A-level results day 2020: all you need to know

Update: UK government U-turn for A-level results. Around 300,000 students today learn what Covid-interrupted studies and no final examination mean for their A-level results, university and apprenticeship plans.

Exam results 2020
Update: 17 August 2020The UK government has announced that Ofqual is abandoning its controversial algorithm for A-level and GCSE results in England. This comes two days after UK Education Secretary, Gavin Williamson, insisted there would be "no U-turn". Now, all A level and GCSE pupils in England will get teacher-assessed grades.The Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland governments had previously reversed their stance on education exam results, with grades to be awarded based on teacher assessments. In Wales, A-level students who received higher grades than those predicted by teachers will keep the higher grades.However, in Northern Ireland, teacher assessment of grades will apply only to GCSEs, with A-level results remaining as they were initially assessed.
In an unprecedented year where final exams were cancelled for the summer session, and in a week where England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland opted for different approaches to assessing final A-level grades, the day has come for students at schools, colleges and international schools to find out how the changes affect them.Preliminary reports from Ofqual, the exams watchdog, says that there is a 2% rise in the top A* and A grades this year at A-level – close to record levels. However, some 40% of students' centre-assessed grades will be downgraded.The A-level results are also expected to show:
  • About 8% will get A*
  • 27% will get A* or A
  • 78% will get A* to C.
The number of top grades being awarded at GCSE level is also expected to rise by around 1% when they are published next Thursday (20 August).The increases echo the results announced in Scotland earlier this month. Students taking National 5s, Higher and Advanced Higher studies achieved higher pass rates than last year.Data from the Scottish Qualification Authority saw 81.1% of National 5s candidates getting an A to C grade compared with 78.2% in 2019. The Higher pass rate rose from 74.8% to 78.9% and Advanced Higher increased from 79.4% to 84.9%.Yet students in the most deprived areas faired worst, with their grades being most likely to be revised downwards. This led Scotland to this week reinstate students’ teacher-estimated grades if they were higher.

Relocate Global Guide to Education and Schools in the UK 2019/20
 Relocate's Guide to Education & Schools in the UK 2019/20 edition is out now!

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How have A-level results been calculated this year?

Yesterday, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson apologised to the nation’s children and young adults for how their education has been interrupted during the pandemic. However, he stopped short of promising a Scotland-style safety-net for England’s students, putting the English approach at odds with Northern Ireland and Wales.Instead, he promised a controversial “triple lock” for students receiving their results today where they can: accept the higher of their estimated grade; take an optional written paper in the autumn examination session, which starts at the beginning of October; or ask to appeal through their school, which would impact other students’ grades and precise details of which are yet to be confirmed.Gavin Williamson’s announcement followed education ministers in Northern Ireland and Wales also taking steps to reassure students.In England, the key information deciding both A-levels and GCSEs is pupil ranking by teacher assessment. These centre-assessment grades are then moderated by the examination boards, incorporating the school or collage’s historic results.In Northern Ireland, A-level candidates will be able to appeal their grades based on their mock exam results and includes AS-level attainment in determining the final result. Students in Wales have also been promised that their final grade will be no lower than their AS-level result.

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Are A-level grades fair this year? 

How A-levels results are being calculated in England has come under fire. Critics say that, as in Scotland, the method is likely to impact some students unfairly, such as those in deprived areas ain what has been described as "a postcode lottery".The fall-back to mock examination results has also attracted criticism for the lack of rigour and different approaches schools and teachers take, especially if some students sat their mocks away from school during lockdown.Responding to these criticisms, Ofqual said yesterday: “The vast majority of the grades students receive will be the same as, or within one grade of, their centre’s grade. Adjustments were only made where necessary to bring consistency to the standards between schools and colleges. However, that moderation was essential to create a level playing for students.”

What do 2020 A-level results mean for university entry?

Despite the changed circumstances, 28,970 students from Scotland were accepted into university or college through UCAS – this was up 220 on Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) results day last year, and despite a fall in the overall number of 18 year olds in the population. Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme this morning, Clare Marchant of UCAS, the university admissions service, sought to reassure students. “The results are broadly good news in a year like no other,” she said, offering her congratulations to students receiving their results today.“There is a 1.5% increase in students being placed today on last year, and nearly 3% more UK students. This is really encouraging, especially if we look at England’s 18 year olds, where 20,000 from the most deprived areas have secured a university place today.”Also speaking on the Today programme, Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said that universities are looking to be “fair and flexible” and take “a range of factors into consideration”. His advice for students receiving a lower grade is to “contact your first-choice university and talk about what the options are. They are ready to help.”Interestingly, insights from IDP Connect, a data-led student marketing and recruitment company, finds that searches for Clearing in the two weeks up to today's results declined 20% on the same period in 2019, and more searches for courses with higher grades, suggesting students are hopeful that results will be better than feared. 

