A-level results coming out before uni applications would ‘improve system’ say Camden headteachers and pupils

PUBLISHED: 18:00 15 August 2019 | UPDATED: 19:34 15 August 2019

Camden education chief Cllr Angela Mason with star LaSWAP pupil Abel Ayettey. Picture: Sam Volpe

Camden education chief Cllr Angela Mason with star LaSWAP pupil Abel Ayettey. Picture: Sam Volpe


Headteachers at Camden’s top private and state schools have backed calls for an overhaul of the university application system, so pupils apply after they have their results.

Headmistress of Channing School in Highgate, Barbara Elliott with pupil Gabriella Dowsey. Picture: Harry TaylorHeadmistress of Channing School in Highgate, Barbara Elliott with pupil Gabriella Dowsey. Picture: Harry Taylor

Speaking to the Ham&High on results day, their words were also echoed by pupils and Camden Council's education chief.

Currently pupils are given predicted grades by their teachers at the end of Year 12, based on their performance halfway through their A-level courses.

They then apply to university through UCAS on the strength of these grades, and have to accept or decline offers they then receive. However if pupils underperform they can miss out on their university place and have to enter "clearing". This is a market system where they apply for courses that are still undersubscribed.

It also means that pupils who better their predicted grades can go through the same process, and apply for better courses and universities on results day.

However the current system has been criticised for exacerbating stress among A-level pupils in the run up to their exams, and as they await their results.

Channing School pupil Isobel Horton, who got an A* and two A grades and is set to study medicine at UCL said: "It's such a stressful system, having to wait until this morning. We've just come back from France and they all know that they have got into University already. Then if you don't get the grades and go into clearing it's stressful as well.

"It's such a terrifying system."

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Pupils at the LaSWAP Sixth Form Consortium down the road agreed. Abel Ayettey, who is off to Oxford to study maths told this newspaper: "It would definitely improve things and lower the pressure on us. It'd be a big positive."

Earlier this week, the Labour Party said it would scrap the current system, and replace it with a system of pupils applying when they have their grades.

Research by the Department of Business, Innovation and Skills in 2011 found that 48.2 per cent of predicted grades were inaccurate.

Shadow education secretary Angela Rayner said it meant disadvantaged students can miss out.

Nicholas John, headteacher at state school Acland Burghley - part of LaSWAP - told the Ham&High: "Whatever improves the system for pupils would be a good change.

"There's a real problem about equality of opportunity and it's really important for some of the top universities to look at what they can change.

"I think social mobility in this country is at a bit of a standstill. We'd be supportive of anything that can improve that."

Barbara Elliott, who has been headmistress of Channing for 14 years was also supportive of the move.

"I think it's a very sensible approach. It would do even more to relieve the pressure from these young people, to be able to apply with the grades they have got, rather than the pressure of reaching the predicted grades."

Cllr Angela Mason - who is the council's lead member for education - said: "There's a genuine concern that not having actual results is a problem for kids from poorer backgrounds whose teachers don't give them predictions they deserve."

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