Jubilant A Level students descended onto the high street to celebrate their success tonight after the UK recorded a new record in the number of pupils receiving top grades in their exams.
Scores of teenagers appeared in hight spirits as they swapped a night in at home to hit the numerous bars and clubs and celebrate with their friends into the small hours after completing their A Levels amid the pandemic.
In Newcastle, crowds of revellers took to the streets to toast their success and in Leeds groups of students were seen queuing outside the city’s bars and clubs as they decided to let their hair down.
The scenes of celebration come after more than two in five, 44.8 per cent, of UK entries were awarded an A or A* grade this summer – up by 6.3 percentage points on last year when 38.5 per cent achieved the top grades.
And according to an analysis by Ofqual, some 6.9 per cent of students in England were awarded three A*s this year – compared with 4.3 per cent in 2020 and 1.6 per cent in 2019, the last time they sat exams, as critics warned the education system had descended into the ‘wild west of grading’.
A group of A-levels students take to the streets in Newcastle as celebrate their exam success along with thousands across the country
Jubilant teenagers celebrate their exam success in Newcastle after more than two in five, 44.8 per cent, of UK entries were awarded an A or A* grade this summer
A group of pupils let their hair down and toast their success in Newcastle after receiving their A Levels results yesterday
A group of friends queue outside a club in Leeds as thousands across the country take to the streets to celebrate their exam results
Tonight, groups of pupils dressed up to the nines as they hit the bars and clubs across the UK and prepared to celebrate into the early hours.
It came as the total number of students accepted on to UK degree courses rose by five per cent on the same point last year, with 435,430 taking up places so far, according to initial Ucas figures.
Last night, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson defended this year’s record high A Level grades but admitted there may still not be exams next year with teachers deciding the results again.
Writing in the Telegraph, Mr Williamson said: ‘Because of the extraordinary conditions we have faced as a country, we announced in January that exams would not go ahead this year – it would have been unfair on students who had already given up so much in the battle against coronavirus.
‘Their hard work, however, deserves to be rewarded with a qualification. We must support these students in looking to the future, because their whole lives are in front of them.’
Asked on Sky News what the contingency plans are for next year’s exams, Mr Williamson said: ‘In the last academic year we have conducted an extensive consultation as we move back to examinations, and in a few weeks’ time as we go back into the winter period we will be doing another extensive consultation as to the contingency, which will be largely based around teacher-assessed grades.
‘We very much hope that we will be moving to a system of where we are able to move into the more normal pattern of examinations from next year, but always conscious that this pandemic, we have not always been able to predict the course of it, it has continuously changed, and it’s absolutely right that we have contingencies there, as we always do.’
Asked if he was ruling out teacher assessments for this time next year, he said: ‘What we are saying is you will probably have seen our consultation in the last academic year, we are very much planning to move back to examinations as a form of assessment, but we always have to have a contingency plan in place, and that’s why we will be consulting in the next academic year on those plans.’
Mr Williamson has said ’employers can have real confidence’ in the grades awarded to pupils.
Speaking to Sky News, he said: ‘This is a culmination of 13 years in education, I think we should be incredibly proud of their achievements, incredibly proud of the grades that they achieve.’
He said: ‘We do have a rigorous system of grading and awarding. People have been awarded this grade on the basis of evidence.
‘We took a difficult decision, and that decision was children were to be assessed on what they had been taught. We have seen various amounts of disruption around the country and children’s experiences have been different.
‘But still, you have a very clear grading system, you still see children who are achieving A*s, As, Bs, Cs, have really achieved so very, very much, and I think employers can have real confidence in the grades that they get. Let’s not forget this is an unprecedented year.’
A group of friends queue outside a club in Birmingham as thousands across the country celebrate their exam success
A group of students celebrate their exam success by taking to the streets on Newcastle tonight after the UK recorded a new record high in A Level results
A group of friends arrive to Leeds city centre as they celebrate with thousands of other pupils across the country tonight
The scenes of celebration come after 44.8 per cent, of UK entries were awarded an A or A* grade this summer – up by 6.3 percentage points on last year when 38.5 per cent achieved the top grades
Groups of friends hit the streets of Newcastle (left and right) after analysis by Ofqual recorded some 6.9 per cent of students in England were awarded three A*s this year
Crowds of pupils appear in high spirits as they take to the streets of Newcastle and prepare to celebrate into the small hours
A group of students strike a pose as they arrive to Leeds city centre and prepare to celebrate with their friends
Crowds of A Level students queue outside a club in Leeds as they toast their record breaking exam results tonight
A group of students take to the streets of Newcastle after the UK saw a record haul of top A Level marks yesterday
A group of friends smile with delight as they celebrate their exam success in Newcastle along with thousands of students across the country
Students pour onto the streets in Leeds after thousands across the country received their A Level results yesterday
The scenes of celebration come as the total number of students accepted on to UK degree courses rose by five per cent on the same point last year
Queues begin to form outside a club in Leeds as hundreds descend onto the street and prepare to party into the night
Earlier today, education campaigners said the pandemic had ‘compounded’ inequality in schools, especially for those in poorer areas, and there are also signs that middle class children in sixth-form colleges and grammar schools were falling further behind private school counterparts.
As private schools pulled further away from state counterparts, Conservative MP Robert Halfon, chair of the Commons Education Committee, warned the last year ‘has been nothing short of a national disaster for our disadvantaged pupils’.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One programme: ‘I do worry about the fact that we seem to have, in essence, baked a hard rock cake of grade inflation into our exam results. I would have preferred a system which had some kind of standardised assessment – and we wrote to the secretary of state, our education committee, in March urging that this would be done.’
He added: ‘Every effort from the Government should be to focus on reducing that attainment gap, I’d like to see the Prime Minister announce a serious long-term plan for education – the last year has been nothing short of a national disaster for our disadvantaged pupils.’
Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chair of the Sutton Trust and chair of the Education Endowment Foundation, said: ‘Since March 2020, our research has consistently shown how much harder state schools – particularly those in less affluent areas – have been hit by the pandemic.
Pupils smile with joy as take to the streets in Leeds and toast passing their A Level exams along with others across the UK
Students let their hair down and party into the early hours after completing their A Levels amid the pandemic
Cheerful students take to the streets and celebrate passing their A Level exams following this year’s record high A Level grades
A group of friends walk along the street and prepare to celebrate into the night after receiving their A Level results
This year, teachers in England submitted their decisions on pupils’ grades after drawing on a range of evidence, including mock exams, coursework, and in-class assessments
‘The pandemic has compounded existing inequalities and today’s results are a reflection of that. We’re seeing growing gaps between independent and state schools at the top grades’.
He added that university admissions should be weighted in favour of ‘lower income youngsters’ and ‘disadvantaged students’.
This year, teachers in England submitted their decisions on pupils’ grades after drawing on a range of evidence, including mock exams, coursework, and in-class assessments using questions by exam boards.
The Department for Education has said all A-level grades have been checked by schools as part of a quality assurance (QA) process – and one in five schools had a sample of their grades checked by exam boards.
Last summer, the fiasco around grading led to thousands of A-level students having their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm before Ofqual announced a U-turn.
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