While most students still found reason to celebrate, educators were backing calls for an urgent review into the ‘unfair’ system that’s seen many grades differ from what was predicted by teachers.
With exams cancelled due to coronavirus, grades have instead been given to students using a combination of predicted grades from their teachers and their school or college’s past performance - as well as their own - in exams.
In a last-minute change, performance in mock exams may also influence students’ futures, or else they can sit exams in the autumn.
As has been the case in Scotland, where results were handed out earlier this month, the government’s standardisation model has been criticised as ‘flawed’.
Yiannis Koursis, Barnsley College principal and chief executive, has backed the Sixth Form College Association’s calls to revert to basing results entirely on teachers’ predictions.
He told the Chronicle the college had put a ‘robust predictions process’ in place, which involved ranking students and considering a range of evidence which was then passed on to be moderated.
“This year has seen unprecedented upheaval and change, but our students, supported by our staff, have met the challenges head-on,” said Yiannis.
“In some cases, and like most institutions across the country, we have seen students get results that were not expected.
“Grades in many sixth form colleges do not reflect either their centre-assessed grades, or their three-year trends.
“Nationally, many colleges are getting results way below what was reasonable to expect, with a large proportion of the sector not improving their grades on last year.
“We support the Sixth Form Colleges Association’s calls for an urgent review and will work with them and the government to ensure all our students get the grades they deserve.”
Nationally, more than a third of results have reportedly been downgraded from predicted grades, despite percentages of A* and A grades at record highs.
On Tuesday, it was announced more than 100,000 Scottish exam grades would be reinstated to those recommended by teachers after the Scottish Qualifications Authority reportedly ‘downgraded’ these to uproar.
English authority Ofqual, keen to allay mounting concerns that the same would happen in England, has allowed schools and colleges to lodge appeals - but not individual students - as is the case in Scotland.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson has said England will not follow Scotland’s lead in reverting to predicted grades.
And on Wednesday night, the Department for Education said appeals could be launched if students’ final grades were lower than what they’d achieved in mock exams - but Ofqual is yet to work out the terms for these.
At Penistone Grammar School, more than 92 per cent of students secured their university place of choice, with half of those at top-third ranked institutions.
Principal Paul Crook said it was ‘important’ to focus on students’ successes despite ongoing uncertainty over the standardisation model.
“We are concentrating on supporting each of our students to ensure they can move forward positively and that no one is disadvantaged by what, on the surface of it, appears to be an extremely unfair process,” he added.
“We will carefully consider how we respond to this moving forward, but today it is all about our students.”