Government praises students as grading system returns to normal

Grades this summer are expected to be lower than last year due to the way they were assessed

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan has praised the resilience and hard work of young people, as hundreds of thousands prepare to collect A and AS level, T Level and Level 3 vocational and technical exam results today (17 August).

The results mark the culmination of years of hard work for young people and their teachers, and pave the way for students’ next steps to university, further training, or into work.

This is the first year that AS and A Levels have largely returned to normal. During the pandemic, results were higher as exams could not go ahead. As the normal grading system returned this summer, grades will be lower than last year but similar to 2019 levels. That means, for example, a student whose work would have earned a C grade at A level in 2019 is just as likely to get a C this year, opening the same exciting doors to life after school.

The return to pre-pandemic grading is important for students – it means that universities and employers understand their performance, have confidence in their qualifications, and can use them to help students progress into opportunities that match their achievements, now and in the future.

This is also the second year the Government’s flagship new qualifications, T Levels, have been awarded, with thousands of students waiting to receive their results today. These new qualifications – the technical counterpart to A levels - are designed in collaboration with leading employers and offer a high quality technical education.

Universities have made sure entry requirements and offers reflect the grades students were expected to receive - as they do every year – and the number of places at top universities is not affected by the number of top grades.

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan said:

"I’m incredibly proud of all students receiving their results today. For many, this will have been the first set of formal exams they have ever taken, having faced unprecedented circumstances in the years building up to this summer.

"I know young people will have risen to the challenge, and thousands will get the results they need to take hold of their future, whether at university, through an apprenticeship or in the world of work. There are more options than ever before and a huge amount of support available, whether pupils get the results they wanted or not.

"Congratulations to each and every young person taking their next step and thank you to the teachers who helped them get there."

By sitting exams, students have a fair chance to show their knowledge and understanding of a subject and ensure a level playing field.

For GCSEs and A levels, senior examiners will have made allowances where national performance was found to be slightly lower than before the pandemic. This will create a level of protection for students as grading returns to normal, following the disruption of recent years.

The Government has made almost £5 billion available to help children and young people recover from the impact of the pandemic, including £1.5 billion for high quality tutoring to support students taking exams this year and in the future. Nearly four million courses have been started through the National Tutoring Programme since 2020, including 1.3 million so far this academic year.

In cases where a student does not achieve their predicted grades, it is very common for them to still be offered a place by their preferred universities. In 2019, only 20 per cent of English 18-year-old applicants with a minimum of 3 A Level predictions met or exceeded their predicted grades, but almost 90 per cent of the same group still got a place at a UK university. Almost 65 per cent of those were accepted to their firm choice.

There’s a huge amount of support on hand for students:

  • Students’ school or college – or the admissions team at the university which they are applying - should be their first port of call.
  • Experts at the National Careers Service will be available throughout the results period.
  • UCAS’s Clearing hotline is open to help students understand their options.
  • The online ‘Clearing Plus’ service will help match students to courses with entry requirements that align with the grades they achieved.

There is also a variety of high-quality technical options open to students, including degree apprenticeships and higher technical qualifications, that will enable them to gain the skills they need to kickstart great careers. Students can explore their options through the Get The Jump website.

GCSE grades will be released on 24 August 2023.

Department for Education
The Rt Hon Gillian Keegan MP