The purpose of this statistical release is to maintain the continuity of information. The A level and other 16 to 18 grades awarded to students in 2020 will remain with them as they stay on in higher education or enter employment after leaving school or college. It is important to maintain transparency by presenting the national level data for this cohort of students whilst recognising the extraordinary circumstances in which qualifications were awarded this summer. The cancellation of exams and the substantially changed method for awarding grades has impacted greatly on the results. Comparisons with earlier years will not be indicative of underlying changes in student performance.
This statistical release includes results for 16 to 18 year olds in England who reached the end of their 16 to 18 study in 2019/20. Students typically spend either two or three years in the 16 to 18 phase, and attainment includes results from qualifications entered during all those years of study.
Qualifications in scope are those approved for reporting in 2020 school and college performance tables, and set out in the 16 to 18 qualifications, discount codes and point scores guidance.
Qualifications are grouped into A level (subset of Academic), Applied General, and Tech Level exam cohorts at level 3, and Technical Certificates at level 2. Students can be reported in more than one exam cohort.
Normally school and college performance tables data would be updated in January 2021 with data for the 2020 cohort of students reported in this release. This will not happen this year. As part of the response to COVID-19 the Government announced in March 2020 that it will not publish any individual school or college level educational performance data based on tests, assessments or exams for 2020.
Student numbers by cohort
The fall in the number of level 3 students for this year mirrors the fall in the number of students at the end of 16 to 18 study. There was a disproportionately large decrease in the A level cohort, with more students entering level 3 vocational and technical qualifications.
These changes do not reflect students switching from A levels to vocational and technical qualifications (though note students can appear in multiple cohorts, where they have entered a qualification of that type).
The fall in the A level cohort (which will include AS levels not discounted by an A level) is partly due to fewer AS level entries following the reform to A levels, and the decoupling of A and AS levels. The increases in the number of students entering vocational and technical qualifications is discussed in the section ‘Entries in reformed vocational and technical qualifications’ but in general these changes in student numbers reflect how schools and colleges have reacted to reforms to level 3 qualifications in 2017/18 and technical certificates in 2018/19, along with the corresponding changes in the list of qualifications eligible for inclusion in performance tables.