We realise that the uncertainty about A Level grades is unsettling for students and are sorry that we cannot, at the moment, provide greater clarity than in the answers below. We shall share further information when it becomes available from the government and examination boards.
We will use teachers’ judgements and assessments in addition to data such as GCSE results, Progression Examination results, Mini Mock results and Mock results. We will continue to assess the level at which students are performing through online lessons until 14th May in order to inform our assessments.
We will run an internal modification process. However, at the moment we are unable to give more precise details of how our recommended grades will be calculated or the weighting that Mock results, for example, will carry as we have still had no guidelines from Ofqual and the examination boards.
We have not yet received further information from Ofqual about the date for the final submission of marks. However, we intend to continue assessing students’ performance until 14th May. We then intend to run our final internal moderation processes before submitting the grades to the examination boards.
We believe that this will not be possible at the moment. We anticipate that the examination boards will be seeking to establish a means of allocating grades which ensures the integrity of grades across all schools. They will therefore want to be assured that grades given by schools have not been pre-challenged by students or parents.
The examination boards intend to provide these calculated grades to students before the end of July.
You can read the government’s information here.
The UCAS predicted grades were originally made last June and may therefore be out of date. We are aware that we slightly overpredict (we keep the data each year) when it comes to these grades although we also know from UCAS, who produce an accuracy report for each centre, that we are not out of line with the sector when it comes to making such predictions. Each year, in addition to the predicted grades we make for UCAS, we also make projected grades. Projected grades are the grades that we believe a student is most likely to get in their A Level examinations. These projections are made near to students’ taking the examinations and we are therefore able to make these projections far more accurately than the UCAS predictions which we make 11 months before the final A Level examinations.
We are aware that some students may currently be on track to do better than their original UCAS predictions whilst others’ performances this year may suggest that the original UCAS prediction was too high.
Ofqual has indicated that students will be able to make an appeal “if they do not believe the correct process” has been followed for allocating grades. At the moment, we are not aware of how students can make an appeal, but will write to you about this when we have more information.
Yes, but not in the original examination window as the normal examinations have been cancelled. If students do not feel their calculated grade reflects their performance, they will have the opportunity to sit an exam at the earliest reasonable opportunity, once schools are open again. At the moment, we do not know when this will be and the dates will be determined by the examination boards, not by the School.
Students will also have the chance to sit their A Level examinations in the summer of 2021.
Fortunately, we have managed to cover the A Level content so students do not need to be taught any topics. However, we intend to run some revision clinics, mark past papers and provide feedback to students in the run-up to the examinations for any students who wish to take the exams. The cost of this support will be built into the Trinity term fee of 2020.
Yes, we are providing students with an opportunity to complete work which can help to inform teachers’ assessment of the level at which they are working. These pieces of work will be used in addition to data already held. We will continue to assess the level at which students are working until the end of A Level teaching. In doing this, we are trying to create opportunities for students to continue to make improvements and to influence the teachers’ judgement of their ability level.
Our intention is not to catch students out in any way. We are committed to supporting students to keep learning as we know that this has wellbeing benefits in the short and long term and that it will help students make a more successful transition from school to university or the world of work. If we do not engage our minds in challenging learning, the brain does not grow and develop – in fact, an extended period of cognitive inactivity would have a negative impact on students’ capacity to learn and therefore future prospects. If students did not engage with their work in online lessons or with assignments that have been set, it could impact teachers’ judgements of their ability1 in a negative manner. Having said that, no one piece of work will determine an A Level grade.
Students’ health must come first so we ask any students who are unwell to contact their Head of House or Tutor to request an extension and to discuss their situation.
Yes, we believe that students will still be able to apply for special consideration. However, students should be aware that where special consideration is granted, a very small percentage adjustment is made to marks, even in the case of a bereavement. These are the examination boards’ rules. We may rely on data from earlier in the year when the reasons for the application for special consideration may not have applied.
Choosing a university is a big decision and students are advised to research the possibilities thoroughly – we remain available to provide support and advice.
Universities UK has stated that universities will be flexible and pragmatic to ensure that pupils are able to progress to higher education. They have also stated that universities will accept pupils who decide to sit exams when schools reopen, allowing these pupils to begin their courses at a delayed start date. Pupils wishing to take this option should speak to their universities after receiving their calculated grades.
