A Levels lower than expected? Don't Panic.
As of 4pm on Monday 17 August 2020, the government has agreed that A Level and GCSE results in England will be based on teacher assessments. This is also the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. If the algorithm gave you a grade higher than this, the algorithm grade will stand.
Here is a guide to your options available.
NB: all links open in new windows, so you can open the links and keep reading before you visit the resources.
We appreciate this is an incredibly difficult time so please use the support network around you whether that is your family, your friends, your school or from other institutes such as WES. Hopefully you can take heart from the fact that many students have dealt with career setbacks and become incredibly successful. You can use our case studies and role models to inspire you and give you confidence in the fact that you can overcome this.
We are hearing from many universities that there are plenty of places available because there are fewer international students coming to the UK to study due to the pandemic. You have time to consider your choices before you make a decision. A lot of clearing policies and required number of UCAS points are being changed very quickly. Many universities will have had approval over the weekend to change their entry requirements, so do try again.
How are my grades worked out?
A Level and GSCE grades are now based on teacher assessments. If your A Level algorithm grade was higher than your teacher-assessed grade, you can use the algorithm grade. If you are home-schooled, or otherwise an independent candidate, contact Ofqual.
They have a step-by-step guide for your options which you can download here, and there is a BSL signed version here. You can also find other resources on their website: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/your-results-what-next. If you want to dig into the A Level statistics then you can find them here: https://analytics.ofqual.gov.uk/.
You can call the Exam Results Helpline here: 0800 100 900; keep trying if the line is busy, or stay on hold, they will answer eventually. This is a service from the National Careers Service and you can look at their website here.
The situation is changing rapidly about Appeals. We know that Appeals will be free, but they are now based on teacher-assessments and not the algorithm.
Get in touch with the school/college/examination centre as soon as you can, so you are ready to follow the process.
Some people didn't sit mocks or have been homeschooled and were not given a predicted grade. UCAS has provided support for independent candidates here.
Every career path has its own hurdles and whatever field you're passionate about there are many alternative routes that all lead to the same end. Please take a look at all the different options open to you with links to clearing, apprenticeships, appeals and so on.
Once you have read up it's a good idea to think about your own personal non negotiables and goals. For example, if you are adamant that you want the University experience look through routes such as clearing, foundation courses or resitting your A levels. But, if you are determined to get a degree you have opportunities other than your first choice course for example a higher apprenticeship, foundation or conversion courses.
If you haven't got the grades you expected, contact the university and speak to them. They may offer you a place with lower grades, or an alternative course, or a conversion course. Universities have been asked to be flexible and to hold open places for students who want to appeal.
We have heard from a lot of universities who are offering brilliant support on the phones and will help you navigate the current murky waters. Be open to alternative courses or a conversion course.
Other universities and other courses at your preferred university often have spaces they can't fill. These places are offered through the UCAS Clearing Service. Here is an explanation of Clearing: https://www.ucas.com/undergraduate/results-confirmation-and-clearing/what-clearing. Over 70,000 students accepted university places through Clearing last year.
You can access the UCAS Clearing Service here. Do consider other universities that you may not have thought about. If your choice of university is based on location, then often there will be another university nearby; for example, Nottingham University and Nottingham Trent University; Liverpool University and Liverpool John Moores University. You may want to consider a more general degree if you haven't got a place on a specialist degree, or vice-versa.
You can resit your A Levels for free later this year or you can pay to retake them in April 2021. Ask your school or college to enter you if you want to take an exam, and make sure to take all the papers in your chosen subjects, then use whichever result is higher when applying for university or jobs.
This might be an option, particularly if you want to resit your A Levels, but the pandemic means a lot of international locations are inaccessible. However, there are some UK opportunities available which you can check out here.
You can still have an engineering career via the apprenticeship route where you'll be paid as you learn. Companies are also being offered a £2,000 incentive to take on apprentices under the age of 25.
