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A-level results West Berkshire: School and pupil reaction after coronavirus cancels exams

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Dan Cooper

Dan Cooper

dan.cooper@newburynews.co.uk

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A-level results West Berkshire: School and pupil reaction after coronavirus cancels exams

PUPILS across West Berkshire and North Hampshire will receive their A-level results today (Thursday).

But it will be a very different experience this year as results will, for the first time, be predicted by teachers after exams were cancelled due to the coronavirus crisis.

The usual scenes of pupils hugging each other in celebration outside schools as they open their envelopes are unlikely to take place, as social distancing measures will need to be observed.

Although the Newbury Weekly News won’t be out and about at all the schools this year, we are running our live blog as the results come in from 8am.

Please do send us pictures and selfies of you celebrating your results too – we’d love to see them and will include as many as possible in the blog.

If you want to share, you can send them newsdesk@newburynews.co.uk tweet us @NewburyToday message us through the NewburyToday Facebook page or @NewburyToday on Instagram 

Results for the two-year period will be based on teachers’ earlier predictions and their confidence in individual students’ ability to achieve that mark.

These predicted grades will be submitted and then external examination boards will moderate the estimated grades, using various factors, such as mock results and non-exam assessments, to determine the final outcome.

It emerged this week that teenagers will also be able to turn to the appeals process to ask exam boards for their mock results to be used instead.

Their school or college will then have to provide evidence of the marks they received for the practice exams earlier in the year.

If they meet the criteria, the mock results can be declared ‘valid’ and used for progression to university.

There will be an opportunity to effectively take a resit in any A-level subject this autumn.

These exams are scheduled between October 5 and 23.

If students achieve a worse result in the resit, the highest grade they have achieved in that subject will count.

The Government says this option gives young people a ‘triple lock’ – they can accept the results from exam boards, ask for their mock results to be used instead or sit an external exam to improve their performance.

If pupils do not get the results they were hoping for, or are considering their options, here are some suggestions:

If you need to contact the issuing board Ofqual email public.enquiries@ofqual.gov.uk or call 0300 303 3344

 If you are still considering options, talk to your teachers, tutors and family, and take a look at some of the following:

Further Education: Newbury College offer a range of courses at various levels, including apprenticeships and vocational/technical pathways up to degree level and beyond.

Apprenticeships and Traineeships: West Berkshire Training Consortium offers a range of employment focussed programmes including Great Start, Traineeships, new Enhanced Traineeships and Apprenticeships.

Careers advice:  Along with your school, college or training provider, the Careers & Enterprise Company will be offering support throughout the summer, including the My Choices resource.  A series of webinars and projects delivered locally offering young pepple and parents/guardians tailored information and support. The National Careers Service will again be delivering the Exam Results Helpline during August this year. Young people or their parents can contact the helpline on 0800 100 900 to speak to a professionally qualified careers adviser if they need advice on their next steps.

The helpline will be open from 8am to 10pm from today until Friday, August 28. After these dates, young people will be able to access ongoing support from the National Careers Service at any time by calling 0800 100 900, visiting the National Careers Service website https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/ or searching for the National Careers Service on Facebook and Twitter.

Berkshire Opportunities: The new Thames Valley gateway to explore jobs, apprenticeships and courses in Berkshire is now open at Berkshire Opportunities.

Denefield School and Padworth College have given their reactions.

5.30pm

Park House School praises "exceptional students making a positive difference in exceptional times".

5.30pm

Little Heath School is very pleased with its Year 13 pupils.

3.49pm

Results and reaction from The Willink School: "Overall, school results are in line with targets."

1.50pm

The results and reaction is in from Kennet School, Thatcham. Our reporter was at the school this morning talking to pupils and the headteacher. 

1.37pm 

Results are in at St Bartholomew's School

12.30pm

Results are in at Pangbourne College, with many students getting into their first choice universities.

11.20am

We've got some results in from Theale Green School.

11.05am

Park House School headteacher Derek Peaple probably didn't think this was the way he would spend his last A-level results day before retiring.

He told us: "In the added context of all that they have experienced, we couldn’t be more proud of everything that our young people have achieved. A truly special year group have risen to all the challenges of this extraordinary year.

"They are to be congratulated and celebrated.

"Most importantly, however, grades alone will never define what every one of these young people have contributed to the life of the school and the wider community. Exceptional students making a positive difference in exceptional times."

Director of studies for Key Stage 5, Ben Hawkins, added: "The grades that they have been awarded reflect the commitment and talent shown throughout the two years of their study in the Sixth Form." 

10.50am

We've got some results from St Gabriel's School in Newbury.

10.45am

The results are, understandably, coming in very slowly this year. Because it is hard for schools to paint an overall picture of how they have performed we are mainly getting details of who has performed well.

