Quarter of A-level students not being given any work, survey reveals

That’ll not teach them: Thousands of A-level pupils are not being given any work to do with almost half fearing coronavirus will hit chances of getting first choice university spot, says study

  • A quarter of A-level students ‘have not been given work’ after schools closed
  • Fifth of students are deciding against university after coronavirus outbreak 
  • Students will not to sit their exams this year and will be graded by teachers
  • Charity warns of ‘uncertain times’ for students as bosses urged to be flexible 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

One in four A-level students preparing to go to university this year are not being given any work to do by their schools, according to research, as a survey revealed a fifth of prospective students had changed their mind about going at all.

Students, including those taking A-levels, will be graded by teachers after exams were cancelled amid the coronavirus outbreak.

Exam regulator, Ofqual, later announced that students can sit their exams in autumn if they are unhappy with their grade.

But now a survey by the Sutton Trust, an educational charity, has found that a quarter of students are not being given work by their schools.

Around half of students also fear the situation will harm their chances of getting into their first choice university. 

Charity bosses say the situation with exams is ‘very unsettling’ for young people, while a university advocacy group says it has asked universities to ‘be flexible’ this year.

One in four A-level students preparing to go to university this year are not being given any work to do by their schools, according to research. Pictured: Students from Cambridge University on Graduation day (library image)

The survey found that private schools were twice as likely to be still teaching A-level content as state schools, while about three fifths of university applicants at independent schools are receiving regular work and feedback from teachers.

This is compared with three tenths of those at state schools. 

Meanwhile, nearly one in five prospective students have changed their mind about going to university this autumn, or they are now uncertain, in light of the Covid-19 pandemic, the survey suggests.

Almost half 48 per cent of university applicants think that the coronavirus crisis will damage their chances of getting into their first-choice institution, according to the Sutton Trust survey.

Students from working-class backgrounds 51 per cent are more likely to think it will have a negative impact on them than their peers from middle-class backgrounds 43 per cent.

The majority of would-be students 72 per cent think the new ‘calculated grade’ system is less fair than in previous years – and more than two in five 43 per cent think their A-level grades will be worse as a result of the plans.

The poll, of 511 university applicants aged 17 to 19, shows that 19 per cent have changed their mind about their university attendance this autumn, or they have yet to decide whether to go.

Some students are planning to take gap years while others have changed their preferred university amid the Covid-19 outbreak, according to the report.

It comes after vice-chancellors warned that universities may face ‘financial failure’ amid the Covid-19 crisis due to a predicted sharp fall in international students this year.

Schools were closed in March to students, apart from children of keyworkers, following the outbreak of coronavirus in the UK.

Exams were later cancelled over fears of spreading the virus, which has so far killed 28,446 people in the UK and infected more than 187,000.

School and college teachers were later told to provide calculated grades for students which reflect the results they would have been most likely to achieve if the exams had gone ahead.

They will also rank pupils within each grade for each subject for their A-levels, but they are not allowed to share these with families until final results are issued in August.

Students who are unhappy with grades will have the opportunity to sit exams in the autumn.

Sir Peter Lampl, founder and chairman of the Sutton Trust, said: ‘There is a huge degree of worry and uncertainty amongst university applicants and current students about how the current crisis will affect them.

‘There are no easy solutions to this unprecedented situation. But what is of upmost importance is that the poorest students don’t lose out.’

The charity has called for any potential cap on student numbers to be carefully implemented so that it does not disadvantage poorer students.

It has also called on exams regulator Ofqual to monitor any attainment gaps and consider adjustments under the new grading system.

Students, including those taking A-levels, will be graded by teachers after exams were cancelled amid the coronavirus outbreak. Pictured: Students taking exams (library image)

Chris Millward, director for fair access and participation at the Office for Students (OfS), said: ‘This is clearly a very unsettling time for young people making decisions about their future, so they need good information and advice to make the right decisions for them about their futures.

‘Universities and colleges have an important role to play here, by ensuring that their admissions processes take into account the context in which grades have been awarded and identify their potential to succeed.’

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: ‘We understand the anxiety felt by some university applicants that A-levels will be graded this year in a way that none of us expected, but we would reassure them that everybody is committed to ensuring that results are fair and accurate for all students.

‘Their schools and colleges know them well and will be able to provide centre-assessed grades to a high degree of accuracy.’

A Universities UK (UUK) spokesman said: ‘It’s important to remember that places will not be decided on predicted grades alone, with information in personal statements and references part of the decision-making process, along with any interview, portfolio, audition or other information relevant.

‘We have also asked universities to be flexible this year and to recognise applicants’ contexts now more than ever, in recognition of the impact that a disrupted education may have on their applicants.’

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