Some apprenticeships offer degrees as well. You can search apprenticeships here: https://www.gov.uk/apply-apprenticeship. The top of this page also gives links to apprenticeship searches in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
You can also search via this site: https://centreforapprenticeships.co.uk/ However, if you select Engineering and Manufacturing in the Category list you will get a list of Childcare and Nursery apprenticeships, so go straight to the Keyword box and type in "engineering".
There are also terrific apprenticeships available at the big engineering firms that are not advertised on the apprenticeship services. Google (other search engines are available) "engineering apprenticeships" and you will find a lot of opportunities there.
A lot of apprenticeships are advertised in the early part of the year, but you can still register on some sites now so that you will be alerted when applications open.
Check out Not Going to Uni here: https://www.notgoingtouni.co.uk/ There are hundreds of opportunities available, including the Armed Forces who offer fantastic opportunities for engineers - WES President Dawn Childs was a Wing Commander in the RAF and is now an Executive Director at National Grid, so the forces are a great way to start out.
It is tempting to just go and get a job and we're not saying you shouldn't try; but the UK is now in the deepest recession since records began, hospitality jobs which often employ younger people are difficult to find during the pandemic, and over a quarter of all university leavers have had their job offers withdrawn or postponed. We don't want you to be even more disappointed right now, so maybe have a look at the other options first. The National Careers Service is available here: https://nationalcareers.service.gov.uk/
Brunel University - Engineering courses are available and they have a Women in Brunel Engineering and Computing group, which offers mentoring to Brunel students, see here: https://www.brunel.ac.uk/women-in-brunel-engineering-and-computing and a Brunel Women in STEM group here: https://brunelstudents.com/societies/innoviabrunel
Open University - Start your journey towards becoming a professional engineer with an engineering course from The Open University. Recognised and accredited by professional engineering institutions, OU courses cover a broad range of engineering topics, such as engineering design, mechanical engineering, electronics, environmental technology and more. The Open University are experts in distance learning and innovative, online courses and have helped over 2 million people achieve their potential through flexible, supported study, including our CEO, Elizabeth Donnelly who has a BA and an MSc from Open. There are also no entry requirements for most courses. Registration for October starts closes on 10th September 2020.
Ulster University - Full clearing options and support with plenty of engineering courses available: Mechanical, Civil, Mechatronic, Biomedical, Technology with Design, Engineering Management, Electronic. Further support at: https://www.instagram.com/ulsteruni/ This will be updated with broadcasts. Social media: https://twitter.com/StudyAtUlster/status/1294212165528821763
Crane Building Services & Utilities - As a large Hitchin employer Crane Building Services & Utilities are conscious of the impact that the recent A-Level results have had on young people in our local community and are keen to offer support for those affected in their search for career opportunities.
As a business we are able to offer the following activities to individuals or small groups of students:
- First impressions:
- What a good written application looks like
- CV support and feedback
- Understanding the importance of preparation and what good preparation looks like
- Assistance with preparing for interviews
- Practice with interview questions
- Mock formal interviews and feedback
- Mock assessment centres
- Practical experience of assessment centre activities
- Full mock assessment centre experience
We are also looking to assist any Education Partners who are interested in teaming up with local employers to offer support to their students. If you have other ideas of activities that would support local students, we would be keen to explore these further.
Our Hitchin manufacturing site is located at 46–48 Wilbury Way, Hitchin, SG4 0UD and we would also be happy to support student visits to site or host any of the above activities either at local schools or here on site, subject to current Covid restrictions. If you are interested in any of the above activities please contact Michele Wilson, HR & Training Manager on 07805 742027 or via email at miwilson@crane bsu.com
"Your first port of call should be your preferred and insurance choice universities. No matter how much you missed your grades by, it is ALWAYS worth a try. Then look at your other UCAS choices and similar universities, and whether any of them have options through clearing (is that still what it’s called?)