We would advise against any hasty decisions, a point which is echoed to students in this letter from the Chief Executive of UCAS. Students should be aware of the system that examination boards will use for calculating grades before accepting or rejecting offers so that they are making an informed decision. Students are therefore advised against making decisions before that information is released. Please note that UCAS have now extended, by two weeks, the May deadline by which students have to make their final decisions so students will be able to process the implications of the system that will be used to determine A Level grades. UCAS intends to contact students in writing about this extension.
Universities have been asked by Michelle Donelan, the Universities Minister, not to change any offers for the next two weeks. You can read more here.
Which university offer to accept is a personal choice and should only be made once students have undertaken thorough research. One of the most common reasons cited by universities for students dropping out is that the student did not understand what the course involves. University departments have thorough descriptions of all courses on their websites, so students are advised to take the time to read them and to weigh up the reputation and name of the university, the location and the content of the course. Students can access information on the Unifrog website or on the government’s Discover Uni website where information on courses and students’ satisfaction levels are listed – it is worth noting that the satisfaction levels can vary greatly.
Although students are operating in a buyers’ market, it is impossible to be certain how universities will operate this year; the situation is likely to vary from institution to institution. Some universities and courses may end up being undersubscribed and students who do not achieve their predicted grades may therefore be accepted, whilst other universities may be oversubscribed and not give places to those who do not meet the offer requirements. On the Unifrog website, it is possible (for some universities, but not all) to see what the average successful entrant to a course last year achieved in terms of A Level results and that information can then be compared with advertised entrance requirements to gain a greater understanding of whether universities might lower the entry threshold.
If students accept an offer which is above the level at which they have been working in school until this date, there is a risk that they will not achieve the grades required to meet the offer. It is a good idea to have a safe insurance offer and to guard against being too ambitious in accepting high conditional and insurance offers. Ultimately, students will have to make the decisions with which they are most comfortable; we advise students to discuss their intentions with their Tutor, Head of House, parents and friends.
We have always been committed to helping students to prepare themselves for the next step after school and intend to maintain this commitment next term through this programme. Please read more below.
There will be no study leave as examinations have been cancelled. After this date all support will be in the form of tutorial supervision of preparation for Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs), or other super-curricular study and A Level exams when schools reopen for those who still want to sit the examinations.
This is ultimately the students’ decision. We understand that students may feel less motivated to revise and we recommend a good break for everyone as well. However, there are real advantages to undertaking a programme of revision, especially if students would still like to influence the grade that will be submitted during the four weeks of teaching at the start of next term.
Yes, this is possible. We do not know the date by which the grades will be required. The schools’ associations have been lobbying Ofqual to set a date of June 1st so that students can influence grades and schools can have time to undertake a thorough moderation process.
Not necessarily – we do not know what system will be used to determine grades. There is also a difference between having the potential to get a certain grade and producing work at that level which can be used as evidence for the grade that will be submitted to the examination board.
We intend to run a ‘Berkhamsted Further Education Programme’ and would like to encourage students to complete a Massive Open Online Course and will provide each Year 13 Student with a MOOC Mentor. A MOOC will help students bridge the gap between School and university or the world of work and will let students gain an additional qualification to put on their curriculum vitae. We strongly advise students to follow this path; the choice pupils make will be reflected in references we write for students after leaving the School. We will be able to write better references where students have continued to engage enthusiastically in learning and developing their skills.
A MOOC Mentor will have a virtual meeting with their mentee once a week to provide support and to read any work and provide feedback.
The MOOC Mentor will also support students who are intending to go to university to make a start on university reading lists. This will provide another area of discussion in weekly meetings.
Yes, we will pay for MOOC certificates (subject to approval by the School).
The best reason is for the joy of learning! We know that learning and having a sense of purpose and direction are beneficial to wellbeing.
Doing a MOOC will enable students to develop skills that will benefit them at university or in the world of work. It will also provide evidence of a commitment to learning and being proactive.
Top companies are becoming increasingly interested in employees’ ability to learn both independently and from those around them and less interested in assessing job applicants’ strengths via their qualifications alone.
When future employers see the curriculum vitae of job applicants who left school in 2020, they are likely to be interested in how the students spent their time between March and October 2020. We see this as an opportunity for students to gain an advantage over future competitors in the employment market.
A number of employers who work in recruitment expressed such views and gave advice on the Next Steps course at the end of Year 12, but we would encourage students to research this further online or by speaking with relatives and friends who are involved in recruitment.
