Online Lifestyle Editor Amy Butterworth reflects upon the anxieties A-level students face over their predictions.
Mere days before the anxiety-inducing trauma of A-level results day, Labour made their radical announcement that they would scrap university offers based on predicted grades. Instead, they intend to introduce a “fairer” system, in which sixth-formers apply for a degree course after having received their results.
In a tweet, party leader Jeremy Corbyn criticised the current admissions system, deeming it “neither fair nor effective”, and with the soaring rates of unconditional offers and inaccurate predictions, he does have a point. There is a deep inaccuracy within the system, wherein research has found that 73% of predicted grades turned out higher than their result.
The system in place means that universities making offers is based on the grades predicted by teachers, so it comes at a shock to literally no-one that this favours better-informed applicants from more affluent families. While they are being awarded over-predicted grades, this is in conjunction with poorer applicants often being under-predicted. Public school applicants have access to admissions officers with valuable know-how; whereas working-class students lack this crucial insight. Alongside the tripling of tuition fees, Angela Rayner, shadow education secretary, is accurate in her assertion that “the system is a barrier to [poorer] students’ success”.
it’s due time that we catch up with the rest of the world
On the flip-side, post-qualification admissions would no-doubt be a palaver to administrate – with the space between results day and freshers week alarmingly short, university admissions teams would struggle. However, England is currently the only country with over a million students that hasn’t adopted a post-qualification system; it’s due time that we catch up with the rest of the world.
I narrowly missed my grade, and even though my offer was on the condition that I receive my predicted grade, the university let me in regardless. Potentially, if I hadn’t been over-predicted, I may never have received an offer from Exeter. And as the Sutton Trust have found, better-off applicants, even if missing their grades, tend to get the more sought-after courses.
While there is more to the application than just the grades (personal statements, references, interviews etcetera) we can’t ignore how much rides on the final grade. Thus, a student’s university application should not be based on pure guesswork. If the students really are “at the heart of the system”, we should be striving to mitigate the effects of different backgrounds and inequalities, so that every student is given equal footing at higher education.