Education insights: Exceptional rise in top grades across UK schools, calls for in-person education to continue in universities, teacher-assessed grades as a plan B and more.

This week’s education insights will explore the stellar rise of GCSE and A-level results, the potential long-term effects of learning disruption and the resumption of face-to-face learning in universities.

GCSE results reveal further gaps in educational attainment

After this week's GCSE and A-level results, there is a warning the legacy for education will be an even wider social divide. According to reports from the BBC, those ahead before the pandemic are even further ahead now, while those losing out have slipped further behind. The social mobility commission fears that education in the UK may result in “years of clawing back the attainment gap”. At Hopscotch, we strongly believe that students from underprivileged backgrounds should have the necessary training, programmes and support needed to exceed their educational goals. Through our work with Microsoft’s Explore the digital skills programme, we champion the idea that disadvantaged individuals should be at forefront of all courses, particularly in tech. Amidst the potential widening of the attainment gap, it's paramount that disadvantaged students are supported with tailored programmes to even the unequal playing field.

A-level results 2021: Top grades reach record high   

Top grades for A-level results for England, Wales and Northern Ireland have reached a record high with 44.8% of students getting A* or A grades.  Notably, the second year of replacement results has seen even higher results than last year, leading some politicians to characterise these results as “grade inflation”.  As the article shows, there has been a 75% increase in top grades and while this has created a sense of happiness among teachers and students, it is likely that the spike will have a negative impact on the UK’s most competitive universities and courses. According to reports, the complications will be most evident for medicine courses and students will be provided with a £10,000 consolation if they are turned down due to lack of space.

Gavin Williamson hints he may back calls for refunds on tuition fees  

The education secretary, Gavin Williamson, has signalled that students in England should not be charged full fees if they do not receive face-to-face teaching in the next academic year.  In an interview on Tuesday, Williamson hinted that he expects universities to return to offering in-person lectures in autumn as opposed to just online. He also stated he will back calls for students to receive refunds on £9,250 tuition fees in the event that universities fail to provide in-person education.  

GCSE results 2021: 'No long-term teacher assessment'

The schools minister Nick Gibb has said the government is ruling out the use of teacher assessment to award GCSEs in the long term, as record-high results were recorded for a second year running.  The Minister commended teachers for their “hard work in very challenging circumstances” and for accurately providing teacher assessed grades. Nick Gibbs holds that the system should only be considered as a plan B, if schools find themselves in another covid-crisis next year.  Notably, less than 1% of teacher-assessed grades were challenged by exam boards, and ministers now recognise the long-term feasibility of the system as a plan B.  It will be interesting to see whether teacher-assessed grades will have a long-term future within UK’s grading system.

Children born during pandemic have lower IQs, US study finds

According to a US study, children born during the coronavirus pandemic have significantly reduced in verbal, motor and overall cognitive performance compared with children born before.  Notably, the study finds that in the decade preceding the pandemic, the mean IQ score on standardised tests for children aged between three months and three years of age fluctuated around 100, but for children born during the pandemic that number plummeted to 78, according to research, which is yet to be peer-reviewed.  Out of the 672 children included none of the children had developmental disabilities and according to the head researcher of the study, Dr Deoni, “you don’t typically see IQ levels like that outside of major cognitive disorders. 


About the author

James Rufus

James has previous experience in education, charity, and marketing. He has a passion for mentoring youth and empowering underprivileged children to fulfill their potential. As an Account Executive, James works across LifeSkills with Barclays, Microsoft, London Enterprise Adviser Network and Think Through Nutrition.

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