Unifrog has a MOOC search function. Students should contact their Head of House if they have any trouble accessing Unifrog. Parents also have access to this platform. Please go to https://www.unifrog.org/code then register with the Form Code BerkhamstedParents
Ivy League Universities in the United States have also made most MOOCs free to access at the moment. You can access a link here.
MOOCS are also available here:
We will also offer a leadership course which Duncan Hardy, Deputy Head of Leadership, will run.
The course will be delivered during the last 5 weeks (18 May – 26th June) of the Trinity term, when students would normally have been sitting examinations. Working in small groups, and supported by a teacher to mentor them, the group will look at leadership theories, the component skills of leadership, the art of public speaking, debating and team working. This will include some individual work and students will mentor a class in the Senior School or Prep School which will provide the opportunity to practise leadership skills and mentoring techniques. Each student will receive a certificate at the end of the course with an outline of what was involved to provide evidence of the activity completed. We hope that this will be helpful in giving students substance for both their curriculum vitae and for future job interviews which often include scenario-based questions. Further details will be sent out to students and parents after the Easter holidays with a link to sign up to this programme.
We would certainly encourage students to serve others (as they have done so well in the Sixth Form) and to fit this around their A Level lessons or to start once the process for making assessments to inform grades has been completed. It may be a good time to volunteer on the NHS scheme here. We are also investigating a partnership scheme with Age Concern with a view to running a centre / service to have conversations with elderly isolated people.
Yes, we understand that increased autonomy can lead to increased motivation and productivity. We are therefore receptive to students designing their own programme of supercurricular study either individually or in a small group. We would still provide a mentor to provide tutorial supervision, guidance and advice and the student would be able to design an intended course of study for himself/herself that they feel would be most beneficial to them. Heads of House and parents would have to agree to the student’s proposal.
Please free feel to complete this form with details of your suggestion by 21st April.
We have always believed that a Berkhamsted education is about much more than simply examination results. We want to prepare students to take the next step beyond Berkhamsted with the skills and confidence to be able to thrive when meeting the increased challenges that will await at university or in the world of work. Not only do we want students to get into university, we also want them to be able to thrive when they are there and make the most of the educational opportunities. When students take on an apprenticeship or a job, we want them to be able to do so with the confidence and resilience that will make their work rewarding. Success lies not only in securing a first job, but in developing the leadership skills, enthusiasm and capacity for learning that will mean that students can enjoy their professional roles and continue to seek and relish ambitious and fulfilling challenges. We recognise that the employment market could become increasingly competitive in the coming years and want to provide as much advantage to our students as possible so that Berkhamsted can be a spring-board to a meaningful future. As we have said from the start of Year 12, dream big and think of the small steps to take to move towards fulfilling those ambitions!
Yes, our careers and universities support is available to Old Berkhamstedians as well. We would be happy to write references and to provide advice and guidance.
Firstly, it is entirely normal to be feeling more anxious than usual at the moment – everyone is to a certain extent. It is a good idea to share your worries with friends, family, and/or your Tutor or Head of House. The School’s counsellors are also available to provide online counselling support as always – their email address is Counsellor@berkhamsted.com Please do let us know if we can provide support.
It is also good to reflect on what can be controlled and what can’t. Spending too much time focusing on variables that we cannot control can make our wellbeing worse and we can often start to catastrophise and imagine a worst-case scenario. Focusing on the behaviour and actions that can help to reduce anxiety and help us to feel better can be useful. With this in mind, a daily routine with exercise, healthy meals, sleep, time connecting virtually with friends (but without more than two hours on social media) and being engaged with learning is beneficial to our wellbeing.
The following websites are also worth visiting:
Okay, this is from a book called Most Likely to Succeed – Preparing our Kids for the Innovation Era by Tony Wagner:
“The world no longer cares about what you know. The world cares about what you can do with what you know.”
I think this should help us all to keep A Level results in perspective and to see the value of continuing to learn. Yes, A Level results are important, but they will not define anyone as a person. Employers are increasingly looking not just at qualifications, but at skills and character strengths such as determination, resilience, and the ability to collaborate with others and to learn quickly. We believe taking part in the programmes we are offering will help to give students an advantage.
In the first instance, please speak with your Tutor or Head of House. They will be able to answer your questions or to point you in the direction of someone who can.