The last few years of results have been characterised by uncertainty. The ramifications of the pandemic and distance learning have continued to impact pupil performance, with exam boards and the Department for Education adjusting assessment in order to account for these extraordinary circumstances.
Now 2023 is being seen as more of a return to normality, as students awaiting results have had a relatively undisrupted two years in the run-up to their exams. AS level, A level and VTQ exams and assessments in England returned to pre-pandemic arrangements, while most GCSE exams also went back to normal.
Ofqual confirmed last September a return to pre-pandemic grading in 2023. The regulatory department has put in place protection against the impact of the pandemic disruption: where national performance is found to be lower than it was prior to the pandemic, allowances will be made by examiners in setting grade boundaries. However, largely there isn’t expected to be significant changes to how assessment is being graded compared to pre-pandemic.
This is in contrast to more lenient grading over the past three years, to account for the disruptions students have faced. This year, it’s predicted that results will fall back to pre-pandemic levels, so grades may be lower than students and schools are expecting.
Another challenge students and their teachers are having to prepare for is the likelihood of fewer university places being available this year, as we saw in 2022.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) wrote to students to warn them that due to an increase in 18-year-olds in the population, “there will be competition for higher education places again this year as more students seek to go to university or college.”
This population boom is coupled with this year being the second highest on record for 18-year-olds applying to an undergraduate course, as revealed by UCAS data. January figures showed 314,660 UK 18-year-olds had applied, a significant increase from the pre-pandemic figure of 275,300 in January 2020.
As students and teachers gear up for this pivotal moment in the academic year, it remains to be seen if 2023 does become a return to normal, following a challenging period for everyone across the education sector. There are a few things schools can do to prepare for this year’s results to support students to navigate and celebrate the day.
Tips for schools managing results this year:
- After results days, it’s important to celebrate everyone’s achievements, and to shine a spotlight on all types of qualifications and next steps, including vocational and academic. Not only is this significant for the current cohort, but it will also ensure younger students are aware of the huge range of opportunities and pathways available to them.
- Demonstrating your school’s success to the local community is important for raising its profile and attractive prospective students. This can be done through social media channels; the school website; and sharing the news with local press.
- However, for students who are planning to go to university this September, with the scramble for places there may be an increase in those not getting their first choice. More than ever, it will be essential to have people on hand to support with navigating the clearing process, and to offer encouragement to those who have had a change of plans.
- Similarly, for students who haven’t achieved the exam results they were hoping for, they will need to know that there are still lots of options are available to them, despite not everything panning out as expected.
Like always there will undoubtedly be lots to celebrate on both results days, as years of hard work pays off and students get ready to take their next steps. With that being said, it’s also important to remember that exams are not the be-all and end-all; education is about so much more than the mark at the end, and every student (and school) has lots to be proud of.