Top A Level grades fall

Today’s A level results show a fall in grades but 79% still get their first choice of university.

A Level results 2023
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The number of top A level grades has fallen sharply this year as boards seek to return grading to pre-pandemic levels. Overall, 65,000 less A*-A grades were awarded this year compared with 2022, after results peaked in 2021 when over 45 per cent of grades awarded were A or A*. The proportion of A*-A grades has decreased from 36.4% last year to 27.2%.The number of pupils accepted onto UK degree courses has also fallen by 2.6 per cent compared to last year, according to initial UCAS figures. Despite the grade deflation, 79 per cent of students still got their first choice of university, down from 81 per cent last year but up from 74 per cent in 2019. For those who missed out there are over 29,000 courses and 8000 apprenticeships available in UCAS clearing.This year’s results mark the end of  a two-year process, with exams in summer 2022 graded halfway between those of 2019 and the teacher assessed grades of 2021.

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The squeeze in university places is exacerbated by the increasing number of 18-year-olds in the population and will continue to rise by around three per cent a year until 2030.  Statistics from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show there are around 775,000 Britons aged 18 in 2023, up 25,000 on last year.“This year is particularly tough,” UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant told BBC Radio 4 last week. The 2023 cohort had teacher assessed GCSE exams with A levels being their first experience of public exams and have been further disadvantaged by the long term impact of covid and this year’s teacher strikes. According to England’s exams regulator, Ofqual, while the objective is to return to pre-pandemic results, additional protection has been built in this year that allows grade boundaries to be altered if senior examiners find countrywide evidence of a drop in standards compared with 2019.Writing in The Sunday Times, Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said she wanted to bring “fairness” back to the system and urged teenagers to consider alternatives to university such as apprenticeships.“This is about making sure we have a system that treats pupils fairly compared with previous years, and equally whatever background they come from, school they attend, or part of the country the grow up in,” she said.Demand for university places has grown with 314,000 applications this year, the second highest on record.For students who do miss their grades or want to change course UCAS has 29,000 courses available in clearing. “We know young people can change their minds on the course they want to do between when they apply and when they get their results,” UCAS’ Clare Marchant told BBC Radio 4.England has seen the largest drop in top grades after taking a tougher stance this year compared with Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, which have taken a more gradual approach to reach pre-pandemic grade levels. The secretary of state for education Gillian Keegan says this will not affect university admissions as university admissions officers have planned for the differences in approach.Last week the schools minister Nick Gibb said results in England needed to return to pre pandemic levels to ensure A levels retained their credibility with employers, universities and colleges.Despite fears there has been an increase in the number of international students accepted to UK universities, Marchant says the figure is around 15 per cent and is not expected to change significantly this year. Despite this, a report in The Times this week showed one and a half more clearing places were available to international students than home applicants.For those disappointed with their grades Helen Kitching, a chartered psychologist with the British Psychological Society says there are always alternatives: “It can be tough if you have got your heart set on a particular course or location but remain open to other possibilities such as a year out to work, volunteer or travel. Whatever you results, this is not the end of the world. there are other options that can help you achieve the future you want, and deserve.”

Where to find help for courses available in for apprenticeships and degree for apprenticeships in the – helpfline on  0800 100 900 to talk to a careers advisor or use webchatFor students stressed about their results find help at; ChildLine on 0800 1111 or on  0300 123 3393

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