August 11, 2023

This year’s A-Level students are experiencing their greatest fear

Jefferson He in Oxford, United Kingdom

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Picture by: Joe Hart | Flickr

With A-Level students just coming out of the pandemic and teachers going on strike, students are seeing their greatest fear play out before their tired and stressed eyes.

This fear being that the difference between mock grade boundaries and the official A-level exams brings the possibility of failure even higher.

The government should not bring back the horror of the 2019 grade boundaries.

I believe that teachers play a major role in a students education. With teachers in the UK going on a series of strikes, it impacts both their GCSE and A-Level results. Teachers have long-called for action to defend against ‘pay erosion, working conditions and staff shortages’.

One student, spoken to by the BBC, commented how students had “only just finished the syllabus” before their A-Levels kicked off in May. The effect has resulted in having to “cram” in topics due to the gaps of learning as a result of strike action. This has likely impacted their A-Level results since they won’t have had time to revise the previous topics that they learned a year or two before.

In England, a reported 17% of secondary schools stayed open, 74% were partially shut, and 9% were completely shut. This resulted in around 320 state secondary schools in England returning to remote learning.

I personally think that remote learning is not a great option. After experiencing remote learning myself during the pandemic, I think that it is not as productive as learning in schools because there are more distractions, often involving internet connection. In comparison with being in school there are less distractions during the lessons.

In a statement, The Department of Education said that ”it’s really important that remote education is not viewed as an equal alternative to attendance in school.”

And rightly so, remote learning and attending school are two very different experiences. Learning at home is not as productive as being in the presence of teachers and friends physically, which allows us to motivate and help each other to study harder.

The percentage of pupils being awarded A* and A has decreased between 2021 and 2022 during the pandemic and remote learning. In 2021, it was 44.8% and in 2022 it was 36.4%. According to the inews, this year it would be a lot lower and possibly hit 25%.

With all of these top grades disappearing, there will be significantly less university offers for UK students than last year. Thousands of students are expected to miss university offers because lowered grades will disrupt university place offers.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Prof Alan Smithers – director of education at the University of Buckingham ,said: ”Almost 100,000 fewer A* and A grades are expected to be awarded compared to last year.”

A possible reason why the A-Level results are a lot worse than last year is because grade boundaries are being reassessed to move them higher since the government is attempting “to stop grade inflation and bring results back to pre-pandemic levels.”

With the post-pandemic learning environment also creating disruptions, it is not right to reintroduce the 2019 grade boundaries.

This will affect 95,000 fewer top grades being awarded to the pupils. So this year many students and parents’ expectations would not be met.

I strongly think that teachers going on strikes, students having to learn remotely, and the government bringing back the fear and horror from 2019 to the students this year is too harsh.

Written by:


Jefferson He


London, United Kingdom

Born in 2007 in Hong Kong, Jefferson studies in Reading, England and plans to attend a university in the United Kingdom.

Jefferson joined Harbingers’ Magazine in 2023 — first as a contributor, but quickly became the UK Correspondent. In 2024, he took over as the editor-in-chief and acting editor of the Politics section.

Additionally, Jefferson coordinates the Harbingerettes project in Nepal, where a group of 10 students has journalism-themed lessons in English. He spends some of his holiday reporting on the development of LGBT+ rights in Asia (one of his articles was published by The Diplomat).

He is interested in philosophy, journalism, sports, religious studies, and ethics. In his free time, Jefferson – who describes himself as “young, small and smart” – watches movies, enjoys gardening and plays sports. He speaks English, Mandarin and Cantonese.


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