Homeschool students miss out on university after being given no A-level grades

A-level students who have been left without grades despite the Government’s U-turn say their plight is being ignored as many face a second year of waiting to attend university or missing out altogether.

After Education Secretary Gavin Williamson’s U-turn this week, students are being allowed to use their centre assessment grades (CAGs) – those put forward by their own school or college – instead of the algorithm-adjusted marks they received on results day.

But many homeschooled or private students have no CAGs as their exam centres do not have enough evidence of their academic level.

It means many have been left with no grade at all, while some taking resits say they have been given the same grades they achieved last year.

Priya Juttla
Priya Juttla

Priya Juttla, who was due to retake two A-levels this year, told the PA news agency: “The situation is quite unjust. We worked this hard for a year, why should we not get the same benefits?”

The 19-year-old said she did not get the grades she needed last year as her father has early onset Parkinson’s disease and was in poor health at the time of her exams.

She spent the year working independently to achieve the A grades she needed in maths and biology to study biochemistry at Imperial or King’s College, spending around £1,000 on tutors and exam fees.

Her Ucas predictions were for As, but when she got her results on Thursday they were the same as she was given last year.

Ms Juttla, from Uxbridge, said: “It’s so exhausting. I’ve really pushed through and I was really determined to make sure I could get in this year and fulfil my offers at university.

“Private candidates have just been left in the dark the whole time. There’s not really been anything for us, or any proper information.

“Everyone else has had a U-turn but for us it doesn’t relieve anything.”

She now faces having to sit the exams in October and wait another year before she is able to go to university.

There are thought to be around 20,000 private students who would have taken exams this year across A-levels, AS levels and GCSEs.

Ferdaus Abdul, another A-level resit candidate, was hoping to study medicine but having been assigned no grades at all, has seen both his firm offer at King’s and his insurance from Southampton withdrawn.

Ferdaus Abdul
Ferdaus Abdul

The 18-year-old told PA: “I’m basically in a black hole and there’s no way to get out. I don’t have a centre assessment grade, and because I don’t have one I’ve been outright rejected from my university.

“I have nowhere to go.”

Mr Abdul said he fears his chance of studying medicine may now have gone as some institutions stipulate candidates must have passed their A-levels within three years to be accepted for the subject.

“I’m devastated,” he said. “I could resit these A-levels next June but I won’t be able to apply for these courses any more so what use does that have for me?

“I could go through clearing and end up doing something I don’t like and have my hopes of becoming a physician crushed.”

Mr Abdul, from Hayes in west London, said he believes private students are a low priority for the Government.

“I live in a council house with my parents, low income,” he said. “It’s essentially people from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and BAME and things like that that tend to end up having to resit A-levels, either for not having the right grades when they applied the first time or personal circumstance.

“It wouldn’t hurt them to let us slip through the net really. There’s so few of us that they could totally ignore us and nobody would know about it.”

One retake candidate from Greater Manchester, who asked to remain anonymous, said her CAGs were the same grades she received last year.

“My centre justified it by saying it’s based off of my performance from a year ago and based off of external candidates they’ve had in their centre that have not improved,” she said. “I feel like it’s unjust.”

The 19-year-old, who had been hoping to study law, called for action and better communication from the Government and Ofqual.

A-Level results
A-Level results

“At least recognise our plight,” she said. “They’ve not been acknowledging us at all, we’ve been constantly trying to get through to them but they’re not recognising us.

“We’re being stereotyped based off previous performances and it’s not fair to judge people’s intelligence based on other statistics.”

A spokesperson for Ofqual said those without grades should take exams in the autumn.

They added: “We confirmed earlier this summer that private candidates, which would include home educated students, would only be able to receive a result where the head of centre, where they were due to take their exams, was confident their staff had seen sufficient evidence of the student’s achievement to submit a centre assessment grade and include them in the centre’s rank order.

“We also worked with exam boards to create alternative options for private candidates whose original centre may have decided a centre assessment grade could not be submitted, subsequently allowing candidates to consider transferring from one centre to another.

“For private candidates where this was not possible, they will be able to take an exam in the autumn series.”