Harlow MP Robert Halfon congratulates students on A Level results day

Education: Secondary / Thu 18th Aug 2022 at 12:53pm

TODAY, students across the country are collecting their A-Level results after sitting their exams for the first time since 2019.

Nationally, initial data shows that 36.4% of students achieved Grade A or above, up from 25.4% in 2019, and down from 44.8% in 2021. Overall, UCAS have said that 425,830 students will be offered their places at university this year, with fewer students going into clearing this year. This means that 19% more students this year have been accepted to university compared to 2019. In the East of England, data shows that 10% more students have been accepted to university this year. Moreover, 71% of the first cohort of T-Level students have gained a place at university. For students from the most disadvantaged backgrounds, almost 47,000 have been accepted representing an increase of 3,770 from 2019.

These initial results are positive, reflecting the trends we expected to see this year as students return to the ‘normal’ exam sittings, in the move away from the centre-assessed and teacher-assessed grading systems in place over the pandemic.

The impact of the pandemic, and school closures for most pupils over the past two years, will of course frame the context for these results. But as further analysis is conducted, it is concerning to see the regional disparities between results this year. In the South East, 39.5% of students achieved a Grade A or above, compared with 30.8% in the North East.

Due to the regional lockdown measures put in place, pupils in the North of England did not return to the classroom as quickly as those in the South. Furthermore, earlier this year, the Education Select Committee, which I chair, released a report on the effectiveness of the Covid Catch-Up programme which highlighted worrying disparities of the take-up of the National Tutoring Programme with over 95% take-up in the South compared to around 56% in the North. As education recovery continues, it will be critical to ensure that the catch-up programme is found to be working for all pupils, regardless of their postcode, to ensure that every child has the ability to succeed and overcome the disruption to their learning.

I am also concerned about the impacts of severe absence in the context of these results. The Centre for Social Justice released a report which highlighted that over 13,000 pupils in critical exam years were severely absent over the past academic years. In August this year, the Sutton Trust released further research which showed that over the past year, a third of A-Level students missed 11 or more days of school for Covid-related reasons with 1 in 5 students missing 4 weeks’ worth of learning. This is a critical issue that must be addressed, and, as I have highlighted previously, the Department must take action to ensure these pupils are returned safely to school to continue their learning.

Yet despite this, I want to thank the teaching and support staff in Harlow whose heroic efforts over the past few years have helped ensure their pupils have been able to get to this point.

I also want to congratulate every student on their results today. I would encourage those who might have just missed out on a place at university, to not feel too disappointed, but to remember that there are other exciting avenues open to them, such as apprenticeships and degree apprenticeships. This pathway offers students the chance to earn while they learn, they won’t be left with student debt and they will be guaranteed a good job at the end of their study.

Whether students are going to university, into the world of work, or embarking on exciting apprenticeship opportunities, Harlow’s young people should feel proud of all they have achieved as they prepare to take their next steps into their futures.

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