Hello, and welcome to the Tes live blog for A-level results day 2019.
They say that the last few miles of a marathon are always the longest and most painful. So it is with A-level results, too: even if you’ve managed to switch off for most of the summer, those last few hours of waiting can be painfully slow and slowly painful.
Will your pupils’ hard work have been rewarded? Will your hard work have been rewarded? Will the hugs you dole out tomorrow be in celebration or commiseration?
As pupils face off with the Brown Envelopes of Doom, teachers are also having to negotiate interdepartmental grade warfare. And headteachers are contemplating whether they will still have a job in September.
Whatever your role, the day of reckoning will soon be upon us. Are you jubilant, content, frustrated or aggrieved?
Tes wants to hear your stories throughout the day: your personal experiences, as well as your thoughts on the national picture.
You can email me on: email@example.com, or send me a tweet @adibloom_tes.
Today in graphics: part four
Today in graphics: part three
Today in graphics: part two
Today in graphics: part one
You've got to be so macho...and is that good for students?
By now, we all know that how difficult an exam paper is will not affect pupils' outcomes, because the grading system is set up to take this into consideration. (And, if you didn't know this already, you need to scroll down and watch the video in which Tes news editor William Stewart explains what's going on.)
But Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, says that this is not the beginning and end of the story of difficult exams.
Because, of course, sitting the exams are pupils. And anyone who doesn't remember the feeling of sitting down to a really, really hard exam paper has probably blanked out the memory.
Yes, a really tough paper stretches the most able candidates. But what about those who are not among the most able? What about those pupils who put in weeks and weeks of incredibly hard work for those exams, only to find that they couldn't answer large swathes of the paper?
Geoff asks: "Has the pursuit of rigour resulted in too many young people feeling demoralised and deflated? Is it encouraging a love of learning or making the experience of education a chore?"
Read his full opinion piece here.
Everyone has an opinion
Obviously, everyone has an opinion on today's results. My email inbox is testament to the fact that everyone even the most tenuous of connections to A levels (university-accommodation providers, anyone?) wants in on the action.
I am here, however, to act as your own personal spam filter. And so I bring you one of the more relevant opinions on today's results, from the NAHT headteachers' union:
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “Today’s the day for giving credit where it’s due. Congratulations to all the students getting their results this morning. We must also recognise the hard work of the school and college staff who have helped them along the way.
“Today is a massive moment. A levels are a passport to the next stage of life, either in employment or for further training and study.
“The relevant organisations have worked hard to make sure that students have not been disadvantaged by the reformed content and assessment, and this has been shown in the general stability of results.
“Grade boundaries are adjusted each year to reflect the demands of the exams, so this year’s group can have confidence their results are as valid as any other year.
“It is very encouraging to see the continuing trend of more female students taking science. Hopefully this shows that traditional attitudes to subjects like these have changed and they are most certainly no longer felt to be the preserve of male students.
“We know there is room for further improvement in the system as a whole, and we will be working with our members over the coming months to identify some recommendations for change.
“To be successful at A level, students need access to two things: a wide range of subjects to choose from and the right level of support to help them during their study. Sixth-form funding has suffered terribly since 2010, making it harder and harder for schools and colleges to provide these essentials.
“We support the calls from across the education sector to raise the rate for 16-, 17- and 18-year-old students to at least £4,760 per year. There is nothing guaranteed about A-level success, but the least we can do is to guarantee each student is properly supported with sufficient funding.”
Everything you need to know about A-level results day: the fun-size version
Even quicker to read, and with added graphics. (It's the holidays: pictures help the brain to process information.)
#alevelresults2019: We’ve learned a lot from today’s results. Among all the data is the fact that the number of English and maths A-level entries has gone down, with falling entries in English representing a long-term declinehttps://t.co/z34wJFs6ek pic.twitter.com/3KiLYiTfhH— Tes (@tes) August 15, 2019
See more on the @tes Twitter feed.
Find out everything you need to know about today's results, while waiting for the kettle to boil
You know what? It is still the summer holidays, damn it.
Tempting though it is to spend all day reading through every single detail of today's A-level results (and, if you do succumb to that particular temptation, you're in the right place: Tes News has everything you will need to know on the subject), there are also books to be read, places to be visited and daytime TV to slump mindlessly in front of.
Tes is not unsympathetic to this dilemma. And so we have put all the key points of A-level results day 2019 in a single, helpfully brief article.
