14 Aug '14

News A-levels results day and university clearing - live updates

Around 300,000 students in England, Wales and NI learn A-level resultsOverall A* to E pass rate drops marginally, by 0.1%, while A* rate rises slightlyDfE calls fall insigificant, CBI and others echo thisShare your school success stories via GuardianWitness 11.54am BST I like this PA photo of students in Rochdale passing on the good (or bad) news to loved ones. Elsewhere, its amazing the prevalence of pictures of brainy twins. All the non-academic twins are presumably locked away in classrooms for the day. 11.48am BST We had news from Northern Ireland earlier. Heres the A-level picture from Wales, via PA:The percentage of Welsh students getting the highest grades at A-levels has risen for the first time in five years. The number of those who gained A* grades is up from 6% in 2013 to 6.7% - the highest since the grade was introduced in 2010. 11.23am BST There are responses to A-level day landing in my inbox at a rate of around two a minute. Heres a selection:John Cridland, CBI director-general:Genuine concern over grade inflation in recent years means we should not beat ourselves up if grades and overall passes dont go up each and every year. Whats more important is that we have an education system which fully prepares young people for life outside the school and college gates, with the skills and character to do well in life and to get an opportunity to show what they can do.We congratulate all A-level students on their hard work and well-deserved grades. We wish them all the best in their future studies and careers.This can be a nerve-wracking time and it is inevitable some students will miss their offer or do better than expected. The important thing is to stay calm - all our universities have people on hand to help and UCAS can be contacted on 0371 468 0468 or via their website. Some of our universities may have more places to offer to students who have done better than expected, or for highly-qualified students who have narrowly missed out on their first choice.Congratulations to all students receiving their results today and to those who have secured their place at university this autumn. Students should be proud of what they have achieved and those who have chosen to go to university can look forward to the life-changing opportunities that a university course offers. For the first time, numbers of students accepted to university or college to study a degree could top 500,000 by the end of the cycle. 11.19am BST A-level day https://t.co/bwDl6IsR4c via @audiobooSteven Morris has moved on to Redland Green School in Bristol, where he spoke to the headteacher, Sarah Baker. 11.17am BST The Department for Education has put out this slightly peevish-sounding statement about the very small drop in the overall pass rate:This is an insignificant drop of just 0.1 of a per cent in the pass rate from A* to E. We are never going to get a pass rate of 100% and we should not expect one. An exam which no one fails would not be worth much. This figure indicates stability much more than change. 11.05am BST Heres a very heartwarming individual success story, from the Press Association:An aspiring doctor who fled strife-torn Iraq to the UK at the age of six wants to give back to the country after she achieved four A* A-level grades. Rochdale Sixth Form College student Hana Barzinji, 18, will now go on to study medicine at the University of Manchester where she is determined to repay Britain for taking in her and her family. 11.00am BST A trawl through the photo wires reveals that students up and down the country are still being instructed by photographer to leap into the air. Other common themes include hugs, tears, and beaming/sobbing students on the phone to their parents. 10.54am BST Further to the comments from the National Union of Students earlier about AS-levels, my colleague Jade Azim sends news that the NUS has now launched an official Save The AS Level campaign, complete with #SaveTheAS hashtag.Heres the NUSs full statement. 10.47am BST Heres something you might now know: under data protection laws students are entitled to see the comments made by the examiners on their exam papers. The Information Commissioners Office are publicising this, and have full details here. 10.42am BST We want your stories and pictures!If you use Instagram, share your images and thoughts with the community team using #AlevelsGDN Tell us: 1. How you feel about your results 2. What hopes do you have for the future - do your A-levels matter? Well use a selection of the best in a piece on the Guardian website 10.31am BST Hugs and smiles - A-level students at North Bristol Post 16 centre. pic.twitter.com/BA82M2y7hEA-levels - A phone call back to an anxious parent at North Bristol Post 16 Centre pic.twitter.com/L7msJTDCoAStraight A student Ibrahim Bashir at North Bristol Post 16 Centre - he's off to study medicine. pic.twitter.com/gKT2Js1wtu 10.29am BST A-levels https://t.co/Pya6lAPoCi via @audiobooMy colleague, Steven Morris, has been spending the morning at North Bristol Post-16 Centre, seeing the joy and despair. This student, John Ball, is happy. 10.24am BST Three of the big teaching unions have had their say on todays results. Not unexpectedly and with some justification part of their view is that the success is also down to the efforts of teachers.Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said:Congratulations must go to young people and their teachers who have worked so hard to deliver yet another excellent set of results. It is clear that standards have been maintained across the board and credit for that must go to teachers who have, yet again, pulled out all the stops to ensure that young people are supported to achieve their best.2014 was the first year without the opportunity for January resits, therefore reducing the opportunities for taking and re-taking elements of qualifications. This explains much of the variation experienced by some students and their schools. This years outcomes are testimony to the effective partnership between students and teachers.Whether this will be sufficient to withstand the impact of the governments ill-conceived and too-hastily implemented reform programme in years to come remains to be seen.Today is a real good news story. It shows how hard students and teachers have worked in the face of changes to exams to achieve results that are as high as ever. We warmly congratulate students and their teachers on everything they have achieved this year. A 0.6 per cent increase in the number of A* grades is understandable. More universities are asking for A* grades. Students and teachers know this and have worked very hard to reach the demanding standards of this top grade. They deserve to be congratulated. 