18th August 2023

EPI comments on Level 3 results 2023

Sam Tuckett, Associate Director at the Education Policy Institute, said: “Congratulations to the cohort of students completing their Level 3 studies study. Their final years in education have been far from straightforward and it’s important that universities, colleges, and employers remember this as they progress into further study or employment. As was the government’s plan, the grading distribution this year has been brought far closer to that of 2019 than in any of the last 3 years. 26.5% of entries were awarded an A or A* this year, compared with 25.2% in 2019, and 35.9% in 2022. While there was no perfect solution to returning to pre-pandemic grading, the gradual, multi-year approach is a reasonable compromise.”

“Concerningly, while nationally grades have returned to roughly 2019 levels, today’s data reveals regional variation in outcomes has increased since 2019, with the gap in outcomes between the north of England and the south having widened. In Yorkshire and The Humber, a lower proportion of entries were awarded A or A*, with the share of top grades decreasing from 23.2% in 2019 to 23.0% in 2023. Similarly, the North East’s share of the top grades fell from 23.0% to 22.0%. Students in all other regions were awarded higher proportions of top grades than in 2019, with London’s share of A or A* grades increasing by 3.1 percentage points. The falling outcomes in parts of northern England, where disadvantage levels are higher on average, may be the result of the unequal impact of pandemic on different groups of students. Further investigation of data that is released later in the year will help to clarify this.”

“Across different types of schools and colleges, the proportion of A and A* grades is lower than last year, but slightly higher than in 2019. In further education colleges, however, the proportion of these top grades decreased from 16.5% in 2019 to 14.2% in 2023. This could well be that there has been greater learning loss and absence in these settings, which generally cater for greater numbers of disadvantaged students. Our previous research on earlier phases has demonstrated that it has been disadvantaged students who have been most acutely impacted by both learning loss and absence over recent years.”

“Exploring the T level results published today we find high drop-out rates for these new qualifications, with only 66% of students completing in 2023. This figure is significantly lower than the pre-pandemic completion rates of 79% and 76% for applied general and tech level qualifications. Given this, serious consideration should be given to the government’s plans to remove alternative qualifications that T levels overlap with.”

“While the grades seen in today’s results represent a return to pre-pandemic times, the environment for education remains substantially changed. Schools and colleges continue to catch students up on lost learning as a result of the pandemic’s disruption, whilst pupil absences remain stubbornly high. It’s clear that much more needs to be done to identify and rectify the long-lasting impacts of the pandemic.”