It's so concisely summarised, you'll be able to read the entire thing while the kettle boils. Or during an ad break. Or both. Because, don't forget, teachers are the ultimate multitaskers.
Read more here.
The funniest results-day Twitter moments
Jumping girls? Celebrities with no A levels? Bingo!
Jumping girls with blonde hair?
Twins with a string of A grades between them?
Ten year olds with As in further maths and physics?
People judging (yes, by "people" I mostly mean: me) the parents of 10 year olds with As in further maths and physics?
Social-media posts, gloating only so very, very slightly (by which I mostly mean: from start to finish) about pupils' forthcoming Gap Yahs, somewhere warm and humid. Possibly even warmer and more humid than your classroom will be at the start of term.
A celebrity, telling anyone on Twitter that his lack of A levels didn't stop him swilling champagne from his butler's shoe. (His butler, by the way, has two As and a B.)
Yes, it's A-level bingo. Pens at the ready here.
I'm not one to put words into the mouths of long-deceased French physicists. But, were I so inclined, I might suggest that Marie Curie was heaving a sigh and saying, "Hourra! Finalement!"
(Marie Curie hasn't, I suspect, read that French has fallen out of fashion, and we're all speaking Spanish now.)
The reason for these cheers from beyond the grave is that girls have overtaken boys in entries for science A levels for the first time ever.
Girls accounted for 50.3 per cent of entries in biology, chemistry and physics, and boys for 49.7 per cent of entries.
In 2018, girls accounted for 49.6 per cent of entries in these three subjects and boys for 50.4 per cent.
And for that, I think, Marie Curie would surely deign to offer some kind of beyond-the-grave comment.
Read more here.
All university admissions are post-qualification, people
My editor, Ann Mroz, has just bounced out of her seat in a combination of fury and indignation.
What, you may ask, could rouse her to such a state of airborne results-day ire? Is it the decline in English and maths entries? Perhaps the revelation that Ofqual is to investigate A-level maths grades?
Nope. What has Ann tearing her hair out is people's insistence on referring to post-qualification university admissions.
Think about that for a moment. What does that mean? That you go to university after your qualifications.
Yes, you've spotted the flaw: all university admissions are post-qualification. The current system does not allow – much as some might wish that it does – students to decide, somewhere around February half-term of their final year of school, that that's it: they're not going to bother with this school lark any more.
"Sorry, Miss: I'm not doing my exams. I'm off to university." That's what pre-qualification university admissions would look like.
What people actually want to talk about is post-qualification university applications. As in: you receive your A-level results, and then you apply for a university place.
Repeat after me: post-qualification university applications. If everyone remembers that, then the rest of Ann's day is likely to be considerably more stationary.
Well, that's shown me
Not three hours ago, I confidently opined that unconditional offers made no difference to pupils' desire to do well at A level.
But Dave Speck, reporting from The Chalk Hills Academy, in Luton, is hearing otherwise. The school had five pupils who received unconditional offers from universities this year, and their academic performance dipped as a result.
"We reminded them universities can still change their minds," said Lianne Riley-Gough, the school's head of sixth form.
"We had five students with unconditional offers this year and their performances all dipped, but we reminded them universities can still change their minds," - Lianne Riley-Gough, head of 6th form, Chalk Hill Academy, Luton #alevelresults2019 pic.twitter.com/5J6lYDAZyI— Tes (@tes) August 15, 2019
Follow Dave's tweets on the @tes Twitter feed.
EXCLUSIVE: Ofqual investigating A-level maths grades
And so to matters controversial.
The exam regulator, Ofqual, has said that it is to investigate exam-board grading of the controversial new maths A level.
Ofqual has decided to act, after it asked the exam boards to reconsider the boundaries they set last year, and they decided not to make any changes.
Now it has decided to investigate each board's decision not to reopen the grading for 2018, despite the differences with this summer's grade boundaries.
Tes understands that hundreds of students who sat the reformed qualification last year could have their grades upgraded, following concerns that the grade boundaries were set too high.
But many will already have university places they accepted on the basis of grades that may now turn out to be incorrect.
The French aren't going to like this
Zut, I say. Zut, zut and zut alors.
For the first time, Spanish has overtaken French as the most popular language to be studied at A level.
Pupils are no longer looking to don a black beret and sit in a café, sipping black coffee and discussing Sartre and de Beauvoir with carefully cultivated ennui. Non, non, non.