However, the schools – again understandably – won't release that information before the pupil has picked up their results.

That's why there is a bit of a delay today. But we are starting to get bits in, so please do bear with us and keep checking back!

9.50am

We've got some results from Trinity School.

8.40am

Principal at Newbury's St Gabriel's School, Ricki Smith, said: "This year will be remembered for many reasons. However, it is important that we do not let it be defined by the impact of the pandemic, but by the educational growth and achievement that has prospered at St Gabriel’s, despite this circumstance.

"I am most grateful for the professionalism and dedication shown by all staff through this difficult time."

7.43am

What you can do if you don't get the results you were hoping for

Thousands of pupils in West Berkshire and North Hampshire are nervously awaiting A-level results in an exam year that has been like no other.

With tests scrapped because of coronavirus, this year's results are more about predictions.

School and colleges have spent the time they would ordinarily have been overseeing exams instead predicting the grades they believe their pupils would have achieved if they'd been able to sit their actual A-levels.

Those predictions were then sent to exam boards to be adjusted – or standardised – in an attempt to ensure that this year’s grades are not hugely out of sync with last year’s results or do not become too dissimilar to what students achieve in 2021.

But this method of deciding 2020 grades is causing huge levels of anxiety with many worried that individual results, particularly from high-achieving students in lower performing schools, will be downgraded by a computer and a statistical model.

Exam results in Scotland, released last week, are already causing their own controversy with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon admitting the government “did not get it right” over the way it moderated grades, with those downgraded results having now been scrapped in favour of teacher predictions.

In Westminster, Education Secretary Gavin Williamson swiftly followed with his own fresh announcement late on Tuesday – offering students a fresh ‘triple-lock’ system in which they will have the choice to take the highest grade from either their estimated result, their mocks or an optional written exam in the autumn.

But what options are open to students who don't get given the results they were hoping for?

Usually, if A-level grades are hugely different to what was expected, there are very clearly set-out appeal systems and processes in place. But this year things could be a little different.

Here's what to do, and the options you or your teenager may have:

Can you appeal?

If the predictions given this morning aren't what you were expecting, speak to the school in the first instant.

As a result of the Government’s ‘triple lock’ option, there is now the opportunity to appeal this moderated grade in favour of a mock exam result (should the pupil have sat one) if that was a higher mark.

But only teaching staff at schools or colleges can appeal these A-level results on behalf of their pupils.

Individual pupils are not able to contest their results by themselves because they think they would have done better if they had been able to sit the actual A-level exams.

Instead it will be the job of schools or colleges to raise the appeal if there is the option to revert to a mock result or if results the school has been given don’t, in its view, reflect recent improvements.

A school can also appeal for a student if it is thought that there has been some error in the process, but you must be clear on what basis it is the result is being appealed.

If a school or college won’t submit an appeal to the exam board on a student’s behalf, it must have a process in place for you to ask for a review of that decision says the Government.

Students are being encouraged to speak to their chosen university if they don’t get given the grades they were hoping for

Resits

Sitting exams in the autumn is an option for those who missed out on taking actual exams this summer and wish to defer going to university.

Any student who wants to explore this option must speak to their school or college as they will need to be entered for the subjects they wish to retake and students will have to take all the exam papers in that chosen resit subject.

The Government has promised to cover the cost for schools of anyone who wishes to enter autumn exams in this way.

Anyone achieving a different grade in the exam will be able to use whichever mark is higher for either university applications or for adding to CVs when finding a job.

New results will be based on exam performance only. There will be no non-exam assessments and results from previous non-exam assessments are not expected to be included or considered. Only students whose summer exams in 2020 were cancelled can resit this autumn.

With many gap year travel plans on hold more students are expected to enter Clearing in search of a degree course

UCAS and Clearing

If you didn’t get the required grades for the course or university you were hoping for speak to the university you had chosen. It may still accept you on to the course, especially if you missed out on their requirement by a very small amount.

If you’re not able to get on that course then one of the options may be to use the UCAS Clearing service to match you and your grades with a course that you want.

With many gap year plans on hold because of restrictions around the world relating to the pandemic and concerns over job prospects and unemployment, many more students are expected to enter the UCAS clearing system this week in search of a suitable university course.

Last year 73,325 students found a degree course in this way, with some experts predicting the figure could be close to 80,000 this August.

But with many foreign students not expected to come to the UK this year to study because of coronavirus, there may also be more options available through Clearing than in previous years as demand from oversees could be less.

Students who are part of an exam results appeal that has been lodged by their school or college should have until September 7 before universities they have applied to will want to make final decisions on who is being admitted to courses and the Government is asking everyone to be as flexible as possible.

But before accepting any new course, try to do some research in order to be sure that the university or its course is what you were looking for. It would also be worth being sure about how teaching will be delivered and what university life will look like in light of the pandemic.

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