The universities will adapt to lower exam results in England, says the minister

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The Government has sought to allay pupils’ fears about GCSE and A-level results, which are expected to be lower in England this summer after two years of record rises, assuring them that universities will “adjust accordingly”.

Schools Minister Will Quince said it was important to “move back to a position where qualifications maintain their value” and assured pupils that grades would still be higher than in 2019, before the pandemic.

Quince also criticized what he described as union “scaremongering” after staff at the country’s biggest exam board, AQA, announced another strike over a pay dispute, from August 12 to 15, sparking concerns that results will be disrupted.

With less than a fortnight to go until A-level results are published, Quince said: “I think young people have enough to worry about and be worried about before the exam results anyway.

“To throw this into the mix, as a potential worry about whether their papers will be marked and the results will come through on time, is completely unnecessary.”

He added: “I have been assured that they will have no impact, but unfortunately scaremongering of this nature from unions is deeply regrettable.”

This year’s candidates are the first to sit the exam since 2019, due to the pandemic, which resulted in exams being canceled and students assessed by their teachers.

The government has said grades will be brought down to pre-pandemic levels in two stages. Very few schools and colleges will get better results this summer than in 2021, and grades will drop further in 2023 to bring them back in line with 2019 results.

In an interview with the PA Media news agency, Quince said: “Over the last couple of years we’ve had extraordinary times because of the pandemic and we’ve had to take extraordinary steps, quite exceptional steps, which have led to higher grades.

Related: Universities urged to allow Covid impact on poorer students’ A-levels

“In fact, what young people and universities and employers are telling us [is] that the exam is the best and fairest method of assessment and that it is very important that we return as quickly as possible to a position where qualifications maintain their value, and that is very important for employers and universities.”

Asked how the government will deal with students’ disappointment at getting lower grades this year, the education minister said: “I think it’s important to stress that grades this year will still be higher than 2019, so pre-pandemic,” because of the adjustments that is done. to exams to reflect the disruptions that young people have faced.

Many in the university sector have warned that this year will be one of the most competitive on record, with more 18-year-olds applying than ever before, at a time when universities are trying to rein in student numbers after a recent surge. two years during the Covid pandemic.

The qualifications regulator, Ofqual, has been working with schools in England, urging them to manage pupils’ and parents’ expectations of grades.

Quince said students missing the grades they were predicted or hoped for was not new and there were different options available. “You can still get into the university that was your first choice; you can go through clearing or go to another university – that’s why it’s very important to have a plan B. You can go down a vocational route or an apprenticeship, or you can even decide to go straight into working life .”

Last week, universities were urged to give disadvantaged students who narrowly miss their A-level grades “extra consideration”, after research revealed the disruptive impact of Covid in the run-up to exams.

One in five A-level students (21%) applying to university missed more than 20 days at school this year due to Covid disruption, while a third missed 11 days or more, according to research by the Sutton Trust educational organization.

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