ASCL responds to Sutton Trust research on pandemic and university admissions

Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, responds to the Sutton Trust research ‘A-levels and university access 2021’.
Responding to the Sutton Trust research ‘A-levels and university access 2021’, Geoff Barton, General Secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said:
“Schools and colleges have worked extremely hard to make sure the grades awarded to students are fair and accurate. As this research shows, many teachers have had the additional strain of coping with pressure from parents. We know these parents think they are doing the best for their children. But it is yet another issue which has added to the stress of an extremely stressful period. And grades are of course based on evidence of student performance rather than whose parents have the sharpest elbows.
“The Sutton Trust highlights the variety of approaches in how students were assessed. This flexibility was built into the system to allow schools and colleges to tailor their assessments around the needs of their students taking into account the disruption caused by the pandemic, which varied greatly between areas and settings. But common standards have been applied by the use of grade descriptors and exemplification materials, as well as through quality assurance processes, to maintain consistency in the awarding of grades across the country.
“Aside from the question of assessment, this cohort has clearly experienced massive educational disruption because of the pandemic. Disadvantaged young people have been particularly badly affected. Universities will need to have in place educational and pastoral support for their new undergraduates to ensure that learning loss and wellbeing issues are addressed early on and that these young people are able to take advantage of the full opportunity provided by higher education.
“We fully agree with the Sutton Trust that pupil premium funding for disadvantaged pupils should be extended to students in post-16 education and that more government investment is needed for post-16 educational recovery. The education recovery plans so far announced by the government are lamentably short of what is needed.”