstances in the years building up to this summer. Congratulations to each and every young person taking their next step and thank you to the teachers who helped them get there.”While the results mean certainty for eight in ten young people collecting their results today – a figure higher than in 2019, when 75% received their first choice university – university admission body UCAS is confident that the 19,010 students free to participate in clearing and choose a new course from the 29,000 courses and 8,000 apprenticeships available will be successful. 

Clearing and resit options

UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said: “Today, by opening their personalised UCAS email or logging onto their UCAS account to find out their decision, students will have clear, tailored options set out for them to make their next steps as easy as possible. “For anyone who may not have got the results they were hoping for, or for those applicants who want to change their mind, there is plenty of choice in Clearing with nearly 29,000 courses and 8,000 apprenticeships currently available. We also have a team of advisers hard at work to provide students with expert information, advice and guidance on the phones, social media, and on ucas.com.”For Coventry University's vice-chancellor, Professor John Latham CBE, missing his grades the first time around has not hindered his success. "When I failed, the initial feeling was that the world had ended. Now what do I do? I had all these plans of where I was going to go."What is really interesting for me now is that when people ask me what the big defining moments in my life are, I say that one of them is the day I failed my A level results. It made me really think about what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go."My second results day was brilliant because I’d achieved the A levels I wanted to achieve and the options I wanted were available to me. I was then very clear about where I wanted to go and what I wanted to do. I was very lucky to come to Coventry. I studied here, got my first degree and I’ve had a very successful career. I’ve done many things, I’ve worked in different parts of the world, been involved with different industrial collaborators and I’ve built a better future for myself."

Alternative routes to fulfilling careers

Dan Hutchinson, Vice President, HR, UK & Ireland at Schneider Electric highlighted alternative routes for young people to learn, earn and gain the skills needed to be successful in the future world of work - as well as for employers like the energy company to diversify and build resilience into the business. This year, it has doubled the number of opportunities on its apprentice scheme.“While many will still have their sights set on university, alternative career routes, like apprenticeships, shouldn’t be ruled out. Fostering both technical and interpersonal skills directly in the workforce, these can be invaluable - especially for those most affected by the pandemic's educational disruptions. They are also crucial to shape much-needed talent to future-proof the workforce and support the government’s focus on greener jobs. “This year, we’ve seen increasing demand and doubled the number of opportunities for our Schneider Electric UK&I apprentice scheme. But we see there is still a general lack of awareness in the market about their benefits. Often, students don’t know where to start and perceive roles to be limited to manual labour. Businesses have a vital role to play in changing perceptions. This means investing more in relationships with education providers, starting with young school pupils, to increase understanding of the broad and valuable opportunities available.”“Students should be reassured that there are many options available to help them to thrive and more than one route to success.” 

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