One option to consider would be accepting a place on a similar course which would allow you to transfer after first or second year, for example either from a BEng course, which often have lower grade requirements, onto an MEng course, or to a similar but different subject. Before accepting a lower offer with the intention of changing, make sure you understand what the criteria are for the change, and whether you would be eligible (for example: someone I knew planned to transfer from philosophy to economics but couldn’t because they required a B in A-level maths)
If taking time out to assess your options: Do not panic! At age 18 or 19 it is very easy to worry about “getting behind”, but in reality there is no such thing. As someone with 10 years of experience in engineering, including a career break and two career direction changes, I can confidently tell you that there is absolutely NO advantage going into your first graduate job at age 21 or 22 compared to a few years later. In fact, in my experience the graduates who perform better are those with the ability to take a step back and see the bigger picture, which is something that having overcome a setback or change of direction will set you up really well for.
If your “Plan A” was working towards a particular career goal, think about other possible routes into either that career or similar careers. In engineering, it is much easier than people think to transfer between different industries. Degree apprenticeships are a great way to achieve a qualification which is just as valuable while also gaining experience which will really set you apart from those who have followed a purely academic path.
One of the most valuable things you can do is to speak to engineers about their work, what they look for in an employee, and whether their organisations might have an opportunity for you. This can be really scary if you don’t have any contacts, but do not panic! I knew nobody at all in engineering and my first work experience placement was at a company who just happened to have an office near my dad’s house. I didn’t have any contacts, I just looked up some companies online and emailed them. If you are reading this article then you’re already partway there - the Women’s Engineering Society is full of people who would love to help you. Please get in touch via email or social media and we will do our absolute best to find you some advice which is relevant to your particular situation.
One of the qualities employers really value is resilience and perseverance, so you can absolutely turn this situation to your advantage and use it to set yourself apart in your future career. "
“Firstly no one’s careers is A to B. I didn’t get in to my first-choice university, but I loved Loughborough so much I am doing a PhD and have been here for 7 years. Don’t think that every decision you make now is final you can change course, change University, drop out, start an apprenticeship, go straight into industry or even leave and come back to STEM. Whatever is right for you now will not prevent you reach your potential.
Secondly ask for help! Knowing you need support and seeking it is a fantastic quality. The strength to self-evaluation will make you a better learner and professional engineer.”
"Apprenticeships are a fantastic alternative to full time University, and they come in many forms. Level 3 apprenticeships require a minimum of GCSE’s but many people do AS-levels or A-levels first. Level 6 (commonly known as Degree or higher) apprenticeships require A-levels (or equivalent) and the entry requirements will generally be set by the college or university that is providing the degree. Search for apprenticeships and providers here: https://instituteforapprenticeships.org There are still a few employers looking for apprenticeships for a start this year so it’s not too late to apply. For me, a level 3 apprenticeship was a great way to start my career in engineering and I went on to gain a first-class honours degree in Mechanical and Manufacturing engineering."
Lucy Ackland, Product Owner, Renishaw plc.
"In many cases the grades this year do not match the true potential of students. Some of you will be making decisions that you feel don’t fit into your career plans, some of you will have to put off that next step- university, apprenticeship, higher learning. Please use this time to research other options. If I had my time again and I was not going down the path I took (I started a business straight from school) I would be looking at apprenticeships. I would be too late for September, but I could apply for January. I would be looking at using the time I had to gain experience in the industries I was interested in. Reaching out to companies, networking with others and being proactive in the industry that I was interested in. Other great uses of this time would be gaining experience in the world of work. Any job teaches you valuable work skills which can be transferred into future roles. Or even if a local job wasn’t available a little venture- tutoring, babysitting or gardening- all teach valuable career skills. You might deceive to volunteer with a local charity or in some situations you may be able to work on personal projects that show off valuable skills- creating and sharing projects on instructables, starting a blog, YouTube or social channel around sharing your passions. Many doors have been opened by sharing my passions for inventing on YouTube."
Kids Invent Stuff as seen on Tomorrow’s World Live, The One Show and BBC News Online
Have you seen our feature on BBC News Online?