Professor Mountford-Zimdars has called for students to be given clearer guidance on how predicted grades will be used in university admissions.
The decision to replace GCSE and A-level exams with predicted grades this summer has left pupils feeling “powerless” and “overwhelmingly” concerned with their grades, a major survey shows.
Teenagers believe they are no longer able to influence their own grades, and their predicted marks will be lower than they would otherwise have been, the research shows. The survey also found that young people felt generally less able to shape their own futures than they did before the school closure.
Academics involved in the study have called for the Department for Education to disseminate more advice and guidance on qualifications, including a campaign for those in Year 11 and 13 so they can easily access information on how grades are allocated, and the options available for appeals and resits.
The research was led by Professor Anna Mountford-Zimdars, Professor of Social Mobility and Academic Director of the Centre for Social Mobility at the University of Exeter and Dr Sam Baars, Director of Research and Operations, Centre for Education and Youth.
Professor Mountford-Zimdars has called for students to be given clearer guidance on how predicted grades will be used in university admissions. She has also said universities should review their policies on contextual offers and extenuating circumstances offers.
Professor Mountford-Zimdars said: “Young people are overwhelmingly concerned with their grades and feel powerless because they can’t take exams. It is very important that the Department for Education, using channels young people use regularly and are familiar with, starts a campaign so they have the information they need.”
Professor Mountford-Zimdars has suggested the UCAS clearing helpline should be repurposed to provide support and guidance for students this summer.
She would like all students in Year 13 should be provided, by schools and colleges, with individual advice and support on their next steps. This should include the options for re-sitting exams, and the options for HE admissions, including clearing.
The rapid-response survey took place between March 28th and April 20th 2020, and had 2219 responses. Parents, guardians, teachers, outreach professionals and young people aged 16-18 were eligible to participate.
To assess their wellbeing, respondents were asked to complete a Short Warwick-Edinburgh Mental Wellbeing Scale (SWEMWBS). Young people’s median wellbeing score was significantly lower than that of the general population under normal conditions, at 19.3 compared to 23.21.
When asked about their biggest concern regarding school and college closures, over half of the students surveyed (53 per cent) mentioned worries about their grades. They were particularly concerned with how their grades would be allocated if they were due to take A levels this year, whether predicted grades would reflect their true ability, and, in the case of Year 12 students, how missed school time would affect their attainment in exams next year.
One Year 13 student said: “My biggest concern is that] I won’t be able to achieve high grades as I have no control over how my grades are given, and I didn’t perform as well as I could have in previous mock exams, as I [had] other commitments.”
Young people’s responses also indicated that they felt confusion around how their grades would be calculated and awarded.