What they instead want to do, presumably, is don a black beret and sit in a café, sipping black coffee and discussing Che Guevara and Simón Bolívar.
A total of 8,625 candidates were entered for Spanish A level this year, compared with 8,355 entries in French. In Spanish, the number of entries increased by 4.5 per cent compared with last year, while in French, the number of entries fell by 4.1 per cent.
Once more, avec sentiment: zut.
Read more aquí.
Spot the student
Tes reporter Dave Speck is our man on the ground this morning, fearlessly venturing into one of the most emotional moments of pupils' lives.
He'll be at The Chalk Hills Academy in Luton, speaking to pupils at teachers about their stress, their relief, their disappointments, and the fact that they were all up until 1am last night, searching online for mark schemes and grade boundaries.
He has begun, marvellously, with a piece of observational irony:
Follow his morning on the @tes Twitter feed.
Entries for maths and English drop
We called it here first.
Though, to be honest, it hardly seems something worth crowing about: today’s results have revealed that the number of English and maths A-level entries has gone down, with falling entries in English representing a long-term decline.
People are blaming the Michael Gove's "joyless" English GCSE reforms, which they say have sucked all marrow from literary life, and then dumped it squarely outside the curriculum specifications. (I could pretend that I'm misquoting Henry David Thoreau, but really I'm misquoting Dead Poets' Society.)
Read more here.
Now those jumping girls have something to jump about
In what was a striking mirror of the teaching profession itself, the top positions – OK, grades – at A level were traditionally always dominated by boys.
But no longer. Take heart, would-be female heads of academy chains: girls have overtaken boys in gaining the top grades at A level.
Everyone always assumed that girls – steady; conscientious – tended to perform better in modular courses or subjects that required a large amount of coursework. Whereas boys – over-confident; flying by the seat of their pants – tended to perform better when faced with an all-or-nothing end-of-course exam.
Well, take that, sexist stereotypes. Girls can fly by the seats of their pants, too. Or something. Either way, 25.5 per cent of girls achieving grades of A and above, compared with 25.4 per cent of boys.
One small percentage point for A levels; one large step in the fight against academic stereotypes.
Read the full story here.
AND THE RESULTS ARE HERE
Tes has the full breakdown and analysis, so stay with us.
But we begin with news that A* grades have dropped to a six-year low.
Find out more here.
And it begins...
We have Tes reporters in a school and an FE college today, following the highs and lows (and clichés) of results day.
Hoping that this sets a trend, we begin with a high:
There's more to A-level study than exam grades
With all the focus on results, we tend to overlook a minor detail: the courses themselves. Two years of study has, inevitably, been reduced to a clutch of three-hour sessions in an exam hall.
But they shouldn’t be. Because, regardless of the contents of today’s brown envelopes, pupils have acquired a host of valuable skills, merely (merely!) through having studied their subjects for the last two years.
Writing an essay, for example – a staple of almost every subject – requires pupils to think logically and produced reasoned arguments. They have to prioritse evidence and sequence their thoughts, building to a summarised evaluation.
This is a skill that will set them up for life, Yvonne William says, in her letter to A-level students picking up their results.
Read more here.
Spare a thought
News stories today will undoubtedly refer to every A-level student in the country receiving their results this morning. A more accurate description of the morning might be: almost every pupil in the country will be receiving their A-level results.
Seventy-eight pupils, however, will have to wait a little longer before they receive their maths results.
These pupils have had their results withheld, while exam board Edexcel investigates whether they benefited from the leaking of the exam board’s A-level maths paper.
Pearson, the company that owns Edexcel, has said that the entire exam paper was circulating on closed social-media networks, before pupils were due to sit the exam.
In June, Tes revealed that blacked-out images of two questions from Edexcel’s maths paper 3 were circulated on Twitter the night before the exam, accompanied by tweets offering the whole paper for sale for £70.
Unconditional offers: they're the new conditional offers
Until recently, my university offer made me feel like bizarre anachronism: I had an unconditional offer. “Ah,” people said, their eyes glazing over as they thought back to an era of no fees, smoke-filled communal areas and vegetarian options that bounced if you dropped them (the old days weren’t exclusively good, you know).
Suddenly, though, I am – like an elderly uncle who’s been wearing his 1970s party shirt so long it’s back in fashion again – remarkably on-trend. Unconditional offers are the new, well, conditional offers.
New data reveals the number of pupils receiving offers from universities with no conditions on A-level or other results has increased to 38 per cent of applicants, compared with 34 per cent last year.
