ASCL responds to Sutton Trust research on disruption to A-level students

Tom Middlehurst, curriculum and assessment specialist at the Association of School and College Leaders, comments on the Sutton Trust research about the pandemic-related disruption to A-level students.
 “This report reinforces the fact that this year’s A-level students, as well as other post-16 students taking vocational qualifications, have suffered more disruption than any cohort since the second world war because of the Covid pandemic.
“The situation has been extremely challenging for all concerned – with illness and isolation affecting students and staff alike over the past two years. All credit to everyone who has worked so hard to complete courses and take exams under these circumstances.
“Opinion is divided over whether the adaptations to this year’s exams to mitigate for this disruption went far enough but, in truth, no system was ever going to be perfect in such difficult conditions.
“The great danger is that the disruption will have badly affected disadvantaged students in particular and that the gap between them and other students will widen in this year’s set of results.
“For this reason it is more important than ever to focus on supporting student progression to university and apprenticeships to ensure young people can realise their goals and ambitions.
“We fully agree with the Sutton Trust’s recommendations for universities and employers to give disadvantaged students who narrowly miss offer grades additional consideration, and for universities to provide additional learning and wellbeing support.
“We also agree with the call for more government catch-up support for school and college students. It is extremely regrettable that the government is actually going in the opposite direction by reducing the subsidy it provides for tutoring programmes.
“And it is important that the Department for Education and Ofqual carefully consider what exam adaptations may be needed next year and do not rush to return to business as normal given that these students have also been disrupted by the pandemic and that fresh infection spikes are likely to cause more disruption.”