‘We’ve had to adapt’: A-level students react to record-breaking results

After a very peculiar 18 months it is perhaps no surprise that A-level results day in England and Wales did not follow the usual hysteric script.

At Greenhead college in Huddersfield, one of the largest and most successful sixth forms in England, there was none of the normal screeching – whether in delight or despair – with only a handful of the 1,300 year 13s choosing to come in on Tuesday to share their news.

Perhaps this cohort is simply not as attached to the college as their predecessors. 毕竟, they have spent more time at home than in its classrooms, denied the chance to lock lips at a leavers’ ball or take part in any of the other rites of passage that used to cement lifelong bonds.

Probably, thought the principal, Simon Lett, it was because their own teachers – rather than faceless examiners or, worse, an algorithm – were responsible for their grades. “The fact so few students are here today is vindication for how upfront we were with them,“ 他说. “We shared with them in advance the ‘basket of evidence’ we were going to use to calculate their grades and so there were fewer nasty surprises.”

Grades were up, 他说: “We’ve got a pass rate of 99.8% A* to E and 71% A* to B, 和....相比 63%-65% usually.” He rejected the idea teachers had been too generous, saying there had been a rigorous grading process. “We don’t think there was excessive inflation. We think the grades are credible,“ 他说.

Naduni and Nipuni Mapatuna were among the few who made it in, with the identical twins celebrating identical results and identical future plans. The 18-year-olds received four A*s and are both heading to study medicine in Leeds.

Having to do so much of their studies online was tough, said Naduni. “Half of the time I found myself not listening on a Zoom call.” But the sisters felt they coped better with the isolation than their twinless peers. “It was easier for us. Both of us were doing the same subjects and we had each other,” said Nipuni.

Others had a far tougher time. Uzma Husaini said she had “cried the whole bus journey in” having fallen one grade short of the BBC she needed for her medicine course in Hull.

She lives with her father and her older sister, who has special needs. “During Covid my sister’s caretaker couldn’t come so we had to look after her. It was so hard, I just wasn’t used to that responsibility. During the first lockdown I couldn’t do my college work at all, I just had to focus on my sister. There were times when I’ve only been able to study between midnight and 4am.” She plans to appeal against her C in chemistry and is willing to defer a year if necessary.

At Gower college Swansea in south Wales, much of the usual tension was also absent. Covid dictated that the teenagers had to arrive at staggered times, already knowing their provisional grades, as per the Welsh system.

Ellen Jones, 18, from Llanelli, who got A* in psychology, English literature and geography and has a place at Oxford University, said she was glad to get through what had been a difficult year. “It’s been very challenging not having much time in the classroom,“ 她说.

She had been provisionally given top marks but did not take it for granted. “After last year I was worried that anything could happen,“ 她说. “The unpredictability has played on my mind all year.”

Marie James, 18, the daughter of a farmer and district nurse from Carmarthenshire, got As in biology, chemistry and maths. She has missed out on a place in medical school this autumn but plans to work in a pharmacy and re-apply next year. “I’ve been so stressed, I wasn’t sure if I’d even pass,“ 她说. “A lot of us have found it tough, there have been so many uncertainties. We’ve had to adapt.”

Nermeen Belblidia, 18, is to study medicine at Cardiff University after achieving three A*s. “Those were my provisional marks but I was frightened they would change them,“ 她说. “It was really difficult at the start of year working from home. You had to be really independent. I got used to it by the end and I think that helped get me ready for university.”

There was not joy for everyone. Toby Moran, 18, from Swansea, summed up his results as “not the best”. He has dreamed of a career in the RAF but got a U, D and an E in music technology, electronics and technology and plans to re-enrol at the college and try again next year.

“The last year hasn’t gone too well,“ 他说. “I’ve struggled with home learning. In the flash of a second we had to change the way we worked. I just couldn’t learn in my bedroom. I missed face-to-face contact with the teachers. A camera is just not the same.”