A-level results, STEM, and skills for manufacturers

Commenting on today’s A-level results, Tim Thomas Make UK Director of Labour Market and Skills Policy said, “Importantly for manufacturers, even under this year’s difficult circumstances, STEM subjects overall saw an increase in A*/A grades when compared to 2019 which is encouraging for manufacturers who desperately need digital and tech skills to continue to compete on the global stage.Maths students saw an increase to all grades across the board, which will be welcome news but STEM entries in Biology, Chemistry and Physics collectively fell by 4.9% since 2019, with girls only making up a quarter of Physics entries. There is clearly more to do to support STEM uptake in schools with employers having a major part to play in this push.Regional grade discrepancies need to be dealt with swiftly and fairly to ensure those planning to go to university, HE or employment are not adversely impacted in the longer term. Government must make sure that all appeals and re-sits are fully supported and treated fairly across the board.”

School results:

The British School in the Netherlands: excellent A level and BTEC achievements

Students in Year 13 at the British School in the Netherlands’ (BSN) Senior School Voorschoten campus (SSV) have now received their GCE Advanced Level (A Level) and BTEC results after an extraordinary academic year.The school has maintained its high standards of academic excellence and is delighted to report:
  • 12% of A level grades are A*
  • 33% of A level grades are A*/A
  • 60% of A level grades are A*-B
  • The mean result for A level students is 121 UCAS points, equivalent to BBB grades
  • 50% of students studying for BTEC qualifications achieved Distinction*, equivalent to A* at A level
  • 100% pass rate in the BTEC Extended Diploma
Students have gained places at a wide variety of higher and further education institutions, including The University of Cambridge, Durham University, Bristol University, University College London, Warwick University, Amsterdam University College, Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts (LIPA), Technische Universiteit Delft, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Universiteit Leiden, University of the Arts London, The Hague University of Applied Sciences and Leeds Arts University.They will be studying subjects ranging from Medicine, Veterinary Science and Anthropology to Fine Art, Law and Economics and Criminology, as well as Mathematics, English, Engineering, Sound Technology, Hotel Management, Fashion Design, and Ship Science. Undergraduate courses this year also include Production Arts for the Screen, Film Production, International Business, Social Care and Community Practice, Fashion Communication and Promotion.Paul Topping, Headteacher of SSV and Executive Leader at the (BSN) said, “I sincerely believe that this student generation, whose education has been most impacted by Coronavirus, will become the one that grasps opportunities through the next decade. These students will become agents for change and their ideas, entrepreneurialism, and desire to continue improving the world will be one of the enduring legacies of the 2019/20 academic year. 

Denstone College A level results - a note from the Headmaster, Miles Norris

"It has been an incredibly unusual time for all, and none more so than for our Upper 6th form students. They have worked diligently throughout their final two years of school only to be denied the opportunity to take examinations this summer. However, today they can look forward to embarking on their next steps into the world beyond Denstone College."I am so proud of the way that these Denstonians have worked and dealt with challenging circumstances with such stoicism, adaptability, and maturity. They have shown themselves to be able to cope with the various curveballs that life throws their way – no mean feat.

"Whilst we are yet to be able to come together to celebrate the natural end to their time at the College and their achievements, over their time here I have watched and applauded their growth and development into confident, positive, and ambitious young people. I wish them every success for the future. We will continue to be available to support and advise them as they start the next chapter of their lives."
Denstone College grounds
Denstone College grounds

KING’S Ely Sixth Form students are celebrating an excellent set of A Level results this year, with almost half of all grades achieved being A*s and As

Jonathan Shaw, Head of King’s Ely Senior, said, “We are pleased that the majority of our centre-assessed subject grades were accepted and unchanged by the exam board, recognising the hard work of our students and the expertise of their teachers. King’s Ely is consistently ranked by the Department for Education as one of the best schools in Cambridgeshire for value-added when it comes to A Level results.

Enjoy beautiful singing from ELY Cathedral Choristers who came together – virtually – to record two wonderful lockdown songs.

