Student who may have lost uni place speaks out over A-level ‘mess’

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Clara Garrood (18) had been due to study medicine at the University of East Anglia, provided she received her predicted grades of three As.

However, she was one of many students across the British Isles who had her results downgraded by exam regulator Ofqual following the cancellation of exams due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Instead, Ofqual used an algorithm to determine the final grades, with around 40% of students having their teacher-assessed marks brought down.

Yesterday, the UK government announced a U-turn on the A-level results process and said that the original predicted grades put forward by teachers would stand.

However, this could prove to be too late for Miss Garrood, who received three B’s in Biology, History and Chemistry on results day, thereby denying her a place at her first-choice university course.

‘I cried loads,’ she said. ‘For me, I always knew it was going to be a challenging university course to get into and a challenging career afterwards, but I always knew I was going to get three A-grades because I knew I could do it and I work hard, so when I opened that bit of paper and there were three B-grades it was horrendous.’

The student has now been left in limbo as she attempts to reclaim her place at UEA on the back of her revised grades.

‘I was completely appalled because I don’t get B-grades and it wasn’t what I was aiming for. I knew that if I had sat those exams I would have walked away with three A-grades minimum. It was just horrendous that the government can just turn around and decide what you’re going to get without looking at what your teachers think you’re going to get.’

Following the major outcry over the system used to calculate the grades, UK Education Secretary Gavin Williamson issued a public apology for the distress suffered by students, after the announcement that exam results would now be based on teacher estimates. He has faced calls to resign over the crisis.

‘I think it was appalling and completely unnecessary,’ said Ms Garrood. ‘Because I think they knew they would have to give us our predicted grades anyway, or they would have had two million appeals to deal with from the GCSE students. I don’t know why there was so much unnecessary stress.’

‘I’m now someone who it may just be too late for – it might just be no, you can’t go this year. If they had told me on results day that I would be given three A-grades I would have been off to uni and celebrating with my friends. Tell me five days later I’ve got three A grades and I now don’t know if I can go to university still. The universities are confused about the whole process because of the speed that the government turned around – it’s just a complete mess.’

Following the announcement in the UK, Education Minister Tracey Vallois said that she expected GCSE results, due to be issued on Thursday, to be released according to the new results process.

She said: ‘I am pleased that the UK government have made this decision to change course.

‘The government is committed to supporting schools financially for any appeals or resits that are still deemed necessary.

‘Many Jersey students will be affected by this announcement, and we will be there to support them through it. I hope our students and teachers will now see their hard work and commitment rewarded appropriately.’

Students have been advised to contact their first-choice university, or the university whose offer they accepted, to discuss what they should do next if they wish to review their decision or options, while University College Jersey have said they will honour all offers already made and will consider making more places available if required and capacity permits.

Assistant Education Minister Jeremy Maçon added: ‘We are pretty much in the universities’ hands at this point. What we can say is that for Highlands, for University College Jersey, any place that has been offered will be honoured regardless of the grade, so locally we are doing what we can, but otherwise it is a bit more tricky for us and out of our hands.’

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