The education secretary has been urged to launch a review into the handling of A-level and GCSE results after exams were cancelled due to coronavirus.
A union for education leaders, such as head teachers, says it will write to Gavin Williamson over the “fiasco”.
Mr Williamson apologised to pupils after reversing how A-levels and GCSEs are graded following widespread uproar.
Following the U-turn, the Joint Council for Qualifications said pupils will get GCSE results on Thursday as planned.
“All schools and colleges will receive their results according to the published time of 00:01 BST on Wednesday, 19 August, allowing students to receive their final grades as usual on Thursday,” a JCQ spokesman confirmed.
The government decision to give A-level and GCSE students grades estimated by their teachers, rather than via an algorithm, means that tens of thousands of A-level students may now have the grades to trade up to their first-choice university offers.
It has prompted concerns about the number of available places, with top universities warning that students who now have higher grades could still be asked to defer if there is no space left on their chosen course.
And uncertainty continues for students as the admissions service, Ucas, and individual universities have yet to be given access to the upgraded results.
Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of Universities UK, which represents vice-chancellors, said the fact that many more students had the grades to get into their first-choice of university, would cause “challenges at this late stage in the admissions process”.
He said problems could arise around issues of “capacity, staffing, placements and facilities – particularly with the social distance measures in place”.
Public confidence ‘shaken’
Hundreds of thousands of children in the UK have had their education disrupted by the pandemic after schools, colleges and nurseries were ordered to shut in March – resulting in the cancellation of all assessments and exams.
The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) – which is writing the letter to Mr Williamson – said a review was urgently needed into “what went wrong” with the grading system.
“This degree of transparency is necessary at a time when public confidence has been badly shaken,” said ASCL general secretary Geoff Barton.
Mr Barton also called on No 10 and Ofqual to put in place a “robust contingency plan” for students sitting GCSEs and A-levels next summer in the event of further coronavirus-related disruption.
How Gavin Williamson survived the U-turn
One former Conservative minister said he fully expects Gavin Williamson to be moved in any autumn reshuffle – that he has been given a reprieve by Downing Street, not exoneration.
He has to sort out the messy challenge of getting newly upgraded students in to universities then the tricky task of getting pupils in England back to school next month.
The partial return prior to the summer wasn’t exactly smooth. So if Mr Williamson’s performance in those areas falls short, then his current job is not safe in the long term.
But there are other reasons why he hasn’t received a ministerial P45.
This is not an administration which does resignations. Boris Johnson is loyal to those who are loyal and useful to him.
Earlier, Mr Williamson said he was “incredibly sorry for the distress” caused to pupils.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Tuesday: “I would like to start off by apologising – saying sorry to all those young people who’ve been affected by this. This is something none of us expected to see and none of us wanted to see.”
Student stories: Frances and Zainab
Frances Ramos, 18, from Towcester, Northamptonshire, said she was pleased to be given her predicted grades of ABB – up from the BCD she received last Thursday.
But she said the U-turn “does feel like it’s a bit too late” and added: “I kind of wish the government had done this on Thursday.” She is now waiting to hear if her first choice, the University of Liverpool, will accept her to study this year.
Zainab Ali, 18, from London, also thought the government should have acted sooner. “I think it’s a shame. After the damage is done, that’s when they will take action and I find it quite frustrating,” she said.
The U-turn should now mean Zainab is able to attend Queen Mary University, London.
Mr Williamson said it had been the common view of the government, exams regulator Ofqual, and the devolved administrations in Wales and Northern Ireland – of different political parties – that the system in place was more robust and “significantly better” than that in Scotland, after an earlier U-turn in Scotland.
But after the release of A-level results on Thursday he said it had become “increasingly apparent that there were too many young people that quite simply hadn’t got the grade they truly deserved”.
The same challenge would have remained had there been a U-turn earlier, he said, and “we would still be faced with the challenge of the fact of how do we expand the capacity within the university sector”.
Ofqual’s algorithm came under fire after data showed its downgrading of about 40% of A-level grades in England had affected state schools more than private institutions.
Ministers in England, Northern Ireland and Wales all decided on Monday – four days after A-level results were issued – to revert to teacher assessed grades rather than the algorithm.
- NI: Assembly recall over exam results to go ahead
- Wales: Exam board chief ‘disappointed’ by grades U-turn
The U-turn means teachers’ assessments will also be used for all GCSE results – except for any students for whom the algorithm gives a higher grade.
It is still unclear what the climbdown will mean for students taking vocational qualifications, including BTecs, with students telling BBC Radio 1’s Newsbeat: “We’ve been forgotten about.”
Mr Williamson said he hoped they would also be subject to teacher-assessed grades, adding that the government was working with awarding authorities to ensure this happened.
Pearson, which awards BTecs, said it was aware that some students had experienced a delay in receiving grades but did not say how many were impacted.
Timeline: Government’s changing position
- 11 August: Gavin Williamson announced A-level students would be able to use their results in mock tests to appeal if they are unhappy with the grades they are given, calling it a “safety net”. Earlier in the day Scotland’s government decided to switch to teachers’ predicted grades
- 12 August: Nick Gibb, schools minister for England, acknowledged the government was “concerned” about what had happened in Scotland but insisted the system in England remained “robust”
- Thursday 13 August (results day): Mr Williamson ruled out following the Scottish government in reversing position, telling Sky News: “You’ve got to have a system that has checks and balances”. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the results were a “robust set of grades”
- Saturday: Mr Williamson told the Times there would be “no U-turn” on the grading system, saying Scotland had ended up with “a system where there aren’t any controls” and had “rampant grade inflation”
- Sunday: Mr Williamson defended Ofqual’s grading method in the Sunday Express, saying the calculated grade “makes certain that everyone can be confident that these qualifications carry the same weight as previous years”
- Monday: Mr Williamson announces a move to teacher-assessed grades for A-levels and GCSES saying “we now believe it is better”
As part of the changes to grading, Mr Williamson has suspended a cap on student numbers for universities – effectively allowing institutions to accept unlimited numbers this year.
Dr Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group which represents 24 leading universities, said there were “limits to what can be done by the university sector alone to address that uncertainty without stretching resources to the point that it undermines the experience for all”.
The University of Oxford said it now had “many more offer-holders meeting their grades than in a normal year” and as a result faced “significant capacity constraints both within our colleges and on our academic courses”.
Universities including Bristol, Durham, Sheffield and Liverpool stopped offering places through the clearing system that matches students to unfilled courses on Monday.
Bristol later said it would accept all applicants who now met the terms of an offer and Sheffield said it would do so “wherever possible”.
But some universities say numbers will have to remain limited on vocational courses such as medicine and dentistry.
Ucas was unable to say how many students had not been able to take up places due to their results being downgraded.
A spokesman said students who have not got into their first-choice institution should seek advice from their parents or teachers before contacting the university.
- LOCKDOWN LOVE AND TURBO RELATIONSHIPS: How are you coping with dating in 2020?
- ‘MY MENTAL HEALTH CRASHED’: The impact of being turned away from therapy in lockdown
Have your grades been raised? Have you still missed out on a university place? Do you have questions about your situation? Get in touch via the form.
Use this form to ask your question:
If you are reading this page and can’t see the form you will need to visit the mobile version of the BBC website to submit your question or send them via email to . Please include your name, age and location with any question you send in.