The girls have recorded ‘How Shall I Sing that Majesty’, sung to Ken Naylor’s tune, Coe Fen, and the boys have recorded one of their Evensong favourites, the ‘Ely Magnificat’ by Ben Parry. 
Choristers sing daily in the magnificent surroundings of the Cathedral, and all are educated at King's Ely, receiving a scholarship which pays a generous proportion of their fees.

King's College Murcia receive their best results in history for A Levels

Pupils from King’s College, The British School of Murcia have excelled in their A Level exams, with graduates setting new records for the school and securing places in top Higher Education institutions in the UK and Spain, as well as other European cities.
  • This year has seen an increase in results, with 49% of A Level entries awarded A*-A grades.
  • The A Level results have led to offers from the World’s Best Universities such as the University of Glasgow and the University of York
  • Similarly students went on to secure places in highly regarded Spanish universities such as the University of Alicante, as well as others located in Europe such as the University of Rotterdam.
Mr Stefan Rumistrzewicz, Headteacher at King’s College Murcia remarked, "These unprecedented times have led to unprecedented results for our pupils in Years 11 and 13. Despite the hardships faced by our older students, they have achieved some of the best results in our young school's history. This is a testament to the tenacity of our pupils here at KCM and to the excellent teaching they receive at our school. Well done to everyone!"

Mayfield: another year of excellent A level results

While the preparation for and build up to A Levels this year may have been unlike any other, Mayfield was able to confirm another set of outstanding grades, with 66% A*/A and 100% pass rate.Mayfield students have secured places at leading universities around the world to study a wide range of academic disciplines: Medicine, Veterinary Science, Biochemistry, Languages, Law, Engineering, and History of Art. The most popular university choices this year are Exeter, Bristol, UCL, Durham, Edinburgh, LSE, Oxford and Cambridge; with other girls progressing to a number of prestigious universities globally, including the USA, Hong Kong and Europe.

Millfield celebrates student achievements in an extraordinary results year

Millfield students are celebrating their achievements today following an extraordinary year with no public summer exams.
Millfield students celebrate their A level results
Millfield students Oliver Burnett, Jasper Williams, Max French, Saskia Portman and Diketso and Khumo Karas
Against a backdrop of downgraded results nationally, Millfield students have seen a significant rise in those attaining the highest grades. (2019 30% of AL grades were A* or A, 2020 34%)At Millfield, 99% of grades are as assessed by the school or one grade different compared to 97% at other schools across the UK (according to the government), meaning that Millfield has seen significantly less variation than will be the case at schools across the country.Millfield’s senior leadership team, careers and sixth form teams are supporting students today and in the coming days with their next steps, advising on UK and overseas university entrance. 

Padworth College A-level results

Padworth College students have seen a significant rise in those attaining the highest grades, with 32% securing an A* or A grade. "We are thrilled that the hard work of our Year 13 students has been recognised.  During the last academic year, the new management team at Padworth College has supported students with a range of new learning strategies, which have paid dividends in the form of focused target setting by the academic staff.  We are delighted that these methods have resulted in a significantly improved set of results."Special congratulations to Aidan, the College’s Head Boy who achieved 3 A* in Biology, Chemistry, Maths.

Record A Level at Reddam House Berkshire in the toughest of years

Students from Reddam House Berkshire have gained access to some of the best universities in the UK, despite the extraordinary circumstances triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic. The school’s online, live and continuous e-learning system stepped in seamlessly for all students, allowing them to continue their studies with no interruption.

The A Level results released this week have risen to record levels in Reddam House Berkshire, with scores way exceeding the UK averages. The school has registered this year 37% of grades at A*, 67% of grades at A*/A and, 93% of grades A* to B. Year 11 students are also celebrating the best set of GCSE results in the school’s history, with 39% of grades at A* (9-8), 63% at A*- A (9 -7 ) and 82% A*- B (9 – 6).

“Despite the very turbulent year that 2020 has proven to be, our Sixth Form students have demonstrated excellent resolve and dedication to their studies, which has culminated in some remarkable cohort and individual achievements, both regarding academic results and university destinations”, says Tammy Howard, Principal of Reddam House Berkshire.With these remarkable grades it is unsurprising to hear that Reddam House students will continue their academic careers at some of the best universities in the world - an amazing 95% of students received their first choice places, including Russell Group and prestigious European Universities, with three students taking their places at Medical School.

We will keep you informed of results from schools popular with those moving into or around the UK and schools around the world offering International A Levels and IGCSE as their results come in. Read more Education and Schools news from Relocate Global.

More coverage in the Autumn issue of Relocate magazine

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