A Level results day 2021 is this morning and it’s been somewhat different to previous years! What a year it has been. In fact, the past 18 months have been pretty shocking haven’t they? That means that A Level students who are receiving their results this year haven’t really had a typical classroom or social experience for the duration of their course. Why would their results day be any different? If you watch the news, accusations of ‘exams are getting easier!’ have become a familiar and annoying ringing in everyone’s ears, and this year, our students have the added insult that people think that their teachers have gifted them some over-inflated TAG on a golden platter.
To this, we say, no. If anyone has ever tried to self-motivate and independently study from home, let alone for large parts of a course, then you will know how difficult that process is and how impressive and committed anybody is who can do it. And as for saying that teachers have just given everybody an A, or any outrageous claim that teachers have inflated grades or made exams easier etc, as teachers ourselves, we know that this is just not the case. We know the professionalism with which you carry yourselves.
Some will spend the day celebrating success. Others will spend the day celebrating the end of their formal education journey. And a good portion – expected to number in excess of 50,000 – will spend the day scouring the UCAS website and making fraught phone calls to universities as the Clearing process begins in earnest.
The word ‘Clearing’ ought to have positive connotations – clearing the air, clear skies – but in an educational context, it conveys failure and arouses images of the dregs of further education being swept into one-time polytechnics around the country. Even the proper noun’s donning of a capital letter makes it appear ominous. Of course, it also represents a second chance and there will be courses to be filled at the prestigious Russell Group universities so the official line to anyone who narrowly missed out on their first choice is not to despair. On the other hand, we wouldn’t wish the mania of Clearing on even our most apathetic sixth-former; in fact, especially not on them.
A Level Results Day 2021: Navigating Clearing
Those whom it was a miracle that they completed their UCAS admission forms in the first place will not have done any of the preparatory homework that has been possible since the end of June, when a list of still-available courses could be viewed. Being ready should not be mistaken for being pessimistic. As the Studential Guide to Clearing counsels, ‘When you call up an institution about a particular course you will have the advantage of knowing something about it and will sound like a much more attractive candidate than someone who had never even heard of the course until 15 minutes before ringing them… the more informed you are, the less likely you will be to make a bad choice on the spur of the moment.’
The idea of paying £9,250 per annum on a bad decision is enough to fill anyone with dread. Loath as we are to apply the language of consumerism to education, many impulse purchases will be made today. Despite the eye-watering costs, the market remains strong, with record rates of 18-year-olds applying to universities in England. UCAS statistics show that 311,010 school leavers had applied for university by this year’s deadline of 30 June. On top of this are several thousand older applicants who have taken time out for a multitude of reasons and could make their case for a place with results in hand, bypassing altogether the pandemonium of Clearing.
Another way to avoid Clearing is to accept an unconditional offer, which was an option open to another record number of students if the trend of the last few years has continued. 23% of applicants received an unconditional offer in 2018, as opposed to just 1% back in 2013. The year-on-year increase since then has been credited to market forces and an increased competition among universities: at the same time as the population of 18-year-olds is falling, caps on the number of students that an institution can admit have been lifted. It makes more sense for the universities to attract students through unconditional offers than reduced tuition fees but Sally Hunt, former general secretary of the University and College Union, doesn’t see the “bums on seats” approach as good news for anyone: “The proliferation of unconditional offers is detrimental to the interests of students and it is time the UK joined the rest of the world in basing university offers on actual achievements instead of on guesswork.”
So, here’s hoping that all your students fulfil their potential and A Level results day 2021 brings happy faces all round.
“Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.”John Lennon
Post-A Level Options
Fear not, as this informative guide has been designed precisely for this matter. It provides a printable, single-page advice sheet for students receiving their A Level grades, with basic information and links to resources to help support students who haven’t received the grades they hoped for.
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