AccessHE Statement on Results Day, 2021
After another year of disrupted learning, we welcome the government’s decision to trust teaching staff to grade pupils’ A level and GCSEs, rather than use a combination of teacher calculations and centre assessment algorithms. Although this process appears to benefit all students from all backgrounds – and it certainly seems that way today, given the record high of A and A* results achieved by students – stark disparities remain between deprived and affluent areas of the country.
In a recent study, the Sutton Trust found that 52% of teachers working in the most deprived schools felt that the advice they received on determining students’ grades was insufficient, compared with 44% of teachers in schools based in more affluent areas. There are also reports that 23% of teachers from private schools have been pressured by parents about their child’s grade, compared to 11% of teachers in schools in the most deprived areas. Amidst the headlines today, we must consider the considerable challenges facing schools, teachers and students in deprived areas of London and the rest of the country. When we do so, we begin to see the disparate experiences and outcomes.
Whilst a record number of A level students have achieved A and A* grades, the attainment gaps for students on FSM, from areas of high deprivation and black candidates have widened by 1.43, 1.42 and 1.39 percentage points, respectively. The higher education sector must acknowledge this consequence and adopt a more flexible admissions approach when considering applications from students with WP backgrounds. In the context of a competitive admissions process, with more students achieving the grades for their top-choice university and clearing expected to be busier than ever, students from these backgrounds risk losing out on their deserved place.
There has been great innovation and dedication amongst AccessHE members to provide students with the information, advice and guidance they need to make informed decisions about higher education, and we appreciate their continued involvement in our Forum discussions and collective activities to support underrepresented students in the capital. We’re delighted to have engaged over 3000 young people this academic year in both online and in-person programmes alongside HE partners, and we look forward to the introduction of more in-person outreach delivery across the schools and colleges in north London.
Whilst the WP sector will be striving to undo the damage caused by multiple lockdowns to underrepresented groups and their access to higher education, we also must not forget students from disadvantaged backgrounds who have been accepted into HE this year. Affected by multiple disruptions to learning through lockdown and self-isolation periods, coupled with numerous personal challenges that come with socioeconomic deprivation, these students will be beginning university already at a disadvantage to their more privileged peers. As such, support for these students’ transitions to HE is vital to encouraging their retention, engagement, and prosperity during their studies.
As we look ahead to 2012/22, AccessHE are working closely with our member HEIs, local authorities and third party organisations to plan outreach programmes that meet the needs of this year’s cohort of students, with particular focus on transition support and activities that promote social and emotional learning.