10.15am BST Its notable how many emails Im receiving from PR agencies employed by private schools to trumpet their A-level success. Much of this is not especially newsworthy. But one message stands out. Sheffield High School, a private school despite the name, is publicising the somewhat jaw-dropping achievements of one Clare Rees Zimmerman.She learned this morning she has passed five A-levels at A*, meaning she now has a combined total of nine A-levels, eight at A* passes and one at a mere A. Oh yes, and 13 A* passes at GCSE. 10.05am BST Nicky Morgan, the new education secretary, has spoken. Heres her take on todays results:Im delighted to see more students, especially young women, studying maths and sciences and teachers having more time to push pupils to achieve the very top grades. This will help them secure the top jobs, regardless of their background, and secure a brighter future. 10.02am BST Students in Northern Ireland have, again, done very well. My colleague, Henry McDonald, sends this:Northern Ireland has once again outperformed the rest of the UK in terms of A-level results.Almost 30% of pupils gained either A* or A grades in the region this year. The Joint Council for Qualifications noted there had been a slight increase in the number A* grades to 7.3% of students - a jump of almost 1 % compared to 2013. 9.56am BST Michael Gove might be watching results day from afar, but hell be pleased at this news: the first sixth form free school in England has announced a very strong set of A-levels.The London Academy of Excellence, set up two years ago in Stratford, east London, with a view to getting more students from disadvantaged backgrounds into top universities, says 57 of its first cohort got places at Russell Group universities, with four going to Oxford or Cambridge. In 2010, only three students from the entire borough of Newham won Oxbridge spots. 9.47am BST We have a new quote from the universities minister, Greg Clark. Today is, he said, a real red letter day for everyone. Well, probably not everyone feels that way right now, but I know what he means. Heres what he said: I think it is great news. The fact we have got record numbers of people going to university is a great day for the students, who worked very hard to get in, and a good day for the country as we want to see people realising their potential. Its a record number of people placed on results day and as the weeks ahead progress it is looking likely the 500,000 barrier will be broken. 9.43am BST On the specifics of language A-levels, the British Council has sent this from their schools adviser, Vicky Gough:While the percentage of foreign language A-levels is similar to last year, the fact is weve still hit another low - with a 7.4% drop in the number of French exams. More than 10,000 fewer language exams were taken this year than at the end of the 90s. With such a low base, stability sadly isnt good enough - the UK needs far more young people to learn languages to a high standard in order to stay competitive on the world stage, and to become the language teachers of the future. Understanding another language is key to understanding another culture - and thats increasingly crucial for life and work. 9.40am BST My colleague Rebecca Ratcliffe has sent this on the breakdown of subjects taken for A-level this year:Entries to traditional subjects at A-level have risen as students opt for qualifications favoured by top universities.The number of students sitting biology, chemistry and physics (up 2% combined), maths (0.9%), further maths (1.5%) and religious studies (3.7%) all identified by the Russell Group as subjects favoured by university admissions tutors is up on last year. 9.38am BST A quick note: we are also, as the modern parlance goes, crowdsourcing A-level results, and will do the same for GCSEs next week. Heres what the people involved have to say:Were once again inviting schools to let us know how their students have got on and well be publishing the results in table form later this morning. If youre a teacher or other member of school staff, you can help us compile the database by answering a few quick questions. 9.35am BST Right, its 9.30am and the embargo is lifted on the national picture for A-level results. Heres what Richard Adams has learned. In brief, theres more very top grades but a slight decline for other grades:Pupils sitting A-levels in England were awarded a higher proportion of the highest grade of A* this year but all other grades saw a slight decline, including the first fall in the proportion being awarded A* to E grades for 32 years.Exam board officials attributed the improvement in A* to it becoming a key grade for the highest performing students looking to get into top universities, with both teachers and pupils making deliberate efforts to reach it, helped by the end to exams being taken in January, allowing more teaching time. 9.22am BST Some of todays students learned their good or bad news slightly earlier than expected, after Nottingham Trent university emailed some applicants earlier than planned to offer places. Richard Adams writes:Parents told the Guardian that one student received an email from Nottingham Trents admissions office on Wednesday telling him: Sorry you didnt get your predicted A-level grades. But we can still offer you a place. It was first indication that the students results would not be as good as he had hoped.Parents who rang Nottingham Trent to find out what had happened were said to have been told by staff there that the university had received quite a few calls about the emails. 