Watch as Sixth Form head expresses concerns about students disadvantaged by lack of pandemic grade leniency

This is the first cohort of students in England to see A level grades returned to pre-pandemic levels.
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Whitburn C of E Academy Sixth Form head, Lee Craggs, feels it's “harsh” and has concerns that this year’s cohort of A Level students could be disadvantaged after exam boards were told to bring A Level and other level 3 qualification results back in line with pre pandemic levels.

The last two years have seen inflated A Level results due to a combination of school based assessments, more lenient grade boundaries and students being pre warned about topics which would be on the examination papers.

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The measures were in place to compensate for periods of study missed and disruption caused due to Covid lockdowns and and home schooling, and while some measures were retained in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, examination boards in England were instructed to return grades to the levels seen in 2019.

As a result, 27% of students across the country got A or A* grades - down from a peak of around 45% during the pandemic - and there was a two percent fall in the number of students gaining a place at their first choice universities.

The key question is in years to come, when it comes to competing for employment and future education and training places, will this cohort of English students be at a disadvantage?

It’s certainly something which concerns Mr Craggs who said: “We were told grade boundaries would be returning to pre-pandemic standards and that we should compare grades with 2019. 

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“This would seem harsh given that this group of students faced unprecedented disruption to their studies during Years 10 and 11.

“Many students were unable to sit their external GCSEs, so to have to do external examinations for the first time in their A Levels, with very little leniency, there is a worry about how employers will view that and in future.

"When these students apply for jobs with their grades, will employers remember and understand that they had this disruption and their grades don’t reflect the leniency that previous years had?”

Whitburn C of E Academy head of Sixth Form, Lee Craggs.Whitburn C of E Academy head of Sixth Form, Lee Craggs.
Whitburn C of E Academy head of Sixth Form, Lee Craggs.

It was a sentiment shared by students both at Whitburn C of E Academy and Sunderland College who were collecting their results this morning (August 17).

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George Holman, 18, said: “I do think it's a bit unfair as we missed out on a lot of time in school and building that foundation for Sixth Form.

“Although I suppose the Government do have to draw the line somewhere.”

Sunderland College student Emily Pearce, 18, added: “Hearing on the news about grades being reduced to pre pandemic levels did make me more anxious about how I would be affected and how well I had done.

“Our cohort has also been affected by Covid and I do feel we also should have had special consideration.”

Robert AdamsonRobert Adamson
Robert Adamson
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However Whitburn C of E Academy student Robert Adamson, 18, said: “I’m fine with the grades going back to how they were as the grade inflation in the last couple of years has been ridiculous.”

Sunderland College principal Tone Rhodes said: “We were always expecting some fluctuation around the grades and we have prepared the students for this.”

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