Ucas, the universities admissions service, said the number of “conditional unconditional” offers – where universities offer students a confirmed place on the condition they are selected as the student’s first option – has also continued to rise.
The good news is that – as I can attest – this takes some of the stress out of the moment of envelope-opening truth on results day.
The bad news is that many people are now concerned that pupils won’t work as hard, and will achieve lower grades than they otherwise might, because their place on their course is already confirmed.
For what it’s worth, that was absolutely not the case for me. My A-level results really, really mattered to me, on their own merits, rather than as a passport to university. The unconditional offer merely allowed me to relax – and make a start on the university reading list – in the lead-up to that Thursday morning in mid-August.
Read more here.
Are English students just measuring out their lives in coffee spoons?
Studying English literature, this English graduate believes, should illuminate the soul’s imaginary sight. Instead, however, many English teachers believe that today’s English-literature pupils are simply measuring out their lives in coffee spoons.
Entries for English A levels have dropped by 13 per cent since last year. And the Association for School and College Leaders, as well as the National Association for the Teaching of English, are worried that the “joyless” and “formulaic” GCSEs, with their emphasis on historical context and closed-book exams, are to blame.
One assistant headteacher said: “GCSE English language is sucking the joy out of the study of how we communicate: the power and beauty in words. English literature favours those with excellent memories; it has reduced our most magnificent pieces of writing to a collection of quotations.”
And Geoff Barton, ASCL general secretary, said: “It is right that we should have the highest aspirations for all our students, but this should not equate to turning exams into a joyless slog.
"We are concerned that the current GCSE specifications are failing to encourage a love of English in young people and this year’s entries at A level appear to confirm our fears.”
Find out more here.
Are the new A levels bad for pupils' mental health? Teachers think so
Results day has always been stressful, obviously. But there’s stress, and then there’s two-years’-work-hangs-on-your-performance-in-a-single-three-hour-exam stress.
Teachers are increasingly concerned about the effect that the reformed, non-modular, minimal-coursework A-levels are having on pupils’ mental health.
A survey by the NEU teaching union showed that most teachers believed that the new A-level exams had led to a deterioration in pupils’ mental health.
Essentially, they said that the reformed A levels – introduced in 2017 – offer reduced scope for coursework than the previous versions. The new A levels have also been uncoupled from AS levels, so that Year 12 performance does not count towards the final grade.
This puts a lot of pressure on pupils to succeed in a small number of exams…with the obvious effect on stress and anxiety, teachers believe.
Read more here.
New A levels: the lowdown
There’s been all this talk about the reformed A levels. But it’s very easy to keep repeating the phrase “reformed A levels” in a knowledgeable tone, without actually knowing what it really means.
When were they introduced? Are they more difficult than the previous version? If they are more difficult, does that mean there will be a drop in pupils’ grades as a result?
Tes has the answers here. So now you can talk in a knowledgeable tone and – added bonus – actually know what you’re talking about.
Exam stress isn't just for students
Good morning, and happy (here's hoping) A-level results day.
So, here we all are: reloading the same few webpages, and scanning Twitter for any scraps of information. Maybe you ought to update your A-levels bingo card just one more time (leaping girls, blonde; murmurings about whether all students really ought to be aiming for university; matching murmurings that maybe today isn't the day for that conversation; celebrities saying they did just fine, despite failing all their exams).
As you gear up for the day, you're probably all-too-painfully aware that exam stress isn't just for those people picking up their results today. As our magazine leader points out this week, the stress of exams is possibly even greater for teachers than for those they teach. For all that non-teachers talk about the envy-inducing six-week holiday, the reality is that results day is the rain cloud hovering over even the sunniest of beach holidays.
Yes, students’ futures hang on a single set of results (and all the more so, since the introduction of the non-modular exam). But so do teachers’ jobs, and their careers. Many headteachers and heads of department spend August uncertain whether they’ll still have a job in September. Is this a healthy way to live, for them or their staff?
Read more here.
What should we expect, this A-level results day?
Tes news editor, William Stewart, outlines what tomorrow's A-level talking points are likely to be.
As a sneak preview: entry patterns in different subjects, with particular focus on English and languages. He also explains why grade inflation is a thing of the past...and, tangentially, why arguments over the pronunciation of "comparable" (COM-prable, and I will not hear otherwise) may have taken their place.
Watch the video for the full analysis.