A Level students 'taking step into the unknown' as exams return

WATCH: ITV Meridian's Social Affairs Correspondent Christine Alsford reports

Anxious A Level students are having to take a 'step into the unknown' with the return of public exams, according to a headteacher.

Formal exams are back this year for the first time after being cancelled during the pandemic, with just a few days before both GCSEs and A Levels begin.

And for A Level students intent on a university place, these first proper exams will decide their future.

Dr Dorian Lewis, Headmaster at The Bournemouth School, says they've prepared pupils as well as they can, but even so the pressure for sixth formers is intense.

Students at Ryde Academy are preparing for formal exams this month

He said: "They are very anxious - this particular cohort in Year 13 didn't do their GCSEs, they are taking a step into the unknown.

"They have been practising examinations, they have finished the specification but still they are worried about what the examinations will really be like and how they'll be graded."

This year's students will be graded more generously than the last time exams were sat in 2019, but they won't get as many top grades as last year, when results were decided solely by teachers and 44 per cent of all grades at A level were A stars and As.

Ian Bauckham, chairman of Ofqual, says: "What we think we need to do is move the pattern of grading gradually back to the pattern of grading we had in 2019 - but we think it would be really unfair to students who have been through a tough time these past couple of years to do that all in one step."

Students are working hard at Richard Taunton Sixth Form College

It's being done over two years instead.

To help students who have undoubtedly had their learning affected, some content has been stripped back and students have been given advance notice of topic areas.

Other concessions include providing formulae and equations that normally have to be learnt.

Joy Ballard, principal at Ryde Academy on the Isle of Wight said: "There are lots of gaps that students will have in their knowledge from the various lockdowns.

"They have had to face a lot and cram a lot in, but the teachers have bent over backwards to make they have got everything in place that the kids need to do well during the exam series."