Video report by ITV News Meridian's Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford
Students across the South East have been receiving their A-level results today, with the proportion of entries awarded an A or A* at an all time high.
This year, hundreds of thousands of students have been given grades determined by teachers, rather than exams, with pupils only assessed on what they have been taught during the pandemic.
At Varndean College in Brighton, the overall pass rate at A level was 99%, with 86% of students receiving A*-C grades.
Meanwhile vocational courses, BTEC and CTEC, had a 100% pass rate.
Principal Ms Donna Marie Janson said: "They [the students] have been through such an experience. When they first enrolled at college, nobody had any idea what their two year experience at college would've been. So I'm exceptionally proud at how well they've done and how much they've risen to the challenge of how much they've gone through."
At Queen Mary's College in Basingstoke, students say they are 'ecstatic' with their results.
Asha Raja received 3 A* and says it means she will be able to go to university to study medicine. It comes after what has been a rollercoaster for students learning in and out of lockdown.
"It was really weird because we had online lessons from the beginning, but you don't realise how different it is when you're not face to face with your teacher. It's hard to ask for help and things like that."
Peter Symonds College in Winchester achieved a pass rate of 99% with over two-thirds of grades awarded being A* to B.
Principal Sara Russell said it had been a challenging time for staff who followed national guidelines in making their gradings.
"Many of our teachers are examiners and chief examiners. They were often setting exam papers in the past so I'm extremely confident that our students have got the grades that they deserve."
After the most disrupted year of education ever, there was relief and joy on Tuesday morning for so many of the students at the Bournemouth School.
"Very nervous last night, but it's all fine now."
"I'm so glad it's over."
Many feel the same way after 18 months of remote learning, uncertainty, and cancelled exams.
One student said: "We haven't been in school to learn, and it's been very difficult at home trying to teach yourself."
Councillor Nicola Greene, Portfolio holder for Education at BCP Council said: “I would like to congratulate all pupils in the BCP Council area on their A Level, BTEC & Level 3 Apprenticeships this year.
"We are aware of how hard Year 13 have worked in challenging circumstances for them and their school or college. We are very proud of you and what you have achieved."
What does the data show?
In total, more than two in five (44.8%) of UK entries were awarded an A or A* grade this summer – up by 6.3 percentage points on last year when 38.5% achieved the top grades.Overall, the proportion of entries awarded the top A* grade this year has surged to 19.1% – the highest proportion since the top grade was first introduced in 2010.The figures, published by the Joint Council for Qualifications (JCQ), cover A-level entries from students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
According to an analysis by Ofqual, some 6.9% of students in England were awarded three A*s this year – compared with 4.3% in 2020 and 1.6% in 2019.
Last summer, the fiasco around grading led to thousands of A-level students having their results downgraded from school estimates by a controversial algorithm before Ofqual announced a U-turn.
This year the algorithm was scrapped.
The Department for Education has said all A-level grades have been checked by schools as part of a quality assurance process – and one in five schools had a sample of their grades checked by exam boards.
Last week, the head of the admissions service warned that clearing is likely to be “more competitive” for students seeking places at selective universities this year due to uncertainty on teacher-assessed grades.
Clare Marchant, Ucas’s chief executive, urged students receiving their grades to make a decision “in a matter of days” rather than waiting weeks.
But she added: “On Tuesday, I am expecting to wake up and have record numbers with their first choice.”
Many more students than usual have met their university offers. But the clearing hotlines are still busy.
The vice chancellor at the University of Portsmouth says higher education has largely ensured courses don't end up oversubscribed.
Prof Graham Galbraith said: "We were anticipating what has happened and therefore we had a very careful offer-making strategy.
"I think we were much more cautious [this year] because I think that was the sensible thing to do."
The University of Kent say their phones have been busy since results were handed out as students apply for places through clearing,
It added that blended learning, a mixture of face-to-face and online teaching, will continue to be a feature until January at the earliest.
Watch: Simone Davies, University of Kent
Simone Davies from the University of Kent said: "From welcome week onwards we're planning as much face-to-face teaching as possible."
"That's obviously in line with government guidelines and advice. And also our primary concern is to make sure that students and staff are safe. To do that some of our larger lectures may still be online. And we really see the Autumn term as a bit of a transition to January when hopefully it will be business as usual."
Phone lines were buzzing at the University of Reading. The University is oversubscribed, with more students applying for places than ever before.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Paul Inman said staff want to help students who didn't achieve the grades they needed.