RHeadlining the biggest drop in A-level grades ever and the fact that this year’s results were ‘never going to be painless’, 18-year-old Luke Savage was eager to get back to his grades on Thursday morning .
“I didn’t sleep last night,” he said after opening his results at Temple Moor High School in Leeds. “I think the last time I checked my phone was four in the morning. I felt sick last night just thinking about all the mistakes I made in exams.
But he needn’t have worried. He passed a B and three Cs, which qualified him to study law and politics at Leeds Law School. Although Savage was one of the third of the students who missed their first course choice, having hoped to do an integrated master’s degree, he was nevertheless satisfied.
He said: “My simulations were a bit higher and it’s infuriating that in some subjects I was just a few points off the grade limit. The law was a little lower than I thought but that’s ok, I’m not complaining.
This year the North-South divide in educational achievement widened and Yorkshire was one of the worst performing regions. This disparity has been attributed to the impact of Covid, as some places, especially poorer areas, have been hit harder.
While education at all levels has suffered, this cohort of A-level students have had the added challenge of not having taken exams since their Year 6 SATs and failing their GCSEs, which were assessed by teachers based on their schoolwork and mock grades.
For Jess Peers, who won a place to study environmental management at the University of Manchester, and Jake Sterling, who is pursuing a degree course in metrics at Leeds Beckett University, the stress of exams that changed life future was huge.
“But it was worth it,” Peers, 18, said as he collected his A’s and B’s.
Sterling agreed, adding: “My grades are higher than I expected and higher than I got in my GCSEs.”
Matthew West, the school’s principal, said the pandemic had been difficult for the school, having to adapt to decisions made nationally.
“There have been many stories about policies or instructions or decisions being made the day before they are enacted, things that happen at midnight, for example, and I think the fallout from that is that it has created a wedge between the school leaders and policymakers, who must come together for the good of young people,” he said.
“And now there is the additional issue of funding. I’m going to get into it next year with not enough money and that’s before we consider the rising fuel and power prices.
He warned he should review the affordability of school trips and consider whether less popular subjects should be scrapped.
“We overcame Covid but came back to a completely different climate. The government says we can have a world-class education system and we can do it cheaply. But you can’t. There is not an economy in the world that has done it cheaply.
Nonetheless, he was “extremely proud” of this cohort of students for balancing part-time jobs, sports and other extracurricular activities with their studies.
He said: “I think they’re amazing with what they’ve done. They didn’t use Covid as an excuse to give up and not try, they really stuck it out and they have their rewards today.
Savage said he would party with a Nando’s later, while Peers planned to hang out with friends.
Sterling added: “If I say what I’m doing tonight I’ll be in trouble because I’m not 18 yet so I’m gonna shut up!”