A-level Results Day 2017: Results could rise in Suffolk and Essex despite national ‘chaos’ concerns
PUBLISHED: 07:35 17 August 2017 | UPDATED: 10:48 17 August 2017
Thousands of students in Suffolk and Essex receive their long-awaited A-level results today, with early reports suggesting the region could post an unexpected rise in results amid national concerns over toughened-up reforms and exam “chaos”.
Fears have been growing across England that the biggest A-level and GCSE exam shake-up in a generation – former education secretary Michael Gove’s legacy to improve standards, match other countries and better identify top-performing students – would result in turmoil this summer.
A-level coursework and modular exams have been largely scrapped, AS results do not count towards an A-level, and content has been beefed up, with university input.
But last night, headteachers told this newspaper that results either equalled or surpassed last year’s results.
Exams regulator Ofqual has lowered the mark thresholds this year to help protect students.
Alan Whittaker, principal of Ipswich sixth form One, formerly Suffolk One, which has the largest Year 13 intake in the county with around 500 students, said: “Early indications suggest that this will be another excellent year for One in terms of our students’ results and maintaining our consistent high performance.
“There are a number of particularly outstanding success stories, with many subjects significantly exceeding national averages. This is testament to the hard work of students and staff.”
Northgate High School in Ipswich and Woodbridge School are expected to report “excellent” results today.
John Panayi, headteacher at Hedingham School in Essex, declared himself “delighted” with their results this year.
He said: “This has been a difficult year for students with the introduction of new, untested qualifications. This level of uncertainty naturally adds more pressure for the staff and students to deal with.”
In Suffolk last year, 98.5% of grades were A* to E, up from 98% in 2015. Some 76% of grades were A* to C, down from 77% in 2015.
In Essex, A* to C grades fell from 78.3% in 2015 to 76% last year. A* to E grades fell slightly from 99% to 98.3%.
Former Suffolk headteacher Geoff Barton, the Association of School and College Leaders general secretary, said the reforms have “sounded the death knell for AS-levels.” He argued they broaden the curriculum and are valued by students, employers, and universities.
Under the previous system, sixth-formers typically took four subjects in their first year of the sixth-form, before deciding which three to continue with to full A-level in their second year.
AS grades were often used by universities in making offers to applicants, as they were an indicator of a student’s final A-level results.
The move to decouple AS-levels proved controversial at the time it was announced, with universities - including Cambridge - headteachers and MPs among its critics.
Ministers argued that universities learn little more from knowing teenagers’ AS-level results in addition to GCSE grades and insisted that the reform should not affect university admissions.
This year will also see the first A-level grades given in 13 subjects which have been reformed - art and design, biology, business, chemistry, computer science, economics, English language, English language and literature, English literature, history, physics, psychology and sociology.
These changes mean that students sit all exams at the end of the two-year-courses, rather than throughout, with less coursework.