9.14am BST The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, which covers higher education among its broad remit, has sent out this somewhat anonymous statement from the universities minister, Greg Clarke:Id like to congratulate the hundreds of thousands of students who have worked so hard to get the A-levels they need to win a place at university. Higher education is one of the most important sources of social mobility and I welcome the growth in the number of students from disadvantaged backgrounds. The lifelong benefits of higher education are significant. Graduates are much more likely to be employed than non-graduates, they also earn on average significantly more over their lifetime. This year we increased the number of higher education places to enable more students to access higher education and next year publicly-funded universities can choose to recruit as many students as are capable of benefiting from higher education. Lifting this cap on aspiration allows more young people to fulfil their ambition and their potential. 9.10am BST On the subject of photos, can I make a quick administrative note? The idea of illustrating A-levels results day by having a group of your schools more blonde, more attractive female students jump in the air is, of course, a very tired cliche. In fact its such a cliche that even mentioning it let alone mocking it with ironic pastiche photos is similarly a cliche. So from now one we wont even mention it. Not even in the comments, if you dont mind. 9.07am BST Heres an early example of the imminent flood of photos showing students having received the news. At least she looks happy. 9.03am BST For those who have failed to get the grades needed to begin the university course they hoped and now face the tension of clearing, Ucas has these words of reassurance:Clearing is an important route into university Around one in 10 people starting university last year got their place through clearing.Clearing has changed. Over 13,000 courses recruited someone through clearing last year that number has increased by a quarter in just two years. 9.01am BST @peterwalker99 @guardiannews Spare a thought for the parents. #resultsdayA good point from Twitter - its not just students suffering today. 8.59am BST Before the flood of data begins Ill allow myself a very brief reminisce about that day in August [year obscured by sudden cough] when I received my results, newly returned from a month of Inter Rail-ing through Europe so with a tan just about deep enough to hide my green pallor of nerves.I learned through the then-ubiquitous route of going to my school to be informed in person, meaning I had to contain my terror while standing in a corridor for about 20 minutes as fellow pupils walked out clutching envelopes, some in tears, some punching the air with joy, others just numb. 8.47am BST A-levels results day brings back vivid memories for many people. Owen Jones, whose recollections of the day in question are considerably more contemporary than mine, has written this lovely piece about the sense of being at a crossroads. Heres a snippet.In hindsight, A-level results day conjures up the ultimate sense of standing on the cusp. For me, sixth form was wonderful but, like purgatory, a period of transition. You have been liberated from a high school authoritarianism imposed by both the institution and fellow pupils: deviation from conformity is rarely encouraged by early adolescents. Sixth form is often a time of being free to carve out your own identity, caring less about the judgment of others, but growing bored with the restrictions imposed by parental authority. In hindsight, both the excitement and fear of A-level day had much to do with the knowledge that a new era of independence was about to dawn.The emotional impact starts with the journey in likely, you realise with mixed feelings, to be the last time you make it. The childhood friends you somehow took for granted would always be there: those you downed your first shot with, kissed and shared your first drunken fumble with, played football with every Saturday in the park. The embraces and first tears begin before the first envelopes are opened. 8.43am BST One of the big political footballs of today will be the eventual fate of Michael Goves plans to change A-levels, particularly the notion of scrapping AS-levels.On Monday, Tristram Hunt, the shadow education secretary, announced Labour would put on hold Goves plans to make A-levels more exam-based, and keep AS-levels. 8.35am BST In terms of the national picture we will know a whole lot more at 9.30am, when the figures on overall grades are released to the public. My colleagues Richard Adams and Rebecca Ratcliffe are currently locked away with lots of other journalists in a darkened room, poring over the news.In the interim, Richards curtain raiser to todays events is up on the wesbite. Heres a taster:Around 300,000 students will discover their A-levels results on Thursday amid predictions of a fall in top grades, changing exam conditions, and tougher subjects.The nerves of sixth formers and their families have also been stretched by exam regulator Ofquals suggestions of greater volatility in this years results. 8.30am BST In the first piece of actual news this morning, the universities entrance organisation Ucas has announced that a record number of students are heading to university, with almost 400,000 accepted on to degree courses so far.Ucas data showed that as of midnight, 396,990 students had been accepted onto courses at UK universities, up 3% on last year. Of those, 352,590 have a place on their first choice of course, up 2% on 2013. For the first time, it added, the eventual total could exceed half a million. 8.30am BST Its A-level results day.Around 300,000 students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland will, for the most part, by now know the verdict for their A and AS levels. Its an annual news event but remains perennially fascinating in two major strands. Continue reading...

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