Sunderland university chief reassures students after 'anxiety and stress' over A Level results during pandemic

Universities have stepped in to provide the ‘reassurance’ many pupils feel the government failed to provide, according to a North East education chief.
Sunderland University vice chancellor Sir David Bell.Sunderland University vice chancellor Sir David Bell.
Sunderland University vice chancellor Sir David Bell.

Teenagers across the country have been receiving the results of A level and other qualifications today Thursday, August 13 – despite having not seen the inside of an exam hall, or even a classroom, for months.

And while the COVID-19 outbreak has caused uncertainty for many, Sunderland’s university boss think higher education providers have stepped in to fill a void left by the government.

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“I don’t think anything announced [by ministers] in the last couple of days has caused [universities] any additional difficulty,” said Sir David Bell, vice chancellor and chief executive at the University of Sunderland.

“But I think anxiety and stress [has been felt among pupils].

“I think it reinforces the point that universities have adapted tremendously well to this and it is universities this morning which are providing the reassurance many students feel they haven’t had up until now.”

Sir David was speaking on BBC Radio 4’s World at One show on Thursday, August 13, as early estimates suggested more than a third of grades awarded in A levels, BTECs and other qualifications were lower than expected.

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On Wednesday, August 12, the government announced plans for an exam results ‘triple lock’.

This is expected to allow pupils to instead take grades they were awarded in earlier mock exams, if these are higher than the marks they have been awarded today.

But although the coronavirus pandemic has led to a massive overhaul in how qualifications are managed this year, Sir David believes the education machine has largely been able to ride out the storm so far.

“In some ways there are many similarities to previous years,” he told BBC presenter Edward Stourton.

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Clearing is a stressful process and we seek as best we can to reassure students, talk them through their options and hopefully provide them with a good alternative.”

Before that he was vice chancellor at the University of Reading and Permanent Secretary at the Department for Education.

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