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"I am lost": the poorest students lose university places after the increase in A-level grades | Levels A

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class= Hilary and Keir Adeleke. Photo: Jill Mead / The Guardian

Behind the general increase in grades is another story of stark inequality that unfolds this year. While 70% of students with independent education obtained A or A * s, the figure was 39% in the state comprehensive.

Lee Elliot Major, a professor of social mobility at the University of Exeter, cautions that although many of the poorest students who lost a grade due to lack of schooling during the pandemic may have been squeezed into the rush for places in degree. access to prestigious universities will be erased by the flood of high grades in the post-pandemic era, ”he says.

Adeleke is exactly the kind of bright student from an underprivileged area that the most selective colleges want to attract. He lives alone with his mother and has been a registered caregiver since he was 11 years old. The lack of education has not been the only challenge that the pandemic has presented him, and he simply says: "Day to day has not been easy."

Hilary suffers from prolonged Covid, which means Adeleke has been "more or less a full-time caregiver" since January. They have also suffered two family duels. And for part of the time, Adeleke had to use her phone for homework because the internet at home wasn't working.

His mother says, "I am very proud that he works hard every day despite everything." She adds: “We are both upset that many students here do not have English as their first language and their families have no idea how to go through the appeals process. There is a lot of deprivation here. ”

An NCC spokesperson said: “The process of converting a score to a rating is complex, especially for a facility on our scale. In some cases, teachers and students have concluded that the final result of the moderation process does not align with their own grade assessment. ”

She added: “This has led to the dissatisfaction that has been expressed to us. We take this very seriously. "The university is going through an expedited appeals process.

The spokesperson also said:" The university's internal appeals process has been extended to allow students more time to alert us to any Ucas and career advisors have been available to students, as well as other specialized support personnel, and the university has also been in contact with universities to provide more support to students. "

With so-called "high-fee" colleges struggling After thousands of additional students met stringent offering requirements, many college leaders say their ability to be flexible for poorer candidates with potential disappeared this summer.

Adeleke is not the only one to realize that this was a terrible year to lose her grades

A university president from the coveted Russell Group, who asked not to be named, says: “We have had to turn down all of our near misses. Normally we could drop a couple of grades for good students who are in a lower performing school or who are dealing with really challenging circumstances, but this year they won't get in. ”

James Turner, CEO of the Sutton Trust, a charity that focuses on getting more poor bright students into the most prestigious universities, says: “We were saying to universities: 'The poorest young people have been the hardest hit by learning. lost during the pandemic and are more at risk of losing their grades, please keep that in mind. ' But it was a really competitive environment this year. ”

Experts are also concerned that disadvantaged students who have made good grades this year may have even more difficulty adjusting due to the general disruption. Even in a normal year, colleges know they have to do more to ensure that students from underrepresented groups do not drop out of school. Laura Gray, executive director of the social mobility charity Brightside, believes that preventing these students from dropping out of school will be more of a challenge.

"They may arrive at their university for the first time feeling ill-prepared in an environment," he says. “I am concerned that there are seminars and conferences that are massively overwhelmed in many places and it will be easy for them to get lost.”

She adds: “Pastoral care will be even more important, but it takes time and energy and needs to be personalized and considerate. A single email asking everyone if they are okay won't be enough, but potentially universities will be under so much pressure that they won't be able to offer much more than that. ”

Mike Nicholson, the director of admissions and outreach at the selective University of Bath, says that last year it did not meet its targets for expanding access when A-levels were canceled for the first time and private school grades rose again from disproportionate way. This year, Bath radically changed its strategy to make sure poorer students were not excluded. “We behaved differently from other universities that may have missed their targets this year, because we realized that in 2020 we had too many offers and we didn't differentiate enough about who those offers were going to,” he says.

Bath made far fewer offers overall this year to avoid a landslide if the ratings came out too high again. But the university also offered to lower its entry requirements by one qualification for disadvantaged students who took a new online "access to Bath" course, focusing on preparing them for the transition to university.

This fall one-third of freshmen coming to college will "broaden access" for students.

Nicholson says: "In some quarters that could be seen as social engineering, but we know that there are people who really need extra support to get over the line. Not everyone has the same kind of educational background and not everyone has people who do. stand up for it. ”

Experts caution that we may not understand the full impact of the pandemic on the prospects of the poorest youth for some time. Elliot Major says the“ huge socioeconomic gap ”at the upper levels This year's "is really just the beginning of the story."

"What matters is how these degrees are developed to determine who secures places to study elite degrees that pave the way to careers and experiences that they change life, ”he says.

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