On A-level results day, arguably one of the most chaotic and pivotal days marked on the United Kingdom’s academic calendar, 424,000 students learned that they had been accepted into UK universities and colleges.
Aftab Al, a student Editor with the Independent, reports that this year’s placements are up by 3% compared to last year, the highest number of placements on record.
However, the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ) states that the percentage of A*s granted to students is lower this year than last at 8.1% compared to 8.2% — a minor fall, but nevertheless life-changing for those students who just missed out.
Ellen Wallwork of The Huffington Post UK reports an encouraging change to the results, showing that students aged 18 years are 7% more likely to have received a placement this year compared to 2015 results. However, students from more advantaged backgrounds are still 2.5 times more likely to receive a placement.
The gender gap has slightly narrowed this year as compared to 2015 with around 2% more women and 3% more men placed this year, reports Wallwork.
So, what else can A-level results tell us about the education system today?
Rebecca Allen of The Guardian writes in a critical opinion piece that the results of A-level day do not tell the whole story about the effectiveness of teaching and disguise changes that are occurring at a subnational level.
“[T]he distribution of A-level grades is always better in England than it is in Wales. This disparity has increased further, increased further, with 52.8% in England achieving A*-B compared with 48.1% in Wales – versus 52.7% and 49.0% last year.”
Furthermore, the marking system and techniques used require an examination to increase student confidence and enable them to realise their full potential.
Julian Thomas at The Telegraph and Master at Wellington College believes that the marking process is unfair, inconsistent and rushed, and fails to reflect a student’s actual abilities. Thomas proposes that to change this would require a major shift:
“[T]he academic year would have to be reformed to create more time between A-Level results day and the start of the university term, but this could provide a wonderful opportunity for school leavers to complete work placements, gain vital experience in the “real world” and develop some of those soft skills, which employers are desperate to see…”
Around 60,000 students who did not receive a placement with their preferred institution on A-level day last year received an offer through Clearing.
Current students who missed out are being urged to examine course vacancies located on the UCAS website as soon as possible.
It is expected that there will be more placements offered through Clearing than were provided last year.
Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union (UCU), advises students not to rush with their decisions and to avoid placing too much pressure on themselves.
For more information, the Exam Results Helpline is available on 0808 100 8000 and also on Twitter.
The United Kingdom is also set to welcome the highest number of European Union students they ever have, calming concerns surrounding the demand for education in the UK after the nation’s decision to leave the EU.