August 2021 – results days round up, the benefits of an independent education, university updates and what’s next?

Tuesday August 31st, 2021

Welcome to your August issue. I hope you’ve had a good summer so far, and been able to do at least some of the things you’ve wanted to. For those of you receiving GCSE or A Level results earlier this month, I hope you got the grades you were aiming for. If not, don’t worry. There are plenty of options available. Talk to us if you’re worried about what to do next.  We’ll explore some options here alongside a round up of results days and a look ahead to the start of the new academic year.

Results days round up – and what’s next?

In the absence of official exams for a second consecutive year, teachers submitted grades based on evidence from sources such as mock exams, course work and tests. As with last year, students who are unhappy with their grade(s) have the option to appeal and / or to sit (an) exam(s) in the autumn. These will be in October for AS and A levels, and in November and early December for GCSEs.

You’ll have the option to use whichever grade is higher: teacher assessment or exam board grade. You need to check with your school, but deadlines for entry to these exams will be early September and October for A Level and GCSE respectively.

This year saw another rise in success rates at GCSE, albeit a relatively small one. More than three quarters of GCSE results were classed as a pass (that’s level 4, formerly grade C), with around a third of the results at level 7 (formerly A) and above.

In England, the largest increase in top grades was seen in independent schools, where around two-thirds of the results were grade 7/A, compared with under one-third in state-run, non-selective comprehensives and academies.

Top A-level grades reached a record high too, across England, Wales and Northern Ireland, with approaching half of all A level students (44.8%) achieving A* or A grades. Almost twice as many privately educated pupils achieved top grades as their state-taught counterparts.

UCAS figures on 10th August showed that a record number of students had been accepted onto degree courses, with more than 400,000 places confirmed on undergraduate courses (an overall increase of around 4%). Circa 90% of these students secured a place at their first choice university.

University updates

Following A Level results day, UK universities reported that record numbers of undergraduates would begin their studies at Russell Group universities this autumn, with a 14% increase on last year’s uptake, notably higher than the overall increase. But UCAS also reported the highest level of deferrals for almost a decade. By 12th August, around 30% more students than last year had opted to defer, with almost 17,000 people – approx 6.5% of this cohort – accepting deferred places to begin studying in autumn 2022.

In most cases, students have been put off by the message that at least some lectures may still be delivered online for courses starting in autumn 2021, despite government pressure on institutions to return to face-to-face delivery.

But there’s another reason behind the deferrals. Some students are being offered financial incentives – up to £10,000 plus free accommodation – to defer where courses are oversubscribed. Faced with this offer, versus a big tuition bill for what could be mainly remote learning, you can see why deferring seems like a good bet.

If you’ve been affected by this and want to discuss any concerns you may have, do get in touch for a no-obligation chat.

Planning ahead

Whether you’re heading off to start your studies this autumn, or have chosen to defer your degree start until next year, here are some things you’ll need to have nailed before you become an undergraduate.

Practise cooking 
– make a note of the recipes for your favourite family meals and try them out. Healthy home-cooked food sets you up for your studies, especially in a UK winter, and brings some home comforts to your student quarters too.

Make a packing list – plan ahead so you can pack calmly and sensibly rather than running around in a mild panic just before you’re due to depart. Lots of layers are the key to surviving a UK autumn/winter as a student!

Budgeting and banks – is your existing account offering the best deals? Consider overdraft fees and freebies and consider opening a new account before you head off to start your studies. Get your budget spreadsheet set up too, with details of any income and outgoings such as accommodation costs, food, etc.

See what societies are available – check out the clubs and societies your uni offers in advance. During Fresher’s Week you should get the chance to meet the students who run them and choose which you want to join. But having a heads up means you can think about how you’d like to spend your ‘down’ time. Learning new skills, trying a different sport or developing an existing interest – clubs and societies are a great way to meet like-minded people beyond your course and accommodation bubbles.

Connect with coursemates – you can often find your coursemates in Facebook groups and also in forums such as The Student’s Room’s here.
You’ll meet loads of friendly faces in Fresher’s week, but it doesn’t hurt to get a head start.

Check your course – for any reading lists or other requirements. Your university should be in touch with details, but it’s always worth being proactive. Some courses ask you to choose your first-year modules before you begin so you’ll need to get a feel for the options available to give you time to make an informed decision. These choices aren’t necessarily set in stone, but it makes everything easier if you can feel happy and confident with your choices in advance.

New term, new school year

The good news for overseas students getting ready to return to school in the UK is that quarantine rules have relaxed a little. Students under 18 travelling from amber countries no longer need to isolate on arriving in the UK, as long as they have proof of a negative Covid-19 test taken in the three days prior to departing. The same applies for students over 18 travelling from amber list countries, provided they’ve been double vaccinated with EU-, UK- or US-approved vaccines. You’ll also need to provide journey and contact details before you travel. You can do this in the 48-hour window before you fly, inputting times, dates, flight and passport number, plus your address in the UK. You can check the latest green, red and amber lists as compiled by the UK government here.

Back to basics – how the pandemic proved private schools can be a class apart

For centuries, students have been attracted to the UK’s independent schools for a whole range of reasons. The facilities they offer, the heritage, history and prestige they promise, the networks and opportunities they create, not to mention the impressive lists of alumni excelling in their chosen sphere. Underpinning all of this was always the standard of teaching and the quality of the learning experience for students. Many parents say it’s this that has stood out as the differentiating factor between state and independent schools during two academic years of unprecedented upheaval.

This was borne out in the recent results days, with significantly more top grades at A Level and GCSE among independent school pupils. Parents who’ve experienced both state and private sector education during the pandemic – many moving their children from the former to the latter amidst fears they were falling behind – say they saw a stark contrast between the two.

Many (but by no means all) pupils at secondary state schools had limited access to live lessons, relying instead on printouts, worksheets and little to no feedback from their teachers. Better-resourced independent schools could continue live, interactive lessons throughout the day and provide individual feedback and extra support as needed.

There are obviously many variables at play here, and we should guard against an overly simplified view, but one of the reasons home-learning provision was more effective for independent school pupils during the pandemic was because independent schools were ready to hit the ground running. Statistics released last spring showed that soon after the first lockdown, almost half of private primary schools were running live remote lessons, compared to just 6% of state primary schools. The gap was even greater in secondary schools – with fewer than one in five state secondary schools providing live online classes, but more than two-thirds of private schools able to offer them almost straight away.

If you’d like to discuss the potential benefits of a UK independent education for your child, do get in touch. We’d love to hear from you.

Enjoy the rest of your summer and we’ll be back in touch in September.